“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command.” Every morning, we’d start third grade with the national anthem, God Save The Queen, and the Lord’s Prayer. By the time we were finished, it was time for recess.
I love Canada, my homeland. I identify with it even though a decade ago when my resistance was weak, I crossed over to the dark side, beyond the 49th parallel. And now, no longer a lowly green card holder, but a bona fide American citizen, I’m free to thumb my nose at US Immigration officers upon entering the country, “Yeah that’s right fella, I’ve got a pound of beef jerky in my bag, so what eh? My taxes pay for your salary. Hey! Wait, don’t mark my customs form down for a strip search. Aw, not again…”
When I’m asked my nationality, occasionally I’ll answer “Canadian”, although half the time the inquisitor will follow suspiciously with, “But where were you born?” Isn’t it strange that our birthright, the one thing truly out of our control, stamps us with the mark of authenticity? There’s nothing wrong with being an immigrant, a transplant, even a Justin Bieber fan (well let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves), but your true homies, your familia, your allegiance belongs to the blocks where you tumbled out of your mama’s tummy.
What is patriotism if not an outpouring of allegiance to a community? Canadians don’t do patriotism like the Americans. We don’t power walk up to Capitol Hill with a million men and a dozen personal injury lawyers following in their wake, or argue passionately in the style of Sartre, whether French mistresses should get a legal divvy of their lover’s pension. When Americans were burning bras, we were still trying to find the right size.
Canadians share however, a glacier-solid loyalty to the maple leaf, hockey and Molson Golden. We are a smorgasbord, hotpot, casserole of multiculturalism. Never was there more communal bonding then when our leaders tried yet again, to bang out our Constitution (we held a country-wide snore-fest, it was called The Meech Lake Accord).
For China, the fountain head of immigrants for centuries, the early immigrants settled into their new land, worked hard, and sent money home, but very few ever returned. It was that way until the 1970’s when affordable jet travel and a newer class of educated immigrants built a well traveled bridge between the adopted country and the motherland.
Today, with China rising and western economies flattening, more and more Chinese immigrants are choosing to return home. But as a returnee, it can be hard to decide where your allegiance lies. If your birth country and adopted country are against each other, which side do you take? This often plays out in international sports tournaments, when one athlete picks up and plays for the adopted team. It’s an unwinnable situation for the player. And who do we root for? Home-girl or country?
Being an expatriate, it’s a rare occasion to be invited to sit at the big boy’s table. For many of us, that’s fine, our time and investment here is fleeting. As much as we want to help and improve the state of affairs of our host nation, our allegiance to our own country becomes a barrier to theirs. Sovereignty is exclusive, and faithfulness is the key to getting in.
If temptation is slippery, allegiance is more like weights on a scale. Judgment hangs overhead like a rock. Honor, duty, kinship. Worthy and noble ideas that put forth opportunities for men and women to rise to their finest. Or as these antonyms show; betrayal, traitor, spy, collaborator – sink to their worst.
Is Lebron James then, a modern-day Benedict Arnold or just a guy looking for a better life? For those of us who have our feet in two worlds, who hesitate when asked our citizenship, who juggle the values and principles of differing systems, it’s more than a philosophical question. Like a second marriage, we have to commit to one and divorce the other. As for me, I don’t worry about where my allegiance lies; I worry about the day I have to put it to the test.
Dinah has been around since the age of Methuselah – oh no wait, that’s her husband. Still a child bride (it’s all relative), she escaped the cold, snowy winters of Toronto for the cold, smoggy winters of Beijing. She likes Pina Coladas, long walks on the beach and is counting on her husband’s 401K to provide all that. In the meantime, she hopes you’ll get a chuckle or two out of her writing because laughter is priceless or at least that’s what her editor said when she asked for a raise. Find more of her writing at http://aletterfromabroad.wordpress.com/
photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net