CANADA: A COMPARATIVE LOOK AT THE TWO VERSIONS OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEN
Well, it’s an election year in America. Time to look down in bemusement from our perch up in the Great White North and watch Americans flail around for the better part of a year with primaries, caucuses, delegates, super delegates, super PACs, endless debates, attack ads, all leading up to the Presidential election in November, then a transition team of over a month if President Obama loses to Mitt Romney, before anybody gets sworn in and starts governing.
Up here in Canada we’ve shortened our federal campaigns to just over forty days or so. Even then, the general public has less and less of a stomach for political campaigns of any sort and politicians in general are usually ranked in public opinion polls somewhere in the pack with used car salesmen.
Unlike the U.S. federal campaign in 2008, which saw massive voter mobilization amongst youth for Obama, no one candidate has yet to capture the imagination of the Canadian psyche in any significant way. Our current Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper, a Conservative, is increasingly becoming known as a very control-freakish demagogue when it comes to controlling his ministers and civil servants, even going so far as to have some environmental scientists accompanied by minders at press conferences.
So before we start thinking we’re superior in any way to America because our elections are shorter or that we somehow hold some mythical moral high ground, consider our National Anthem. America may be divided along North/South, Blue/Red and black/white lines, but it can truly boast of having one national anthem.
Canada has two versions of the same tune. One in French, which was written first, the other in English, which was written later. Just to give you an idea as to how the French and English-speaking populations of Canada have different world views on things, one just has to listen to the lyrics of each version of the Anthem.
They both start out the same, the English one calling us ‘our home and native land’, while the French calling us ‘The land of our forbearers’. So far so good. But at the end, the English vow to ‘O Canada we stand on guard for thee’, whereas the French patriotically chant that ‘(Canada)….shall protect our homes and our rights’. In other words, that Canada ‘shall stand on guard for us’.
Something funny must’ve happened on the way to the Forum, because the two sides see things quite differently. I guess that because of the particular circumstances in which New France was brought into the British realm via the Seven Years War with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, that the French in Canada feel that, in exchange for their continued loyalty to our nation, that their homes and rights should be protected, whereas the English-speaking subjects, originally mostly from Britain saw defending the motherland as their duty.
So, like the old song says ‘You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine’. I guess every country has its share of fault lines and cleavages, and America and Canada are no exception. So this Canadian will keep on thinking positive thoughts throughout 2012 for my American cousins to the south: We may have safer and cleaner cities up here, but at least everybody agrees on the wording of the Star Spangled Banner! God Bless America!