I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. Edith Cavell
I am Canadian. I don't wear my flag on my sleeve or have it tattooed on my chest just above my heart. I keep my patriotism tucked inside my back pocket between the pages of a well worn blue leather passport stamped with the Canadian shield, forged in the hard rock of this nation carved out of the mighty forests and stones and ice that once covered this great land. I don't roar. I don't leap tall buildings and plant flags upon every roof. I don't scream out 'my country, oh my country' from river valleys and mountain peaks.
I wear my patriotism quietly. Serenely. I wear it as my badge. Of honour. Of respect. Of duty. I don't seek out confrontation. I don't seek out fame. I seek to be a peacekeeper, a mediator, a consensus maker. I seek to find the common ground, the peaceful way. I seek to find that place where we can live together, in harmony, side-by-side, creating a mosaic of our faith, our cultures, our traditions.
No matter what I do, or how I do it. No matter my state of grace, of war or peacetime, I state my patriotism quietly and unequivocally, I am of Canada. True north strong and free. I am Canadian and I am proud of my country.
Yesterday, I saw my patriotism played out before me in a game of hockey. "Our game", the TV commentators and commercials called it, but they weren't speaking of the winning or losing of the game. They were speaking of its heritage. Its place in our cultural fabric. They were speaking of our nationhood skating before us on a sheet of ice contained within the boards of an ice hockey rink on the west coast of our great land.
Hockey is a game of fast action, strength and endurance. It is a game of equal sides. Equal teams. Equal rights. It is a game that embodies so much of our culture. Feisty. Fierce. Fair and equitable. A team sport where every player has a role. Ever person has value. Every contribution counted upon to make a difference. This game was born in the dark-winters of our past, on the hard ice of rivers and lakes that spread across our land from north to south, east to west. It is a cold-weather game, a climate we Canadians know a thing or two about.
You need to be sharp to play this game. You need to be sharp to endure the rigors of play. Sharp edges. Sharp eyes darting, watching, responding to a nod of the head from a team mate, capable of moving swiftly, like a fox darting through the underbrush valiantly chasing a rabbit determined to catch it before it escapes down the hole. To play well, you must be fast. Fast and agile. Strong. Able. You need to be able to skate like the wind across the ice, in pursuit of a tiny black puck that slides like a banshee from one end of the ice rink to the other.
This game was born in Canada. Made in Canada. Bred in Canada. Like our Canadian land, this game grew out of the darkness of a frozen land where every inch of territory was staked and worked and plowed and wept over and under and into. This land was won in a game of man versus nature. This land was claimed by men and women who never gave up, never gave in, never quit pushing onward, pushing into the winds of adversity, pushing back against the snow and ice and sleet and hail that would drive them back into the sea from whence they came. If they'd let it. And they never did. Let it drive them back. They won this land. Fair and square. With blood and sweat and tears. They won this land and Canada was born.
This game yesterday? It was won on an ice rink in Canada. It was won for every Canadian. It was won for little boys and girls across this land who will one day grow up to play knowing, this is our game. Play it fair. Never give up. Never give into adversity. To win. To be our best, we must never quit giving our best, no matter what we do.
We don't fight over our lands. We don't fight over our game. We share it. With Russia and Slovenia. Sweden and our friendly neighbours to the south. We don't fight over who plays our game but we will fight to keep our game fair, our country strong. We will fight to keep our heritage alive. We will fight to be proud Canadians.
The 2010 Olympics came to an end with fireworks blazing into the night. And on the streets across this land, flags flew as Canadians took to the avenues and squares to dance and hug and shout for joy. There were flags painted on faces. There were flags waving everywhere. There was laughter and tears and cartwheels and strangers embracing. There was revelry in true Canadian style. We didn't care whose team you were on, we just wanted to share our elation and joy in having hosted the world and proven our worth.
And when the streets are cleared, the medals and banners and equipment packed away, we ask only one thing. That you never forget us. That you never forget our land.
We invite you always to come back and play. Hockey is our game, and we like to share. Hell, you don't even have to come to Canada to play it. We'll come and play with you because, no matter where we play, rest assured, we'll always be Canadian. People of the true north strong and free.
No matter who we play with, we'll play fair. Always. We'll be good sports. Always. We'll embrace you as our friends. We'll share our joy and laughter, tears and sorrow. We'll always treat you well. And no matter whose land we play on, we'll bring our best to play, no matter how tough the times, no matter how sorrowful our personal tragedies. We will bring our best and give you our best. And, no matter what you bring on, you will always know, this is our game and We are Canadian.