In March of this year, I became a citizen
of this great country of Canada exactly 18 years -- to the day -- after migrating here from England back in 1988, the International Year of the Large Unruly Haircut and the Unlaced Hi-Top Runner. The "exact day" part is merely coincidence; it just happened to be the date the tortuous application process led to, likely picked without thought by some bureaucrat in a poorly-lit office in Ottawa.
I am very happy and strangely proud to be a Canadian. I say "strangely" because patriotism has always been an alien emotion for me, as if I missed out on that gene altogether. Well, maybe not: perhaps I'm a latent patriot after all, although 44 years is a long time to have been in any closet. This country is certainly no nirvana; it has its fault lines and gem seams in fairly equal measure, although I lean toward the latter and can't imagine wanting to live anywhere else on this lonely troubled planet.
On that day in early March -- my own personal Canada Day
-- I felt buoyant -- included and inclusive and part of something much bigger, which I suppose is how religious people feel in a place of worship. And like a rabbi or a minister or an iman or even a shaman, the presiding Judge Day was suitably solemn yet simultaneously warm and welcoming, imparting a sense of the joy and specialness of the occasion while never appearing pompous or too formal. This being-a-Canadian thing feels great; it still retains its new car smell. It's cool and fresh and virginal. It even snowed throughout the ceremony, the large window on the left of the room distracting the roomful of 200 or so multi-hued citizens of the world with its vision of what most people associate Canada with in the first place. Snow. Great floating lacework coasters drifting from steely skies.
But the point of this first post, I suppose, is to try and justify yet another blog out there floating around among so many millions of equally unique and special snowflakes in the great wheeling sphere we sometimes still call cyberspace. And the truth is, I can't. Nothing can justify it. Audience of one (myself) or audience of thousands: it matters not. I just have to do this, and for simple, fairly mundane reasons: I have watched as the country to the south of us has fallen prey to a kind of collective madness since September 11, 2001. I don't doubt the seeds of that madness were planted and nurtured even before that terrible date. There was, and still is to an extent, something good about America that these events have increasingly buried like obliterated bodies under fallen concrete and steel. It has been horrifying to watch, and since I have (in some ways for the first time) truly staked my ground on this world, I cannot bear to see anything similar happen to this Canada that I do indeed love. And to that end, I'll use my best weapon, the only one I'm truly adept in -- language. English will be my sword with which I'll block and parry the same species of foe that has brought down our giant neighbour to its elephantine knees. And believe me, there are signs that similar cancers (to switch metaphors) are loose in our own society. By exposing them, if nothing else, I'll be helping to clear a path for the eventual passage of someone more skilled in their excision, some cultural surgeon.
I took an oath on March 9, 2006 to "respect our country's rights and freedoms, to defend our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen."
This blog, for all its inevitable missteps and no-doubt asinine tangents, will be me trying to live up to that very promise I made to a large mass of mostly frozen land and to a collection of 30 million random strangers I chose to embrace as my compatriots.