Friday, March 5, 2010

'In All Thy Political Correctness Command!'


I've read in the news recently that the Canadian Conservative government's throne speech (for those not of Canuck origin, this is when the Governor-General, a Commonwealth representative, makes a keynote speech outlining the goals of the parliamentary government) consisted of a few points of interest: budget cuts, a "tough on crime" bill, and a proposal to adjust the national anthem of Canada to be more gender-neutral.

Here's the offending stanza of our anthem: "True patriot love, in all thy sons command!"

Here's the offered lyric in its place: "True patriot love, thou dost us all command!"

This suggestion came at the hands of Janet Keeping, president of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership in Calgary.  She says that the anthem as it is does not reflect modern women who "are side by side with their male counterparts, showing that patriotic love, making those sacrifices," she totes to CTV News Channel. 

"We know that that language was not meant to include all of us.  I would just change it to 'In all of us command' and be done with it," she says at the end of her statement.

The suggestion is not of modern invention; it comes from an original version of a poem written in 1908 by Mercy E. Powell McColloch, which includes this stanza.  McColloch had submitted his version of O Canada into a contest hosted by Collier's Weekly Magazine.  He did win the contest, but his version didn't garner wide acceptance.  Well, we are about to repeat history, according to popular polls all around the internet.

I have a problem with this, and the first problem is with Mrs. Keeping so dismissively suggest something that really doesn't speak so valiantly about the citizens of the country we sing.  I would imagine that as the person first introducing the issue to the press, she would be more diplomatic and proper about it, as supposed to 'being done with it.'  If this is a woman who's national pride is represented as such in our national anthem, I'm glad it's not up to her.

Yes, it's a sense of pride in my country, in its traditions and heritage, in its freedoms and sense of unity within such a vast land and peoples, and I have a problem with this proposed change, as do many other people I've spoken to.

I believe that a lot of our culture, the Western culture, has really hammered the ideas of gender neutrality, sexual equality and the revival of the "We Can Do It!" movement into so many different aspect of life that it's becoming difficult to speak in basic terms without sounding insulting.

I've never had a problem with our anthem being 'gender insensitive'.  The anthem that I have sung since I was a child, since my father was a child, is always sung with pride at the top of my lungs, whether it was at school or when we won the gold medal for hockey at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  I've never had a moment where I felt separated from my fellow Canadian men whenever I sang that anthem with pride.  "In all thy sons command" depicts a vision of the sacrifices that came before us so that we could revel in this country's pride "with glowing hearts"!  I remember where this country came from, the struggles with cultural equality, of home terrorism, of world issues and how we decide as a 'nation with plenty' what to give and how quickly we can provide to those who need it most.  My national anthem, to me, depicts all of that.  We already stand in pride with swelling hearts whenever our national anthem is played; a beautiful song of pride, announcing our strength and generosity to the world, standing in unity as we remember those who had fallen before us, those who had sacrificed themselves for us to be unified in this glorious land today.

I really don't think the anthem should be changed for the sake of 'political correctness'.  If we should change it for any reason, we shall change it in a striking moment of unity and change that will affect us all.  I would say to the people of Canada, if you feel the same as I, let us remember what we stand for and not let the literal translation fall short of what we believe.

Update, March 6.  Due to overwhelming public opinion, Prime Minister Harper has decided not to pursue the issue of altering the national anthem any furthur.  At least we know that if we shout loud enough, he can actually hear us.

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