Sunday, May 28, 2006

On the image of your country

After last night's irritation with that ridiculous woman, I skimmed the testimony before the Senate on gay marriage. One comment by Senator Mitchell really struck me. In talking about the wearing of turbans in the RCMP, he stated:

Senator Mitchell: I would like to add a comment, and I thank you for raising that point. I was actively involved in that issue as an elected politician in Alberta and I feel strongly about it. One thing that debate hinged on was the sense of how to define the RCMP visually because a Canadian RCMP wears the traditional hat and uniform. My argument was that I do not see that image of Canada. My image of Canada is of an accepting, understanding, pluralistic society that takes people for what they are. Senator Joyal said in the house, in the context of language, that in Canada people can really be themselves. That is a powerful thought. All of you brought that out today, and I appreciate it greatly.

Heady stuff. And this is exactly right - there is not "image" of Canada and the Canadian people that can be put down on a mug or a photo. There's not "As American as apple pie" in Canada, save for "As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances." How much better to have your identity shaped by shared values, rather than some sort of shared image or identity? That is the message we send to the world: Come to our beautiful country. Keep your traditions, keep your faith, keep your culture, but join us by sharing our values of respect and tolerance. You can be who you want to be, so long as you tolerate those around you being who they want to be.

Canada cannot fail. As I have said before, it is the shining example to the world of a peaceful, tolerant (and somewhat boring) country. It is the sharp rebuke to all those in the world who say that different ethnic groups or linguistic communities or religions cannot live side-by-side. It is the rebuke to those who think that cities should be ghettoized (like my own city, Los Angeles, is). If Canada fails - if it self-destructs because of short sighted premiers or politicians who put their parochial interests above the common good - if our great and wonderful experiment fails, then to me there is no real hope for humanity.

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