As I watched the amazing opening ceremonies of the Olympics last night, I felt an incredible swelling of pride in my country and its people. It is truly a blessed thing to be a Canadian.
Last night's show was a mesmerizing flowing narrative of Canada's history with Cirque-du-Soleil-like illusions, lighting and special effects. Throughout, I was very moved that the organizers chose to celebrate the heritage of our First Nations peoples with such beauty and grace and respect. It is their strength and endurance that this country was built upon...they who came first.
Of course, my blurry photos taken of the TV (NOT a big screen..) are bare hints of what it was really like. Spirit Bear above.
Then, today, in an e-conversation with BluAmaryllis, I was reminded of a trip to Belgium in 2003 when I ran a marathon for the Arthritis Society.
I had gone there feeling untethered. I was disillusioned with my national heritage and the politics of the day; as an English Canadian, I felt I had no real claim to a vibrant cultural community. I knew quite a bit about my family history, but it gave me no sense of past struggle or achievement that I could cling to as a legacy. In short, I had no firm identity.
A few days before the marathon, we did a tour of Flanders Fields, commonwealth cemeteries museums and memorial sites. This real life education made real my country's involvement in World War I. Although my easy life of freedom left me without the resources comprehend the enormity of the death and destruction, a realization of the echos created from sacrifice crept in. As our team sang O Canada at the Menin Gate, and laid wreaths for those who died defending another country's right to freedom, I wept openly. I still do, when I think of it all.
But, on the night before the marathon, as our entire team moved down an oceanside promenade in Oostende, Belgium in our Canadian jackets, carrying our Canadian flag, a number of older gentlemen stopped their evening stroll to stand at attention, saluting us as we passed. More than 85 years had passed and yet, they remembered and honoured the Canadians' contribution.
I was moved beyond words by this show of respect and recognition.
Sometimes you have to see yourself in the eyes of another to know who you are. I was born in this country - have never known anything else - but it wasn't until that very moment, that I truly became Canadian in my soul.
This then, is the residual value of the honour and courage of those who died so many years ago. And those who are dying today for the people of Afghanistan. The respect for their sacrifice has given me strength and conviction. It has given me pride and a reason to stand tall for what I believe in. Because I am Canadian.