True patriot love, disentangled

Have you ever had your question patriotismed? I mean, your patriotism questioned? I gather (from Fox News) that happens a lot, south of the border; but it can even happen up here in the slowly melting North. Why, only yesterday I was patriotismed for a remark I’d made the day before, on this very Idleblogue.

Of course, “patriotism,” as we all learnt from Doctor Johnson, “is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” But it is a little-known fact that scoundrels seldom advertise themselves as such. Instead, they are likely to pose as patriots, “nation builders” or some such thing. Or as we say up here, “nationalists” — who are like American patriots, only worse. Most of them anyway began, in my generation, as American draft dodgers, who should have been delivered in Canadian paddy-wagons to the nearest U.S. Army recruitment centre, for shipment to Vietnam. (I’m totally opposed to conscription, incidentally; but this was a special case.) They did not so much love Canada, as hate the United States, and it makes no sense to take immigrants like that; even less sense to set them up as tenured perfessers in our universities, to interjaculate their toxins among our young.

My offending passage will be easily found. It was where I suggested that the once-inhabitants of Newfoundland, and before them those of our Maritime provinces, had been suckered by their late politicians into Confederation with the Province of Canada (as it was, 1841–67).

For good measure, let me add some more sheep to that lamb. I think the good citizens of Lower Canada (Quebec) were wrongly hounded into union with Upper Canada (Ontario), in 1841. … And vice, as they say, versa. … Too, I regret what was done to absorb Manitoba (1870), British Columbia (1871), and the various fragments of the Northwest Territories (Saskatchewan, Alberta, and so forth), confederated after that.

I should also like to say that some of these provinces are far too big, and Ontario in particular needs breaking up into much smaller pieces. For instance, everything beyond the Greater Parkdale Area needs to belong to some other province, for its own good.

And lest you Americans are feeling smug, may I remind you that I was (or rather, my ancestors were) entirely opposed to the union of the Thirteen Colonies; and that I bear a particular resentment for the incorporation into those United States, of the Vermont Republic (in 1791). Some of my mama’s people, who first ran there to escape the armed lunatics in Massachusetts, were compelled to remove again after Vermont was pincered. The Vermontanists (Green Mountaineers?) had clearly stated that if push came to shove, they would rather join the Province of Quebec (whereas, the Continental Congress wanted them eaten by the Province of New York).

One darn thing led to another, as Stetson Holmes put his trunks on the cart, and made for the coast of Maine. He, and his wife, and no longer all of his sons, were now bound for Cape Breton, as they did not yet know. (Beggars can’t be choosers.) The next generation found themselves opposing the forced merger of Cape Breton into Nova Scotia (1820), then another after that the forced merger of Nova Scotia into Canada (1867).

This last mulchification was thoroughly opposed by her people, as evidence the first Canadian general election, in which eighteen of Nova Scotia’s nineteen seats were taken by the Anti-Confederation Party. Awake they now were, but the Colonial Office at Westminster ruled that there was “no going back.” (Three of my least favourite words, when spoken in that order; and have you noticed? … the three favourite words of our current pope.)

So do I not love Canada?

I have long recognized this as a trick question. It depends: Which Canada do you mean? I love some, and really hate others. Moreover, which layer of history are we discussing? I will not be tyrannized by those chronological bigots, who demand that we live only in the present. The Canadas I love are mostly now dead; but this has not diminished my affection for them. I’m a Jacobite, after all, who nevertheless sings, “God Save the Queen.” I declare my inalienable human right to adjust my loyalties, in delayed reaction to events, every century or so. As a reader of history, I have observed little that turned out as I’d have wished. One must live with that.

Do I not then love, “The Dominion of Canada”?

Ha, Correspondent! … Forced you to say it! … For there is no other way to describe the current Canadian federal regime. That communist Pierre Trudeau (not really a Communist; he was too arrogant for that), tried to change this with legislation in 1982. His Liberal Party predecessor, Louis St Laurent, had already had a go in 1951. Both, and many others, argued that the term “Dominion” is untranslatable into French. Nonsense: I like “La Puissance du Canada” even better. And the old long form still exists, and cannot be made to disappear, from various unabrogated constitutional documents. So stick it, as we say in our national sport (le hockey sur glace).

If what he means is, however, “Do I love the federal government?” the answer is, “Are you crazy?” Of course I don’t. I don’t know anyone who does.