I am Canadian. It’s who I am, and its part of me. It isn’t just where I’m from, but the whole belief system I grew up with. It’s that little shift from democratic capitalism to democratic socialism, that little extra degree of politeness, of equal rights, of being able to believe in a little more fair, just, and kind society. Canada isn’t that ideal, of course – but those are the things I believe in as Canadian qualities. There’s a lack of cynicism, a belief in just being nice, that pervades Canadian culture. We are the cultural mosaic. We are the source of indie rock. We export laughter in the form of comic actors.
And we export kids like me who find it far easier to work and live on this side of the border. But that is what it is. As Metric is singing right now, “is this my life? Or am I breathing underwater?” Most days, I don’t think about the fact that I’m out of Canada, that I’m far from home. Other days, I stop to think about it, and it is like being suddenly underwater. It’s like being hit and pulled under by a wave, the realization that I’m so far for home, and sometimes, very lonely. Canada is so comforting to me because its home, it’s what and who I am. I see all those waving flags, that sea of red, those maple leafs, and I miss my country. I miss those shared reference points with people who come from the same place that I do.
The question is, how do I express that to my son? How do I tell Ben that he is Canadian, and make it mean something?
I can tell him, you are Canadian, this is our music, and put on CBC3.
I can tell him, you are Canadian, this is our culture, and find Canadian children’s shows for him.
I can put him in Scouts to try to find an organization with Canadian values: kindness, loyalty, community, the outdoors.
But I can’t give him that sense of being Canadian, of pride in Canada, that comes from growing up on Canadian soil.
Sigh. I pay small prices, here and there, for the life I live. Because it is good, but it’s good because of who I’ve become being in the States. Maybe someday, Ben will go back to Canada, for college, for a job. Maybe someday, he’ll learn why I am so proud to be Canadian that I had it inked on my skin. Until then, I just have to hope that Canada stays the idealistic nation it was when I was growing up. Or that it goes back to being that idealistic: one people, of all cultures, joining hands from sea to sea… to sea.