Happy Canada Day + 1! As in the day after our country’s 149th birthday. I’m writing this post late because on the day itself there really was not time for blogging.
As a country, we are officially 149 years old (if you care to ignore the generations and generations of First Nation people who lived on this continent long before the Europeans arrived – but as a united & politically connected Canada, we are 149), which pretty much makes us a baby when comparing ourselves to other countries.
After witnessing the UK vote themselves out of the European Union last week (!!!! Arugggghh!!!!) I truly felt gutted. Zsolt and I had rich lives in England while there. We met the best darn people you’d hope to meet. Some of my fondest friendships were formed while doing my MA and working in the library. Lifelong friendship were made as Zsolt studied his PhD. And while I missed Canada and family in a way that ached, it was becoming more and more my country. If I hadn’t gotten sick we would have made it our permanent home, I’m certain. I’d be English today. Instead, as it is, Zsolt is Canadian.
But it’s also the first place I ever felt like I didn’t belong. While working in England, I was referred to as a foreigner. That was weird. Me, foreign? Maybe, but not by much I reckoned. It’s the first place I witnessed an open argument between groups of people on the street – specifically Polish and English, which certainly I’d never seen in my suburban home of Kanata, Canada. It was the first time I realized that not everything was totally okay in the world, and that tensions were creeping in – seeping into some minds. Not into all people, but enough that 2nd generation polish kids felt compelled to explain their Englishness to me on more than one occasion. (at work, and once in a restaurant with the waiter). Something was certainly going on then, and it has clearly continued.
Though by living and working for an international university, you get into a lovely liberal bubble of acceptance – and most of this passed by me without noticing. So when it came to the Brexit voting, I never suspected it was possible for the Leave vote to win. Except that it did. Leaving me to worry about my international friends in England, and how they will be treated.
Remember when Quebec held the referendum here in Canada to remain or leave? Remember that? That was the damn worst. To think a 149 year partnership (okay, it was like 129 back then or something) could break apart with a simple vote – it was scary to me even as a child. Even as a kid, I knew Quebec leaving would break something very special. I’m not saying it is something perfect, but guys – we have a very special country. The more I see of this wonderful world, the more I know there’s a strong reason to love this place so much.
We are not perfect. But we are special. For one thing, we’re proof that a country can evolve its identity while maintaining important values, even as it welcomes the identities of others. (Just crash a citizenship ceremony to see what I mean, it’s totally inspiring. They do them in Ottawa.)
You know, the EU is very special too. I hope it remains an ever strengthening and evolving entity – where countries within work well together, support each other, realize each other’s worth (as if they didn’t already), and don’t leave when things are hard, or because some parties promised a vote that was really just some political tool rather than a smart way to govern.
And I cannot forget the United Kingdom, because it’s a very special place, particularly in my heart (along with Hungary). I know that it is bursting with good people – even those who voted to leave, in their minds, felt they were doing the right thing (though my frustration with them remains very high because it was a damn bad decision. In hard times, we look to blame – and they were given an easy and massive target to kick, with extremely serious consequences.) But I know there’s so much goodness in the UK – and goodness knows the more we attempt to understand and support each other, the better off we are all around.
Anyhow, Happy Canada Day. I love this country, and as my life grows I come to realize in how many ways I’m blessed to call it home.
P.S. I had a lemonade moment yesterday (term inspired by Mandi) when it was 9:30 and we decided to race to from our apartment to Major Hill’s Park to see the fireworks. I was exhausted, but Canada Day is only once a year. So on when the rain boots, out came the umbrella, and we went to see those big BOOMS happen in person. It was so nice, and even if I was knackered to the bone by the time we return, it was worth every ounce of energy.