Without a vision the people perish. It might be the footnote for a nation. Canada has just passed its 154th birthday and its second year in stages of lockdown from COVID-19. It’s enough to make you reflective of what it is to be a nation. It is the first year I can remember that was NOT held in some kind of unity.
We used to know it as Dominion Day, and songs like “The Maple Leaf Forever” come to mind. This moniker has since been replaced by the rather bland “Canada Day” along with some confusion for what all that means. Someone should remember. Looking back over the span of a generation makes me aware how quickly things can change. Dominion Day is not like your own birthday. It’s everybody’s birthday in theory. It celebrates all those things that bring us together.
The current picture does not find many things that unite us. We are told that no matter how much we would like to break out of our caves and celebrate, there is nothing achieved and nothing to be proud of. We forgot that we are a dominion. Sir John A. MacDonald was back and forth on what to call the country when confederation was achieved in 1867. He did not like the idea of a republic, it sounded too much like a political project. So dominion it was. Dominion has lofty connotations of taking part in something bigger than ourselves and sharing a common project. Our current wanderings in the wilderness are a result of forgetting this grander vision.
There is a particular mind frame that should accompany Dominion Day. It makes me think of those plaques in MacDonalds which hang over the cash to showcase the “Employee of the month”. If you exemplified whatever it is to be the perfect MacDonalds person, you should be proud. There is a model in there somewhere they have been made aware of. It may sound ridiculous but I would judge on average that they have instilled an idea in their people that has caught on.
To me, there is a monumental failure of leadership which cannot bring a body of people together. Canada’s original success was the unlikelihood of uniting so vast a nation. It was somewhat of a miracle. We are like a great collection of very different kinds of people who live in very different regions. There is not much that SHOULD bring us together naturally, except perhaps a will to do so. The royal coat of arms for Canada says in Latin, “a mari usque ad mare”… from sea to sea. We have spanned a continent as a people and that is something to think about.
Doing things together is nice in theory and even better in practise. Look on any family where they are a bunch of silos existing alone. They can’t have fun together and you can almost smell the problems boiling beneath the surface. Other families easily display what togetherness should be and when they succeed it is contagious.
We seem to have hit a fatigue point in our journey together as a people. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for every purpose under Heaven - a time to build up and a time to break down. A time to rend and a time to sew, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Looks like we are at a nadir point though not by design.
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and regroup so as to remember what you are doing, where you are headed and why. You have to take time to appreciate your fellow travellers and the miracle of doing ANYTHING together in a world where it is so easy to fall into discord. I am not going to take that one-sided advice from the glass half empty crowd. They are perhaps too young to see the thing in perspective.
For all the various possibilities in life, having a nation that is viable is one of the things to be thankful for. There are plenty of failed states in the world and as many reasons why they have failed. Lack of vision is one of the first and it is a sign of corrupted leadership. We are like the proverb of the man who has followed a fool into a pit.
It is perhaps a reminder that national projects have a life span and that one day all of this will pass away. We are sojourners, those who reside temporarily in a place. This Dominion Day I feel like the fellow in Psalm 139, seeing the failures that can accompany the human project and looking for something bigger and more lasting. “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry… I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.” Yes, all of this is in some way temporary. Maybe all the more reason to find ways to enjoy it.