Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 Canada Day Reflection: Thanksgiving more than pride

In my mind, it was turning into The Mystery of the Missing Canadian Flag. Last fall when I was out of town, an unexpected snowstorm hit... and it was up to my husband to put away the garden. It was a good thing that he took down the Canada flag from our flagpole and put it away, but because he had so much to do in the storm, he forgot exactly where he put it.

Needless to say, we've spent a fair bit of time looking for it this spring because it wasn't in any of the usual places, or the unusual ones. I had pretty much given up searching, saying, "Oh well," but yesterday, when I was looking for something in my laundry cupboard, I moved something aside... and suddenly realized that I was holding the missing Canadian flag! I dropped everything and went to run it up its flagpole over our garden.

Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation this weekend -- a space of time that is a drop in a bucket when you consider the history of countries like India or China, or those in the Middle East and Europe. Our young country of Canada is blessed in so many ways -- but some of the lead up to the 150 celebrations has made me wonder what we are actually celebrating.

The consumerism associated with this celebration leaves me rather depressed -- Canada flag paper plates and napkins, red plastic cutlery, plastic flag garlands, pennants, balloons, t-shirts, ball caps, and more stuff that I don't even want to think about, enough to fill our landfills... Oh, and if you cut yourself while preparing the Canada Day barbecue, there are Canada flag bandaids. The government is already spending millions on celebrations, and how much will ordinary Canadians spend on flag-labelled junk made in other countries? Sheesh.

Of course, my hesitation isn't just about the stuff. There's a lot that has happened in this country in the last 150 years that make us proud to be Canadians -- but there's also a fair bit to deflate our spirits. I'm thinking particularly of the treatment of our Indigenous sisters and brothers over those 150 years. Racism has kept us from becoming a truly wholesome society -- imagine what our nation would have been like if European settlers had been willing to cooperate with the First Nations rather than segregating them and forcing them to give up their culture in what turned out to be a residential school-based genocide. Our challenge now is to heal the entire nation. I hope there will be many Canada Day blanket exercises or other opportunities to bring Canadians to understanding and reconciliation.

Taking pride in our country is probably a good thing on many fronts, but we need to keep in mind that many of us live here simply by accident of our birth, not because we have done anything special to deserve our nationality. I suggest that rather than making Canada Day a consumerist celebration of the sesquicentennial with misplaced pride and all sorts of silly red-and-white paraphernalia that needlessly use the earth's resources, we make it a time of thanksgiving. Let Canada Day be a time to reflect on and be grateful for the gifts our land has bestowed upon us, a time to come up with ways to heal divisions within our society, to work for justice and to welcome those who need a home.

Yes, sing O Canada with fervour at some point on July 1st, but also consider psalmist's words about dwelling in God's house and how they can fit with our feelings about living in our beautiful country:

**How lovely is your dwelling place, O God.

My soul longs for the courts of my God:
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest for herself
where she may lay her young at your altars.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength comes from you,
in whose hearts are the road to your home.
They go through the dry valley
and it becomes a place of springs and oases.
They go from strength to strength 
because of their God's great love.
Hear our prayer, O God!
Be our shield,
and anoint us all with your grace and blessing.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in God's home
than live in a rich palace away from God.
You, God, are our guide and protection;
You are the one who bestows favour and honour.
You walk with us when we act with justice, compassion and humility.
O tender God, happy are those who trust in you.

Here God lives among God's people.

Happy Canada Day!

**(my paraphrase of Psalm 84)

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