It doesn't take much for me to get all gushy and patriotic, so I've been on some serious maple leaf overload these past two weeks.
Long before the international press suddenly decided midway through that these were no longer the worst Olympics ever but quite possibly the best - even before our own pundits stopped whining about what a cock-up it all was and how we had set our sights too high - I was on board from day one.
I cried at the whales and the trees and the sight of all those First Nations dancers. I watched events all day at home and kept track of the scores on my Blackberry at work at night. I teared up every time our flag was raised or a crowd broke into a spontaneous chorus of 'O Canada'. I shouted myself hoarse over that final hockey game, and I positively squirmed with glee through the entire closing ceremonies.
Even that stupid 'I Believe' song chokes me up. Still.
So you'll have to forgive me if I find all this analytical puzzlement over our supposedly newfound patriotism passing strange, given that I feel this way most of the time and just sort of assume all Canadians do. I suppose the word 'patriotism' itself might be part of the problem, since we do tend to associate it with the sort of obnoxious, blinkered, 'my country right or wrong' patriotism of the United States. Let's face it - a lot of Americans give 'patriotism' a bad name.
Maybe we just need a different word. But pride doesn't seem big enough, and love is too generic. It's not nationalism because it goes beyond the limitations of the nation-state. It's not tribalism because our origins lie in every corner of the earth. It's not about being better than everyone else. It's not even about winning a hockey game.
Maybe it's just a feeling of familiarity. A recognition that this is us - this is who we are. Feeling part of the same rich tapestry woven from the threads of our individual and common experiences into this incredible landscape we share. Silly little touchstones like road hockey and maple syrup and tobogganing after that first snow of winter which, even if we haven't experienced them all as individuals, we still understand as being a part of our common culture.
In the end, it's just... complicated. We're a complicated people, which may be why our 'Canadian identity' is so notoriously hard to define. But if the past two weeks have proven anything, it's that just because something can't be defined doesn't mean that it can't be cherished, felt deeply, or shouted out from the rooftops.
And then there's what Denis said.