8/30/2011

When I am King: O Canada

When I am King...

Everything we own will proudly display our flag.


Way back before the dawn of time, when I was a student traveling around Europe, I noticed the Canadian travelers. It wasn’t that I noticed those people more than others, but I noticed that they were Canadian. It’s not that they looked any different than other travelers, or dressed differently, or acted any less “I’m a student tourist” than anyone else on the circuit. And it wasn’t because of their cute accents, eh? It was for the simple fact that they all had, to a person, Canadian flags pasted very visibly and obviously on their backpacks.


I was reminded of this a few weeks ago while traveling in Washington, D.C. There, the embassies litter the city like gum on a sidewalk. You can’t walk ten paces without passing the embassy of some country (probably one you’ve never heard of - there are a lot of those).


Most embassies are subtle; they are generally nice buildings with a small plaque near the front door telling you what it is. If you’re lucky, there might be a flag, but generally nothing so obtrusive.





The Canadian embassy, meanwhile, was awash with flags, flying in the breeze like so many towels after a big day at the beach.






These grand showings of national pride confused me because I didn’t associate major nationalistic behavior with our neighbor to the north. After all, this is the country whose national anthem has a title that reads more like someone just remembering what it was they were going to sing about, “O.... Canada”. Or maybe they’re wondering how to pronounce it, or if it’s really worth all the bother, “Ohhhhh, Canada?”



The great Canadian hero Dudley Do-Right didn’t do much to sway my opinion of their nationalistic fervor.




Meanwhile, I’ve met Canadians over the years and of the words that come to mind, “nationalistic” is not one of them. “Humble”, maybe. Or “pale”. But not “nationalistic”. I mean, this is the country that still has the Queen of England's face on their money. It’s like their still living in their parents’ basement (even though they’re really in our attic).

So what gives with the flags on all of the backpacks?

Well, I spoke to one of them. I hired a local interpreter to translate between our dialects of English (translation apparently consists of added an “eh?” to the end of each of my sentences. So Canadian English is actually a variant of Pig Latin, eh?). It turns out that the backpack flag is not so much a statement about Canada as it is against the U.S. That is, the Canadians that I asked said that they mainly didn’t want to get mistaken for Americans, so they put the Canadian flags on their backpacks to make sure that didn’t happen.( As if: they look totally different from Americans, eh?)

So they weren’t proud to be Canadian, just proud to not be Americans. I suppose this is an extreme form of humility, where you define yourself not by your own characteristics, but by those of people near you.

In any case, it got me thinking: I think it’s a great thing to make a clear national statement with your clothing, your buildings, and your camping accessories. Let these accessories say a little about who you are. Or, in the case of Canadians, who you aren’t.

When I am King, we will take the approach of our friends to the north (i.e., Canada. Unless you live in Alaska, then they’re your neighbors to the East. Or if you’re Hawaiian, they’re not really your neighbors at all, just some people from a colder place. Much colder. Like a whole country made out of shave ice.). We will fly our flag proudly. But it’s not enough to fly it on our embassies; we will put it on everything we own. Babies will be tattooed with the flag, teenagers will fly flags from their piercings, clothing will be patterned only in the flag’s colors and styles.

I even have the flag already designed. Sure, it’s early days, but you can never be too careful with something as important as your nation’s flag. Here it is:




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