Friday, July 2, 2010

I Stand On Guard For Thee

Exactly one year ago today, I went out with a friend from Guelph, in celebration of Dominion Day, popularly known as Canada Day in nine out of ten provinces. Quebec, since they have no respect, use the first of July as their moving day. What schmucks. Anyway, we were treated to a free show by the Constantines down at the Harbourfront Centre, and some piddly little fireworks because the folks who make the fireworks go were on strike in Toronto. What schmucks. But it was a lovely night, full of close-proximity standing and the gentle lapping of waves against a wooden dock. The Harbourfront Center is a pretty nice place to be in general, with it undulating playzone and free art exhibitions.

This summer, like a schmuck, I've exiled myself in my hometown of Stratford. In case you can't tell, I miss my adopted hometown of Toronto (hello, Annex, hello Leslieville, hello High Park - I miss you!), mostly because the programming available there far outstrips that in Stratford. Granted, Toronto also offers the chance to make out in front of riot cops, a proposition that, while titillating, excites me less re: G20 summits, largest mass arrest in Canadian history, and horrifying accounts of detention/poop-flinging/mall rage. Aside from the panic that infected the city this past this weekend - and make no mistake, the vibe was very weird in Hogtown - I like living in Toronto. Last summer, it was the garbage strike; this summer brought us G20 craziness. I can only assume that 2011 will be some sort of zombie outbreak and 2012 will, of course, have the entire planet flinging our miserable selves into the sun.

But outbreaks of G20 hullabaloo aside (and for my friends and neighbours who were arrested, raided, detained and who otherwise had their buttons pushed by police officers, some of whom, in all honesty, were probably just as freaked out as you [NSFW, due to not-at-all-sexy visible penis, and do yourself a hard favour and watch that whole movie at some point], I'm sorry you had to go through that, and I'm embarrassed our city and country has been painted with the unconstitutional brush), I generally like Toronto. And, by extension, Canada.

I feel lucky to live in a country where accessible socialized health care is a given, not to be debated. I feel lucky to live in a multicultural urban center. I have access to clean water and good music. I can buy President's Choice edamame spread in my decidedly small city, which is delicious. Canada isn't perfect: our trains are expensive, our government relies on an emissary of the Queen to run itself, and our pop music is frequently just awful. We've done some despicable things to First Nations people and, once upon a time, we very nearly lost Quebec and its population of schmucks.

But am I thankful that I live here? Absolutely. Canada is goddamn beautiful to look at. And I feel a deep kinship with this place. I remember when I was younger, I used to wish I was American, I think mostly because I thought the whole country was like Disneyworld, which I loved passionately. Having since traveled through the outskirts of Detroit, I can safely say that I was misled as a child, and have no burning desire to move south of the border. Sure, I like the US - no one can argue with New York/San Fransisco/Chicago/Boston/and so on for being banging cities. But do I want to live there, with Kaiser Permanente, child-hating public educators, the three-strikes rule and all the methamphetamines I can smoke? No. I do not.

I love my laid-back country. Our homos can get married, and they throw themselves a tits-out party every year. Douglas Coupland designed a park, visible from the much-derided Gardiner Expressway, that confuses my father every time he sees it. We're home to some of my favourite musicians (and, sigh, Justin Beiber). We spell things weird. We suffer through the cold together, wearing snow-mashing boots and plaid. We're slowly but surely developing our own aesthetic, one that references our abundant natural resources and our ugly-sexy historical ethos. We make supermodels. We make robot space arms. We recycle the hell out of our stuff. We invented basketball, the Bloody Ceasar, and Trivial Pursuit. We have Heritage Moments ("Doctor! I smell burnt toast!"). We co-operate.

While disasters like the G20 cool my passions somewhat, I generally want to plant a big sloppy kiss on this fine country. Happy Canada Day. And for the schmucks over in la belle province, Happy Canada Day to you too, je t'aime, and I'm glad you're still here. Big hugs, all around. Bear hugs, since we're Canadian.