The Great Canadian Anthem Debate


In the United States of America, they love to debate taking the line “under God” out of the pledge of allegiance. After baseball, it’s the second most popular national pastime. The comedian Lewis Black once joked that such a debate serves as an acid test for how well things are going in a society: “Dammit, it’s been too nice for too long, let’s talk about that under God shit!”

So by that measure, things in my home and native land must be humming along swimmingly because it’s that time in the decade when #WeTheNorth take another crack at George Lucas-ing the hell out of our national anthem.

Liberal Member of Parliament, Mauril A. Bélanger is the latest proponent of modernizing the Canadian anthem.

Canada’s national anthem is a complete mess. For starters, it took us more than half a century to finally pick the thing and then another twenty before we finally made it Facebook official. The two recurring themes (get it, it’s a musical pun) center, or centre, around references in the anthem to God, not unlike our American cousins, and references to gender. Specifically the female variety and exclusion thereof. No one usually can pay attention long enough to really give a shit about the God stuff so the debate, or as we call them in Canada, courteous but concerned exchanges of unique perspectives in a constructive dialogue, fizzles out pretty quickly.

"Kanata!"

But the gender one is the topic de jour, first in 1990, and again in 2002 as one line in the English version of the anthem goes “true patriot love in all thy sons command.” See that? SONS, as in lads, as in fellas what don’t got no lady bits. This means that by the standards of 2016, Canada’s national anthem is less inclusive than a U.S. department store’s public bathroom. Oh, Canada…

I propose, instead of one contentious anthem, let's settle for the entire RUSH discography before every game.

The timing is not too surprising since June 1st kicks off Pride Month in many North American cities and this “all thy sons command” business is about changing the anthem to be more broad, (get it - broad as in dames, skirts, birds, chicks). And you can see the point in changing it to something gender-neutral like “in all of us command,” it sounds basically the same and ipso facto includes everybody regardless of what holes they have or don’t have and what’s wrong with that? Tradition, you say? Well I might agree with you since I’m usually a purist snob - I drink Coke, not Pepsi, and I only watch the ORIGINAL unaltered, non-Special edition versions of the Star Wars Trilogy.

Everyone can get their rocks off in Canada.

But then again, which is the original? As I mentioned earlier, there have been a whack of revisions to the official Canadian anthem since the 1880s. If you want to go old school, then sing the damn thing using the original French lyrics, since, funny enough, it was written IN FRENCH, for a FRENCH holiday, celebrated in FRENCH Canada. And the English lyrics are so bland, uninspired and devoid of any meaning beyond describing the rudimentary geography of the planet’s second largest landmass, that you might as well just hum it to yourself while swaying back and forth, swinging your arms around with your head lolled back and your tongue pressed against your lips to produce fart noises.

"Seriously, bro, dis fawkin big."

The original french lyrics are all about kicking ass and shoving the history of how awesome you are down the throats of whoever can’t get out of earshot in time. With lines like “thy arm ready to wield the sword” and “thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits” it already sounds more like something men in Brown Shirts with armbands would sing as they’re smashing Jewish businesses and burning down synagogues.

I sidestep the whole debate myself since I haven’t got a dog in the fight. I’m not religious so I don’t care one way or the other about “God Keeping our land” wherever he cares to - likely in a folder on his external hard drive marked Tax Docs 2003...oh, you know what’s in there.

Personally I prefer “The Maple Leaf Forever,” since it’s a hundred times prettier than the “official” anthem (well only seventy times prettier depending on the U.S. exchange rate) and it’s actually aboot the Brits settling in Canada and going gaga for maple syrup. But at the end of the day., national anthems and flags, and fight songs, and ribbons are just symbols and nothing more. And, to quote another great comedian, “I leave symbols to the symbol-minded.”

Der Maple Leaf für immer

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