Of Petrostates and Patriotism

Alison RedfordIf Alison Redford gets to define Canadian patriotism, then I don’t want to be patriotic.

The Alberta premier yesterday accused federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of “a fundamental betrayal of Canada’s long-term economic interests” after the latter took a trip to DC in what is being widely interpreted as an effort to convince the Americans not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta.

Other Conservatives at the federal level have adopted the same rhetoric. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — of “foreign-funded radicals” fame — implied that the Opposition leader was unfit to govern, stating, “Governing means standing up for Canada’s interests and Canada’s jobs.” Heritage Minister James Moore taunted, “It’d be nice for once if the NDP leader could put the country ahead of his own ambition.” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, meanwhile, went for the trifecta, accusing Mulcair of “bad mouthing Canada,” “trash talking Canada,” and “running down Canada.”

The message is clear: because he is not quite as keen on expanding the tar sands and exporting bitumen as the red-and-white Tories of Edmonton and Ottawa, Thomas Mulcair is nothing but a Canada-hating socialist antichrist.

Patriotism is usually defined as love of country, but fossil fuel enthusiasts prefer to conflate the notion with love of whatever the government happens to be doing on the international stage. This redefinition, historically, is a common one, eagerly leapt upon by all who agree with the government line and seek an easy way to demonize their opponents.

Others take a different approach, conceiving patriotism as something more akin to identification rather than unquestioning acceptance. A true patriot, in other words, identifies with her country to such a degree that she feels proud of its accomplishments and, equally, remorseful for its wrongdoings. A patriot believes he shares responsibility for all that his country does in his name. A patriot refuses to stay quiet when her government puts climate stability and the well-being of future generations at risk. By this definition, protest is patriotic. Critical thinking is patriotic. Dissent is patriotic. Under some circumstances, even civil disobedience is patriotic.

In the words of Ralph Nader, “A patriotism manipulated by the government asks only for a servile nod from its subjects. A new patriotism requires a thinking assent from its citizens.”

It is clear which kind of patriotism Alison Redford et al. stand for. How about you?

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4 thoughts on “Of Petrostates and Patriotism

  1. Yes.. good article.Thank you. Bullshit baffles brains. Our politics have gone down the same path as that of our southerly neighbour.. Most ominous word nominee: POLITICAL

    You can see how at some point anarchy becomes essential….. crazy old world.. xo

  2. I grew up in the US during Vietnam and I had a very young third-grade teacher. She asked us once what “patriotism” means and we answered various things about believing in our country etc. Then she said something that has stuck with me all these years, she said “couldn’t patriotism mean sometime disagreeing with what your country is doing?” I didn’t realize it at the time but she was obviously talking about her own opposition to the events in Indo-China.

    But as important as that eight-year-old revelation was to me, I now believe that we would simply be better off dispensing with the discourse of “patriotism” altogether. Every nation has its positive and negative attributes, and patriotism can sometimes be a useful political strategy, but the time has come to transcend such notions as patriotism and start talking about genuine global unity. Patriotism and nationalism are just too convient for the Alison Redfords of the world and we need to move beyond them.

    • Yes, I am sympathetic to your point. I don’t customarily speak the language of patriotism either. But given the narrow, self-serving thinking on display by Redford and the rest, I just felt compelled to explore one of the other interpretations of the word “patriotic.”

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