ALPF sent - and I even saw this one on my own! - some interesting commentary on the speech from Star columnist Richard Gwyn. In a piece called "Too Many Canadians Aren't Canadian Enough," Gwyn writes:
Being Canadian, he [Ignatieff] writes, is "a constant act of justification and self-invention." To be tired of all of this "is to be tired of Canadian life".This is interesting to me, since I eschew nationalism, and my own national identity is not a source of pride to me.
He's wholly right. My own formulation, which I've expressed earlier in this space, is that to be Canadian is to be someone who is forever becoming a Canadian.
But I think Ignatieff misreads the nature of the looming crisis. It isn't because Quebecers are too Québécois, it's because Canadians aren't Canadian enough.
Quebec isn't a real threat, I would argue, because Quebecers have already separated within Canada and so have no need to formally separate.
They've figured out, this is to say, how to be wholly Quebecers while using Canadianism (our passport, our international image, etc.) as a useful, if secondary, asset.
The rest of us are getting to be like Quebecers. Canadianism is becoming a convenience rather than a source of identity.
For me personally, the realization of just how far we have moved from a sense of national solidarity happened when Newfoundlanders lowered the Maple Leaf flag. That the provincial government did this was one thing. That Memorial University, an independent institution, did it also, was quite another.
I cannot think of any other country where citizens would lower their national flag as a bargaining ploy.
Our sense of national solidarity seems to be slipping away.
Is national identity necessary? Can we be proud of the society we live in (and strive to better it) without rallying behind a flag? Or is patriotism necessary in order to build a society?
In the US, where there is rampant nationalism - the love-it-or-leave-it crowd - there is also rampant selfishness, a total unwillingness to put the social good before the individual. Patriotism feeds militarism and the absence of self-criticism. But in Canada, national identity means something very different. But what? And does provincial identity threaten that?
Your comments are welcome. Though I can't respond quickly, or at all, I'm always monitoring.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays just tied the game. Gotta go!