Why I find patriotism so odd

I used to be proud of being Canadian, but now I think the concept makes no sense.

There are roughly 38,115,000 people living in Canada. I wonder if people realize how large of a number that is.

If I met a new one of these people every day, it’d take me 104,424 years to meet them all. If I met a new one of these people every hour, it would still take me 4,351 years to meet them all. I’d have to meet a new one every minute in every 24-hour period if I were to do it within a reasonable length of a lifetime.

And, of course, meeting a new person every minute and never talking to them ever again is no way to get to know people, to know what we have in common, what likes and dislikes we share.

Yet, somehow, I’m supposed to share something in common with every one of them. Somehow, the word “Canadian” is supposed to mean something. Somehow, the fact that I live within the same invisible boundaries as these 38.527 million people should define me.

But why?

We certainly don’t all like the same food. We don’t listen to the same music. We don’t watch the same TV shows and films, if at all. We don’t cheer for the same sports team, if at all. We don’t dress the same. We don’t love the same types of people, if at all. We don’t learn the same way. We don’t have the same experiences or the same personal histories. We don’t worship the same, if at all. We don’t even speak the same language.

There’s literally only one thing that Canadians share, that makes them Canadian: living north of the United States, west of the Atlantic Ocean, east of the Pacific Ocean, and south of the North Pole. More or less.

And even that isn’t enough.

There are people who live within those same boundaries who aren’t considered Canadian. Maybe they’re attending school here, or picking our vegetables, or just surviving under the radar of the surveillance state. Or maybe they’re among the hundreds of thousands of people who lived here for millenia prior to the 49th parallel, prior to 1867, prior to 1776, prior to 1492.

But if the only thing that makes us Canadian is being from Canada—if there’s nothing else we all share—doesn’t that seem circular? I’m Canadian because I’m Canadian.

So, why the big deal?

What benefit is there in saying Canada is the greatest country in the world? What benefit is there to say I’m proud to be Canadian? When we don’t even know what “Canadian” really means.

And when we say Canada is the greatest country in the world, does that automatically make all other countries worse? Lesser?

When we say we’re proud to be Canadian, does that automatically mean we’d be ashamed to be some other nationality?

And if so, if being patriotic means creating a nationalistic class system, can we truly advocate for abolishing hierarchies of sexism, and racism, and homophobia, and ableism, and classism, and so on, while we simultaneously perpetuate xenophobia, even if unconsciously?

What’s the point? I mean, ultimately, what is the point? What’s the point of patriotism? What’s the point of watching fireworks on the first of July? What’s the point of spelling “colour” with a U? What’s the point of singing the national anthem to the flag before the hockey game?

What’s the point of being proud to be Canadian if the only thing that makes us Canadian is—well—Canada?

What if the only point of being proud of being Canadian is the legitimization of the very thing that decides we’re Canadian: the Canadian state?

The entity that passes laws determining which boundaries to use to say who’s Canadian. The entity that issues your Canadian passport. The entity that decides who enters Canada and who must leave Canada. The entity that assigns who’s a permanent resident and who’s a temporary foreign worker, which immigrant is legal and which is illegal. The entity that picks which politician to hang and which politician to build a statue for. The entity that selects which group of people can’t vote, which can be slaves, which can’t marry.

It just seems odd to be so tied up in something that is so artificial.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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