Ensign - the Red Ensign specifically. It begs the question just what an ensign is - a bit of an arcane word that’s fallen out of regular use. An ensign is a banner, the flag flown on military ships to show your nationality when out and about and approaching a potential enemy. An ensign is the standard that announces your allegiance and your identity as a nation. If you look at the British ensign, it ties together the red cross of Saint George for England, the white cross of Saint Andrew for Scotland, and the red saltire (X-shaped cross) of Saint Patrick for Ireland.
The Red Ensign also used to double as the emblem of Canada and no one thought this untoward until in 1965 Lestor B. Pearson came up with the maple leaf flag that we use as the national flag today. This masthead has also lately garnered some news in halls of learning. They are now teaching Canadian children that the Red Ensign is a symbol of white supremacy and extremism. On June 29th of this year, the federally funded Canadian Anti-Hate Network (https://www.antihate.ca/) launched a 50-page guidebook for public schools, aimed at confronting and preventing hate. The guidebook states: “Canadian Red Ensign - The flag of Canada until 1965. Its usage denotes a desire to return to Canada’s demographics before 1967, when it was predominantly white…The Red Ensign is often used by the younger alt-right/Canada First movement, but has been seen amongst older hate-promoting groups and individuals. It’s usage in modern times is an indicator of hate-promoting beliefs.” Yes folks, you heard it here first. If you are of white English heritage, be very afraid.
I was chatting with an immigrant recently. He told me in a very sanguine manner that the white race is declining, and in the land I was born, I will be a minority within the next twenty years, due to the aggressive immigration targets the Canadian government is presently pursuing. He knows it and his friends know it. Meanwhile they are inwardly celebrating and biding their time, happy that they will be at the forefront of all the “good jobs” out there due to progressive hiring strategies and their visible minority status. The demographic future he alluded to, was also borne out by the last Canadian census that announced that neither French nor English are the language spoken at home for an increasing number of Canadians. In fact, Arabic and South Asian languages were on the rise. The Canadian government flinched at the idea that its erstwhile most favoured child of confederation, the Francophones who currently hold all government positions of influence due to their bilingual status, are in fact declining in influence.
Ah those English. We thought it was a benevolent reign but some people apparently didn’t think so and were until now only biding their time waiting for the opportunity for some historic payback - because history always seems to be about payback by the people in charge, aimed at the people formerly in charge.
I’d like to take a closer look at what it was like to come of age under those very “white” assumptions about life and the way things should be. It’s truly two different worlds. What was, and what it’s changed into. The fact is that when I was at school, to be white was pretty standard and the assumed majority. The dominant religion was Christianity, mediated only but what particular breed you were. Morals and rules were premised on Christian assumptions about equality and rule of law. The English basis of our nation was never apologized for, rather it was something to be recognized and celebrated. We were after all, the children’s children of the empire where the sun never set on its principal holdings.
Under this aegis, Canada was assigned the title of a Dominion, a stretch of land from sea to sea that was under the benign and uncontested control of Britain. It’s a pretty idea, with lofty sentiments attached about the kind of governance that should ensue. Peace, order and good government was the norm for those times. We were the generation whose families never locked the doors at night.
Since it’s natural to love what is yours, and where you came from, I’m not jettisoning the British Ensign. The fact of any standard is that it’s not bad to be allied with a larger idea than the world that shines out of your own navel. It’s also a fact that you are always in life fighting for something, and at the same time against something. Often what you are fighting against, is falsehoods or at the very least bad ideas.
To point out something which is false, does the world a favour. It seems by comparison, that it is enough these days to simply CALL someone a white nationalist, and it is assumed to be so. No proof necessary. But looking back at my life, what we were taught about ourselves and other people, the British way seems to be a more benevolent wielding of power that the current attempts at payback that are based on ill will, jealousy and spiked with a petty sense of vengeance.
There is some irony, in that I am married to a Palestinian and their lament as a nation, is that their identity and past has been forcefully erased and often lied about. They are upset about that. On the same note, I should point out that I live every day with the knowledge that my past and what it meant is being lied about, rewritten by new victors, and effectively erased. I am not supposed to speak up about this for fear I should offend someone and be called a white nationalist.
I will not apologize for being a descendent of the lone island that held off the last bout of fascism when Hitler assumed he would knock over all of Europe. My mom’s brother lies buried in a graveyard in Germany so there is some skin in this game in my own family line. We British descendants have a taste for fighting evil and falsehood when out and about. You might say we still fly under that banner of the Red Ensign and it’s not a bad standard to represent you. There is after all, English common law, the idea of due process, and the Magna Carta bundled into all of that. The residue of these ideas is why people still flock to Canada as a destination for immigration - suggesting implicitly that our historic systems are superior to the state of their own homelands.
I also won’t apologize for Christianity since I don’t believe that anyone else has come up with any better idea. In a nutshell, Christianity at least values life, and puts everyone on equal terms as a child of God and an image of our creator.
Whether what replaces us is better, I will leave history to decide. I will meanwhile be happy to take the Red Ensign as the banner and crest under which I have lived most of my life, without apology to any party who may take offence.
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