Thursday, 12 July 2012

Nationalism or Patriotism

The two words do not mean the same thing, though they are often used interchangeably as if they meant the same thing. Often politician will use the word Patriotism or Patriot when they mean Nationalism or Nationalist. The definition of Patriotism is love of one's home, country, a happiness at being in one's country, of finding contentment, happiness. Nationalism is a very different thing, we know all too well where the excess of nationalism can lead, the XXth century has given us numerous example of it
with disastrous consequences. Nationalism is define as putting one's Nation above all others, exalting its virtues and focusing on a national consciousness.

This 1 July 2012 the word Patriotism has been used in many a speech by politicians and our Prime Minister, I came away thinking that he meant Nationalism instead of Patriotism. This year in Canada we celebrate the anniversary of the War of 1812, I say we in a generic manner, this war or was it a civil war or a war of territorial expansion or aggression by the USA or simply political foolishness on the part of the Republicans and President Madison, depends on your point of view. Our current government sees it as a great war to celebrate, a defining moment says the Prime Minister, I am not so sure.  The Prime Minister made his usual address extolling the virtues of Canada over the USA in a rather jingoistic manner. We won this war, he said, the people came together with the help of the aboriginals to defeat the enemy, quickly adding but we are friends now. A very simplistic view and this is not what Canada Day our 1 July is about. No wonder so many felt uncomfortable with such pronouncement or indifferent to them. What does this war mean to anyone who does not live in southern Ontario or south of Montreal? Very little really.

Here is an historical account taken from journals of the time of what happened 145 years ago on Dominion Day 1 July 1867 in Ottawa and around Canada which in those days was composed of the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New-Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
At midnight, bonfires blazed and cathedral bells chimed. At dawn, artillery salutes thundered. All day long and into the evening, Canadians gathered into the streets, parks and public squares of the new nation. Confederation was a bold innovation. Former colonials were peacefully taking up their right to govern themselves. The new Nation would have a Parliamentary democracy on the British model, its legislature elected by one of the widest franchise the world had seen. The Constitution of 1867 was the first ever made in Canada for Canadians, a plan not suggested by others or imposed on us.

By 1867, the war of 1812 was a distant memory, the USA was emerging from the aftermath of a bloody Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The immediate concern of our first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald was to make Canada a prosperous nation against difficult odds and to establish Canada as a different nation then the USA.

Unfortunately this week with the celebration of the Centennial of the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, again political speeches turn it into the celebration of the greatest nation on earth a theme chosen by our Prime Minister in his speech.
This type of phraseology belongs to another age and to others, it is not a Canadian sentiment.
But it appears that nationalistic ideology is currently the driving theme of the current government.

I chose to be a patriot and love my country and pursue its interest as our national anthem says, O Canada terre de nos aieux, (O Canada land of our forefathers). I leave the ideology of nationalism to others.




  1. There is so little awareness in Canada about our history that I'm glad to see any part of it get some national attention.

    1. Debra I know what you mean, I agree with you. I was trying to show that in Canada with Harper there is a confusion between Patriotism and Nationalism, not a healthy mix.

  2. THe 1812 war is almost forgotten in the collective memory of the USA; no one really can tell you what it is about or why. At most they identify the National Anthem coming from the time.
    Curious how things do and do not get into a national memory

  3. I'm still flying the Canaderian flag..and no one has said a word..ha