We Stand On Guard For What? QUOTABLE




“Ditch the anthems. Ditch the whole pre-game routine. If people want to discuss important topic — and they should want that — sports is a forum ill-suited to it. It is an unserious place, filled with unserious people, reducing complex topics to slogans. It is an environment designed to thwart give and take, instead forcing people to choose a team to root for uncritically. It is a recipe for misunderstanding. All the things that make sports fun make politics at sports more and more stupid.”

Cathal Kelly, The Globe and Mail


Yes, yes and triple yes.

Standing for a national anthem at a sports event is an autonomic response, an unthinking response, my country right or wrong.

It’s the kind of thing that indoctrinates people. And that’s what governments want … particularly when they choose to conscript you to die somewhere. My country do or die. No conscious thought.

When we stand for the national anthem, for what exactly are we standing? Glorious mountains, the beautiful Great Lakes, a country from sea to sea to sea? That’s nice but why are we standing for a travelogue?

Our glorious past? Horrible treatment of First Nations? Refusing German Jews entry to Canada on the cusp of the Second World War. Importing immigrants to Canada to put them through unspeakable horrors in sod huts on the frigid Prairies so that the CPR could make a profit? Importing immigrants to a country with impossibly high rents, a housing shortage, lousy jobs and homelessness? Is that why we’re standing?

Glorious and free? Let’s try the War Measures Act or putting into action the Emergencies Act to quell lawlessness over a few blocks of Ottawa? Rather draconian.

Are we standing for our leaders? The actors at the federal level, Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre, who have no appreciable talents beyond politics, which is hardly a science. Or Doug Ford whose idea of what’s best for the province is what’s best for me. Or the weakest Ottawa City Council in decades. A city that won’t probe a shaky procurement that has resulted in the Trillium Line being two years late, billions of dollars spent, no guaranty on a start-date, a good chance it doesn’t work, and no accounting for this fiscal, administrative and moral incompetence. In other words, stupidity and a cover-up.

We’re standing on guard for this?

Standing for the national anthem is designed to create an unconscious Pavlovian response that we’ve got the best country in the world, even if we don’t. Politics should be critical, not unbending patriotism.

The Romans knew how to cow the masses. Bread and circuses. The Nazis? The Nuremberg rallies. Unthinking responses. Unbridled patriotism. Reaction over thought.

And the United States? A country that sat on the sidelines when millions of Jews were killed in the Second World War. Where peoples were being crushed by totalitarianism. Warfare against indigenous people who were defending their land and way of life. A constitution that enshrines guns in such a way that disturbed people can shoot a group of school kids, yet nothing is done to help prevent this. Killings in the U.S. are as common as dirt now.

Do we stand for a country whose people have become mean, selfish and bullying?

Increasingly, I stand for the national anthem because of peer pressure, not love, Maybe out of fear of crowd reaction. Or perhaps because I don’t want to be that most unCanadian thing … impolite.

Cathal Kelly is right. Let’s get national anthems out of sports events. Let’s promote discourse, good leadership and fine administration, not blind, unthinking patriotism.

All countries have good and not a small amount of bad. We should be talking about that.

Ken Gray

National anthem of Canada in Vancouver olympics 2010


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3 Responses

  1. Anderson Davies says:

    Bravo Mr Gray, something we agree with accompanied with fine writing by Mr. Kelly. Will wonders never cease perhaps it is going to be a good day.

  2. sisco farraro says:

    Good points, all. Is the national anthem still played every day in schools before classes begin?

  3. The Voter says:


    Most schools play a few bars of an instrumental version over a tinny P.A. system that would be hard to identify as “music”. Then a couple of students read through the day’s announcements and the school day begins. In many classrooms I’ve been in, the snippet of the anthem seems to be played to let the kids know it’s time to take their seats and listen up for the announcements.

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