“The son also riles”
(QMI Agency files)
O Canada, land of our ancestors, what hath become of thy anthem?
Hey, wait a minute. What’s this business about ancestors? How does that make immigrants feel?
A fair question, Ms. Atwood. Good thing you didn’t ask it. I guess you were too busy feeling marginalized by “thy sons” to read the French lyrics.
I didn’t know feminists were enthusiastic about patriotic duty and I don’t like their idea of updating this line to “in all of us command.” But I’ll meet them halfway and restore the English original “thou dost in us command.” I could never resist a good “dost” and would cheerfully sing it a quarter tone sharp.
The problem is, we could be heading for a major dost-up once we start listening to the words instead of just singing them mournfully. Consider, s’il ne vous plait pas, the bit where all we good sensitive anglos switch to French at “Car ton bras sait porter l’epee, Il sait porter la croix!”
Now nothing says “two solitudes” like totally different lyrics in our two official languages. But if we actually spoke French as opposed to the “Bean venue” rubbish you get from politicians, we’d be wondering whether, once we grab a sword and a cross, we shouldn’t go retake Jerusalem from Saladin or something.
To adapt a Reagan gibe, today’s “red square” Quebec nationalist youth don’t look like they’d know what to do with either a sword or a cross, except perhaps immerse the latter in urine, call it art and seek a grant.
But even this alarming verse beats the original French lyrics.
They urged the Quebecois (who “wears the halo of fire on his brow” so go easy on the hair spray until it’s updated to “a glorious garland of flowers” or if you’re Gilles Duceppe a cheese hat) to hold firm among “the foreign races” in his “Sacred love of the throne and the altar” and “repeat, like our fathers, The slogan: ‘For Christ and King!’”
Ouf. Not inclusive. And I notice even the contemporary French doesn’t reach “far and wide.” But if French, or Quebec, is too much for you there’s always the “home and native land” business in English.
Plenty of aboriginal activists would say “pick one.” Indeed Toronto City Council tried to in June 1990, asking the feds to make it “cherished” land. Plus freedom and strength might offend collectivists and pacifists. There’s no telling where this might end.
I think Thomas Mulcair laid it on a bit thick by telling Atwood et al the anthem is “wonderful” and “extraordinary” and shouldn’t be changed.
O Canada is not so much wonderful as a dirge. And given its lyrical and melodic defects it’s only “extraordinary” in the sense that Chief Inspector Dreyfus called Clouseau “an extraordinary man.” But Mulcair, by instinct, logic or just pandering, did touch on a key point. A nation that’s forever meddling with its symbols has no real symbols.
Take “from sea to sea to sea.” Please. The original was from the Bible (Psalm 72:8), like the Dominion in “Dominion of Canada.”
But we tinkered with our motto for political gain, changed our flag to the Liberal Party colours, renamed Dominion Day and messed with our anthem.
What’s left to cherish, other than constant narcissistic and divisive self-reinvention? And where do we stop?
Can you imagine a Canadian anthem that didn’t offend anyone from feminists to secularists to traditionalists to Quebec nationalists to the two-spirited? Absolutely. There would be no words. We’d just hum.
Until someone jumped up to complain that the notes include an F and “note” means grade in French and Fs are bad for kids’ self-esteem. Plus, isn’t polyphonic music an invention of the patriarchal West?
O Canada, whither goest thou?