On hold during the pandemic, Canada Day celebrations are back on the table this year.
That would be a more enjoyable turn of events if not for the fact we’ve replaced pandemic dread with inflation dread. ‘It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy’ seems a little less applicable just now.
The usual summer long-weekend activities have taken a hit. From a drive out to the lake – have you seen the price of gasoline? – to the family barbecue – have you seen the prices at the supermarket? – many of the usual outlets have given us pause for thought.
Let’s face it, the Canada Day holiday is much more about summer festivities than about patriotism. And that’s typically a good thing, especially in comparison to the fervour on display south of the border when it comes to the similarly timed national celebrations.
Just three days apart, the countrywide birthday parties in Canada and the US always have a decidedly different flavour. While our American neighbours make much of their Independence Day festivities – they are not shy about flying their colours – we Canadians are usually more reserved.
In years past, the anniversary of our country’s founding has, often as not, been seen as just another statutory holiday – ideally leading to a long weekend, as is the case this year.
Yet there are signs that is changing. Although nothing akin to the red-white-and-blue flag wavers, anecdotal evidence suggests we are displaying the maple leaf more often than we used to – more homes, business and even cars appear decorated with the flag, and not just leading up to July 1. And that’s in a good way, not the version co-opted in the ill-considered and counterproductive truck rally inflicted on Ottawa.
There is a danger, of course, in putting too much weight on “not being Americans” – that is no way to form a strong national identity. Still, there appears to be a welcome window of opportunity for our (usually self-serving) leaders to encourage this pride, to promote some of the “can-do” mentality that makes up the attractive part of American patriotism. And without some of the over-the-top jingoism that clouds the issue – a development likely held in check here by our inherent politeness and pragmatism.
Both Canadians and Americans have fewer reasons to celebrate these days given the financial and political mess in both countries – much worse to the south, of course. Still, perhaps that’s a reason for citizens to enjoy the holiday, put the politics on hold for a day or two, and reflect on what’s really important before coming back to reality with a fresh perspective on what politicians and their paymasters have done to our quality of life.
In Canada, we’re in better shape than the US, and have the luxury of watching the meltdown there at a distance. Americans are angry. So are we, though not to the same extent. And our outlets for anger are fewer and much less shrill. What’s playing out next door could be a version of our future. Go beyond the “entertainment” value of the likes of Fox News and the MAGA crowd to see just what politics has become in the US, and what it’s threatening to become here. Dumb. Partisan. Bereft of policies. And the opposite of an engaged citizenry, despite the populist trappings.
The problems in the US, and to a lesser extent in Canada, are complex. Partisan sniping and sloganeering won’t help. Apparently, that’s the best we can do. That’s why we have pundits yelling on TV. Ersatz politicians using crass platitudes. And issues reduced to the lowest common denominator.
It’s something for us to reflect on here as we appear set to head down that road. Barring that kind of introspection, perhaps we should simply be thankful for the benefits we take pleasure in as Canadians – including the chance to make much-needed improvements – and try to enjoy ourselves this Canada Day weekend.