In the aftermath of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games here in Vancouver, there is much talk about a renewed Canadian patriotism. Spontaneous bursts of O Canada in the streets, red wearing and flag waving were staples of the Games. Now that they are over, where does it leave us?
It is easy, and fun, to get caught up in the rush of a stadium cheering the home team to victory. A feeling like that can overtake you, and do strange things to your thinking. It can motivate you to accomplish something difficult you have always been afraid to try.
But, we are wary of nationalism, here in Canada. We have seen in history and in the news, the damage that can be caused by a country thinking that they are better than another country. We know that nationalism can blind.
So, is patriotism good or bad? A force that can push a group of people to greatness, or infamy: it has inspired wars, it has inspired song, it has inspired words and it has inspired dishes of food.
It is confusing to see such strong emotion on display, brought on by nothing but a flag or a song. What if a politician puts a policy forward that is bad, and then accuses anyone against it of being un-Canadian? We all want to be a part of the overwhelmingly positive experience of Vancouver 2010; we want to be Canadian.
The emotional pride on display here is not for the maple leaf and it is not blind. It is for athletes. For Olympians and Paralympians who have set almost unachievable goals, and reached them. Canadians are proud that these athletes, who come from the same country as them, are role models. They played hard and fair – and won.
The legacy of these Games is that citizens from every country in our world will take up sport. They will take it up in part because they saw how passionate Canadians are for high performance. They will become sportspeople, and reap the rewards.
We know that being physically active and engaged in healthy competition builds resilience like nothing else. Sport is healthcare, it prevents involvement in crime, it is education, it builds communities, and it provides purpose.
I have known that sport is an overwhelmingly positive force for a long time. I am glad that the rest of Canada is starting to agree.
This is the Canadian nationalism that fuels me.