Monday, March 1, 2010

Patriotism, Hockey, and Canuckland Stereotypes?

Wow...this one's really delayed, apologies for that, but my mind's been a half dozen different places today. So now for something completely different!

Hockey. (Go Penguins. Antarctic fowl should win every Stanley Cup.)

Does it make me a bit of a traitor that I was hoping the Canadians would win the ice hockey finals? (C'mon, on the men's team, they had Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins! And how could I cheer against penguins?)

Or does it just make me unpatriotic? What does it mean to be patriotic?

These are questions intimately tied to the Olympics; basically, we want to prove we're better than everybody, smash the competition, and let out political tensions and anger in a global stadium that doesn't result in violent bloodshed. (Wait, and hockey is an Olympic sport?) So it's about national pride: Consider Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who pushed for Russian Olympic officials to resign after Russia had a disappointing finish in the medals race. So there's Russia--we have to beat everybody--or there's the way that Kate Beaton pumped up Canada in one of her recent sketches--wowee, we actually managed to beat the Americans! (Note, you have to scroll down through a few about Queen Victoria and Top Gun, first.)

(Actually, look at Kate Beaton's most recent comic, as well: Canadian Stereotype Comics.)

I've always had a difficult time getting into the Olympics, precisely because I'm not very patriotic. America may be a great country to live in, but I find obeisance to a certain ideological mindset to be incredibly limiting, incredibly diminishing. Also, it's an incredibly polarizing force. Often, patriotism today doesn't lead to the extremes it does in Yukio Mishima's fantastic (yet gory and shudder-inducing) short story "Patriotism," in which a Japanese Lieutenant and his wife commit seppuku because of the lieutenant's belief in a particular cause.

But the attitude toward the Olympics this year in Canada caused a stir; Canadians--as Kate Beaton points out humourously--are often known for being a passive, inviting people, and yet their entire Olympic campaign was to win big on home soil. And this was contentious because the Canadian public doesn't much care for arrogance and also has had enough problems with ambitious athletes falling short of their intended goals (kayakers who claim to be able to win the gold and then finish next-to-last will remain nameless).

So the point here: I feel that patriotism is one of those little myths, and that nobody's better than anybody else. If one takes the Christian perspective of "God bless America," then...why just America? Why not everybody else in the world? Okay, that's a little tautological, but you get the point--the Olympics ought to be, first and foremost, good fun. But that's not going to prevent them from causing political problems and tensions--both home and abroad, the way that Medvedev's desire to sack officials and Canada's PR nightmare both indicate.

And final note on the Olympics: I myself am quite put out that the Jamaicans didn't have a qualifying bobsled team this year.

Cool runnings!

1 comment:

  1. By the way, here's an update about the Russian Olympic Committee.