Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reposting from a year ago- Oh, Canada!

FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2010

Oh, Canada! Ta dee dum dee dum daaa...

Now, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that our Prime Minister did something really clever a few weeks ago, and I just don't understand why no one is talking about it. Let me tell you what I think might have happened, and you can decide if it's all my imagination.

Like a lot of other Canadians, I watched a few key events of the Vancouver Olympics with friends and strangers in my neighbourhood pub. We cheered and we laughed and we shouted "LU!!" and when the National Anthem was played, we stood and we sang along.

Some people belted it out, but most of us sang it in a normal speaking voice.  Where I was, most of the crowd was singing in English, but there were always a few of us singing in French, and we all seemed to agree that the two overlapped very nicely. Everything else pretty much stopped for the eighty or ninety seconds it took for us to belt out that song, and there was always at least a little cheering afterwards. And a funny thing happened...

There we were, facing whichever TV was nearest, and the camera panned past the athletes, and cut to the crowd and cut to flags waving and cut to the VIP area, and showed us the Prime Minister, and- and he wasn't singing.

Do you remember?  BC Premier Gordon Campbell was belting it out and waving his flag totally unheeding of the people around him, and there stood our PM, eyes down and mouth closed, looking uncomfortable and bored.

Once the singing and cheering was done, everyone at my local was talking about it.  Some were laughing and some were furious and no one put a partisan slant on it. We all saw it, and we all agreed it was wrong. We didn't all agree on how wrong it was, or what it might mean, but those differences of opinion made for a fair bit of the regular conversation for the next few days. A lonely voice suggested that he didn't like to sing in public, but some wag called out: "Unless he's got a piano and Yo Yo Ma!", and there just wasn't any arguing with that.

And for a while the internet was on fire with it.  It seemed to me that a lot of Canadians were pretty upset about it, and were saying so in person and in public and on-line. I commented to a friend that this might be a mistake that can't be defended. And a funny thing happened...

A few days later, the Governor General read out the speech from the throne and, at the end of a paragraph about recent and upcoming celebrations of Canadian history, she read:  "Our Government will also ask Parliament to examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem."

Conservatives were up in arms, the press covered it obligingly, and after a few days of loud ranting on every news site in the country, the decision was made not to change the lyrics after all. Major news outlets expressed surprise at the PM' s strange announcement and at his sudden about face.  The Globe and Mail even ran an accompanying photo of the PM singing the anthem (with a hidden caption pointing out that the photo was from a different event) [].

It reminded me of one of the great lines from Macbeth: " is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."  

There certainly was a lot of sound and fury, and it came and went quickly, and it changed nothing... or almost nothing.

Ever since then, if you Google a series of words like: "Harper, Not Singing, Lyrics, National Anthem, Olympics", instead of video clips and still shots of the PM not singing our anthem, or any of the on-line discussions that were all over the place for a few days, all you get is coverage of either the official news release about the intent to change the lyrics, or the follow up saying that no changes would be made.

So, I'm kind of thinking that maybe our Prime Minister, or someone on his staff, staged that little shouting match just to make that little faux pas go away.  What do you think? Am I on to something here, or not?

I think so but I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time today...