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NELSON: Flag-waving patriotism is not how Canadians roll

FACE TO FACE: Celebrating Canada, each in his own way W hat I like best about Canada Day is what we don't do to express patriotism.

FACE TO FACE: Celebrating Canada, each in his own way

What I like best about Canada Day is what we don't do to express patriotism. We don't cheerlead about our country or engage in loud reverie, hundred-gun salutes or glorification of military endeavour.

Canadians share a mature love of country that doesn't need the reassurance of fanfare or pomp. We express our patriotism quietly.

As usual, our family will make its patriotic statement by going to Port Moody city hall for the firefighters' Golden Spike Days pancake breakfast. We'll eat pancakes and sausages on a paper plate, among friends, neighbours, (and ex-students), drinking sketchy coffee and mingling.

The city hall plaza won't be plastered with Canadian flags. There will be no brass band playing "The Maple Leaf Forever." No ceremony or speeches glorifying our troops or our freedom.

We know all that. It will be calm, civilized, friendly and maybe a bit cheesy - just like our nation.

Over pancakes, the talk won't be about Canada but, to its annual participants, this local July 1 tradition is a stronger homage to country than fireworks and a fly-past.

In the evening, we'll watch CBC show Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa, a celebration of understated Canadian proportions - open air, apolitical, scrupulously balanced French, English and First Nations content, and not too long.

But as low key as we are as a nation, when I'm snowbirding in Palm Springs, I am repeatedly amazed at how deep Canadian patriotism is.

When, during happy hour, an American friend slips into discussing American politics, Canadians listen and commiserate without engaging. Conservative or liberal, easterner or westerner, there is a shared, knowing glance; there's no point arguing - Canadians have a different vision, with which we are quietly, almost smugly, comfortable.

This remote patriotism shows that love for Canada, though reserved, is deeply felt and unshakeable. The fact that Canadianism is so portable is a testament to its strength.

We tried hysterical flag-waving during the Vancouver Olympics, to the point that other countries started to bristle. Flag waving feels good but it's just not how we roll.

Canadian patriotism is like a 60-year marriage: Its real strength lies in respectful sharing, seldom involving much overt physical expression.

This Canada Day, may we all appreciate what Canadians so strongly and quietly, share - and maybe have some pancakes.

Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.