O Canada: Our neighbors to the north

My mother-in-law has a creative touch. God made these flowers, but she has tended them well!
My mother-in-law has a creative touch. God made these flowers, but she has tended them well!

Because today is Canada Day, I would like to express my appreciation for what I consider Canada’s best export — my mother-in-law, Dorothy Harmon. Her overall good will, charm and knowledge of what is “proper” (in the British sense) would have been winning qualities in themselves. But add to that her decision to move over a thousand miles south to “The States” and stay here, meet my father-in-law and later have my future wife and that says winner in my book.

Another of my favorite Canadians, Tim Challies, posted today about another reason that makes our neighbors to the north unique — they have two national anthems. Of course we know “O Canada” because it is a cool sounding, more easily sung song than ours here in the USA. But, as Tim explains, it was written in French and English and the translations go two directions. What a country! Tim, as is his wont, is thorough in explanation and gives the topic its due:

Thus we have two official national anthems, one written in French and one in English. It must be noted that the lyrics of these songs, even when translated to the same language, bear little resemblance to each other. Beyond the first two words there is little correlation in language or underlying themes. It is also interesting to note that while the songs are written in different languages, they were also written by men of different theological backgrounds. The English version is Protestant and emphasizes hard work and duty. The French version, written by a Roman Catholic, emphasizes history and national glory.

Today it is common for performances of the anthem to mix the French and English versions of the song. This leads to a rather interesting mixture of thoughts that actually makes the song seem quite militaristic.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
Just as your arm knows how to wield the sword,
It also knows how to bear the cross;
Your history is an epic
Of the most brilliant feats.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

In recent years the song has come under attack from various parties who claim that the anthem is either sexist or too religious. Some have suggested removing the words “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.” Others have suggested ways of removing the references to God. So far these suggestions have met with resistance, but it is likely only a matter of time before the changes are made. After all, this is the nation that has legalized homosexual marriage and has decriminalized marijuana. We’re on the forefront of political correctness.

In How To Be A Canadian, Will and Ian Ferguson suggest that a defining characteristic of Canadians is that they do not know their own anthem. Certainly they do not loudly sing it with pride as do our American neighbours (as I noted last night when I was at the ball game—barely a person there bothered to sing along). “First lesson as a newcomer to Canada: Whatever you do, do not learn the words to ‘O Canada’! Nothing will mark you as an outsider more quickly. Canadians don’t know the words to their national anthem, and neither should you.”

And, to finish the celebration, here is the talented Andrew Osenga (not Canadian, but still pretty good because he’s American) singing the praises of Canada:

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