Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let's Keep Painting the Town Red

As long as I can remember, I’ve always felt like I had the extreme fortune to be born in the best country on earth. I’ve always described myself as an extremely proud Canadian, something that often seemed to put me in the minority. At least in this regard, (and many would probably argue in many regards) I’ve never felt the ‘Canadian reserve’ that has so often been used to describe our people, and I’ve often wished that we were not so self-conscious, so self-deprecating, that we would stand up and lay claim to what I’ve always felt was our rightful position as one of the world’s great nations. Not great powers (the US, Russia, China, they can battle over who belongs on that list), but great nations; beautiful, friendly, concerned with our citizens and those of the world at large, willing to take a stand on issues that are deemed important. Not perfect, not even close, but willing to admit to our imperfections, and take measures to fix them.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always been such a huge fan of the Olympics; in a country where flag-waving is often seen as unseemly, seen as something too American (and ‘not American’ has always been one of the ways we have defined ourselves), this was a chance to wave the flag, to cheer on our athletes, even as they so often struggled for success on the world stage. To me, perhaps the single most definitive Olympic moment (at least until Sidney’s goal) was Simon Whitfield standing on top of the Olympic podium, tears streaming down his face as he sang along with O Canada. That, to me, has always been the pinnacle of success, listening to your anthem because you were the best in the world at what you did. Outside of hearing Lizzie first cry and Lisa say “I do,” I can’t imagine too many better feelings.
Because of this, seeing the flags, the crowds, the sea of red that spread across the city and the country over the last couple of weeks has been absolutely amazing. Considering the apparent mixed sentiments towards the games that Vancouver and BC held, no one could have predicted how we would rise up and embrace the Games, but embrace them we did. Our ‘Glitch Games’, described by some as the worst ever a scant two days in, overcame tragedy on the backs of the thousands of people who jammed the streets, the concerts, the actual events, until our athletes overcame their first week struggles and crowned the games with final weekend triumph. Alex Bilodeau broke the drought, but to me the turning point was Virtue and Moir, opening the floodgates that kept the rings in Coal Harbour gold for most of the final week, culminating in a moment that will live in Canadian history, as some 25 million of us watched the hockey team claim gold, and then seemingly all converged on the corner of Granville and Robson to celebrate, peacefully for once. So many times those “where were you when…” moments are defined by tragedies; this was one of those, and it was in triumph.
Let’s do ourselves, and our country, a favour; let’s take this love of our country that we rediscovered, or just made public, and run with it, carry it forward. Let’s not let beer commercials be the only things that stir our pride; let’s not put on our Canada gear (and kudos to HBC for giving us gear worth wearing) and pick up our flags every couple of years, when the Olympics are on or our hockey team is playing; let’s wear our hearts on our sleeves every day. Not over the top, not in your face, not over the line that our American cousins cross too frequently; just confident, and proud, of who we are and where we are from. Let’s not make these two weeks something that happened, once. Let’s make them something that changed us, forever.

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