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  • Wendalynn Wordsmith

Get Maple Leafing!

Normally, at the end of June, I try to come up with a Canada Day message. I do not always release it, but write it and then crumple it up and recycle it. It is an annual review of what it is like to be Canadian. Sometimes I make a list of favourite Canadian songs, other times I comment about the flag. This year has brought my look at patriotism to a new level. I do not know where to begin. I take that back, I know where to begin and it is the same place I left off last year: unknowing.

Without bringing up the previous blog post or any one of my comments relating to racism, there has been a huge increase of overt patriotism this last little while. The last few years I have seen a growing number of people caring about the flag in scary ways - even stating they will die for it. I would not want to die for the Maple Leaf and it breaks my brain to see and hear people ranting about doing the same. I do not disrespect the flag but treading on it or setting it on fire, that is not my style, as well, it is rather juvenile to do so. I will give Waldheim (the town where I live), the flag, any flag, is not flown all over the place. Also, I see flags from all over the world and Canada hanging from the eaves and bedroom windows. I have yet to see a Pride flag, but that is because mine has not arrived yet.

Why so tied to the flag? Suddenly, there seems to be an imaginary war between "patriots" and the rest of us. I cannot for the life of me understand the sudden need to be emotional over a symbol that is placed number 47 on the list of flag emojis. On Facebook, it is a few lines below the Pride flag. This is also, tightly, connected to the national anthem, which will not be covered here, as I fear I do not want more abuse due to my belief that it is not necessary at sporting events. I remember a family member getting overly sweary at Americans hanging flags down their main streets on regular days and now tears up if she does not see family members post Canadian flags on their Facebook page on Canada Day. They are "traitors". I have been labelled a traitor because of this and because I cheered for Boston in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver. That is another story, which concluded with her stating "and you know what they do to traitors?"

I do not blame Trump for this. How can I? People like my aunt (oops, I meant relative) have existed long before Trump ran for President of the United States. It is much like calling a troll on Twitter an agent of Moscow when the fellow (nine times out of ten it is a man) is just a jerk. I do believe his influence of outsiding his inside voice has encouraged a lot of people to come out of their shells and mother's basement. Okay, that is an over-judgement; I meant man-cave next to the laundry room where the wife told him to put it. However, there has to be more to it than this. When Trump suggested banning Muslim immigrants from entering the US, that sentiment was already here but manifested into a scream after. Seeing pictures and watching videos of him hugging the US flag made me feel icky and rather sad. I started seeing posts from far-right groups in Canada urging people to stand by the Maple Leaf, like Trump. I have not found photographs of people fondling it, which is a good thing. Recently a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, Erin O'Toole, urged Canadians to retweet a message stating, in effect, the "Maple Leaf is not politically incorrect". I have no bloody idea where this stuff comes from.

I did grow up in flag wavy home - I do have to bring this up - but that sentiment was driven by a British standard of celebration, rather than patriotism. Instead of the Union Flag, my dad and brother put up the Maple Leaf and the Red Ensign. We watched the Canada Day ceremony on television before the rock bands took over, much to my dad's chagrin. I did fall into the trap for a little while until I realised this was more of a way to show superiority than patriotism when my father commented about showing "the Indians" who are Canadians. This came about after a First Nations family moved across the street. In this case, upon review, the flag can be considered politically incorrect.

I do have a few things in the house with the Maple Leaf, one of my most treasured is a small lapel pin me from Lorne Nystrom, the former MP from Regina-Qu'Appelle, after his win in 1997. These pins are found everywhere and are given out by the thousands. It was a token of respect to all Elections Canada staff who worked at the riding office. I also have a Canadian flag, which I bought from Walmart for a small price, a reason I cannot remember. I think just to have one; maybe. I was asked by an American friend if I placed a Canadian flag sticker on my luggage when I went to the UK. I replied that I did not have one to use, as well, I did not want people to think I was American. Funnily enough, I rode the plane with two women from New Brunswick who felt the same. The Walmart flag has not left the storage box I placed it in before I moved from my apartment in Regina to Saskatoon in 2007. The pin is in a treasure box with my great-grandfather's rosary and my grandmother's clip-on earrings.

This year Richard and I will be using 1 July as an added day to our week off. Sure, we have to pick up medication (pharmacies are open) and I may barbeque some hot dogs if I can stabilise the legs of the cooking machine. As well, I have to pick up a new kitchen faucet due to a leaky bit at the front. I will not be retweeting an alarmist tweet, I will not be drinking Canadian beer found in a specially marked box of Canada Day brew and I will not be dragging the flag from the basement and wear it as a cape whilst cooking supper. The reason for the last one is due to the fact I am not sure it is flame retardant, because, as luck would have it, I would accidentally catch it alight.

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