As a country, Canada is pretty darn great.
Not perfect, not by a longshot, but the privileges and freedom we enjoy, the vast and varied terrain we get to explore, and the cast of characters we call our own is generally solid.
There's plenty to love.
(And, yeah, this goes for the U.S., too.)
But in some circles over the past few years, patriotism has exploded as being the preeminent virtue that people should have.
Swaths of Twitter accounts have "Patriot" as the first word of their bio, even ahead of their own familial positions as a mother or father or husband or wife. It seems that some of these people love their country more than they love their families.
Looking at the placement of "Patriot" in these Twitter bios, it almost reads like younger users whose defining trait is "loving Justin Bieber xoxo" or declaring "Jennifer Lawrence is sooo hot OMG." It's an obsession with the idea of something or someone that we objectively know little about.
Those kids aren't actually in love with those celebrities — they just can't be — because they really haven't spent any quality time with them and instead are more enamoured with them and the minimal amount of personality they've displayed. Likewise, a lot of patriotism seems to be celebrating the land we colonized and only a small section of our soul as a country.
I'll acknowledge my privilege here in that I've never known life in a country where extreme corruption, terror or authoritarianism is a daily fact of life. I obviously have no idea what it would be like to escape from there to a safe place, for which I can only imagine I'd feel extreme gratitude.
But it's almost as though, to use a sports analogy, these patriots are from that section of a team's fanbase that feels any criticism is tantamount to not being a "true fan" anymore. It's almost as though our country should be exactly how it was in 1867 (or 1776, as the case may be). It seems as though we can't initiate any change — we can only shift course out of necessity.
A lot of those to whom patriotism is extremely important seem to have been here for generations, which is certainly understandable. But many of them are also speaking out against the newcomers, looking to keep refugees fleeing chaos out of our country. Some of it is a call for entirely reasonable screening, but there's a darker conversation centred on keeping Canada just like it is (i.e. as white as possible.)
Certainly, outlining our Canadian values can be a complicated conversation. We have myriad traditions that make us amazing, but for to unquestioningly accept and promote each and every one is unproductive. We have the freedom to do so and should use it often.
I'm not trying to say loving one's country isn't important — at this time of year, especially, it's critical to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country — but there are a number of ways to show it, especially since patriotism is now being used as a weapon. Love of one's country can certainly be of the flag-waving, chest-thumping variety, but it can also be shown in more humble ways, by getting involved in our communities, supporting our neighbours and trying to achieve peace wherever possible. It can be about the land or the government, the flag or the values, but at least to me, the patriotism that matters most has to do with the well being of the people who live in said country.
And it's also important to be proud of how the country acts on a global stage, especially with those most vulnerable. There's not the time or space here to go into great detail, but at a base level, wealthy, privileged countries should welcome those fleeing violence and chaos.
Love can manifest itself in any number of valid and merited ways, but some out there are trying to pigeonhole what is right or proper. A country should requite love to those who love it for what it is, for its virtues and its flaws, and to those who work to make it a more caring, productive and healthy place to live to help create a beautiful relationship with its citizens.