Friday, July 1, 2011

O Canada

I have noticed that when groups of Canadians (including me) join in the singing of our national anthem, we often do it tentatively, softly, as if singing too loudly would somehow put us in the company of our patriotic (dare I say brash?) neighbours to the south. When in a crowd of people singing our anthem, I find myself judging the volume of those around me, then choosing a decibel level right below that. If the people around me choose not to sing, I feel downright uncomfortable, singing barely above a whisper. I don't think I'm alone. Save for events where a professional singer gives the anthem its due, I've rarely heard someone belt out the Canadian national anthem. Do we feel it too brazen, too bold, too...un-Canadian?

As a nation, we take great pride in our modesty (although that seems an oxymoron), our politeness (although, let's not kids ourselves, Canada breeds rude people too) and our quiet strength. We are the country most others like (although our standing in environmental matters may detract from our popularity somewhat). We are, for the most part, admired.

And what's not to like? We are a free country. As much as we gripe about our politicians (and sometimes for good reason), we have the great privilege of being able to choose them. We are free to express our opinions, read what we want, learn new things, pursue our passions. We are wealthy in our natural surroundings, blessed by oceans, lakes, mountains, trees of myriad shapes and sizes, and prairies. And while we may sometimes curse our weather (a Canadian pastime), we enjoy the diversity of four seasons (be they unequal in length) and our exposure to unpleasant weather makes us truly appreciate the joy of a sunny, clear day. Our provinces and territories each have their own unique culture, climate and points of pride; I hope one day to have visited them all, and am grateful that dream is achievable.

I wonder, then, why I hesitate to sing O Canada from the very depths of my belly and soul - the same place that genuine laughter and sorrow come from. This morning, CBC Radio played a recording of children in grades primary to three singing O Canada. Their pitch was off, their timing wasn't perfect and the lyrics were sometimes garbled, but this much was clear - they were proud to be Canadian. They were singing from their hearts. As a proud Canadian, the next time I find myself singing the national anthem, I'll take my cue from them.

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