Nobody is perfect. It’s a common saying, but let’s really break it down.
No person, past or present, is perfect. They have all done things that are wrong.
We like to play pretend. Let’s pretend that George Washington or Louis Riel or Abraham Lincoln was a saint. We like to pretend that the founding fathers of Canada cared just as much about diversity as we do, or at least that they didn’t oppose it. We like to put people like Martin Luther King Jr. on a pedestal and pretend that he only did the things we consider ‘good’ and none of the things we disagree with. Or Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa, or any other popular figure. But it’s just pretend. They’re all people, and people are flawed.
Groups aren’t amorphous independent entities, they’re made up of people. Those people have good actions, and those people have bad actions, and those people do both at various times. However, humans like to think that any group that they are part of or want to be part of are defined by the best people in that group, while groups that they aren’t in or don’t want to be in are defined by the worst people in that group. So we get groups like Black Lives Matter, the GOP, Greenpeace, the Catholic Church, etc. The people in these groups have both good and bad actions. Sometimes it’s hard to see past our preconceptions of the groups and look at the actual balance of good actions and bad actions rather than looking only at the good actions of some groups and only the bad actions of others.
Here’s the secret. It’s possible to identify both good and bad things in people or groups. It’s possible to celebrate the good while at the same time condemning the bad. It’s possible to be part of a group while knowing that there are problematic aspects to it. It’s possible to celebrate it for what it does while at the same time identifying where it falls short.
Identifying problems doesn’t mean something isn’t, on balance, good. At the same time identifying good things doesn’t mean it isn’t bad. In fact our ability to identify good and bad in something and then make a decision with the full knowledge that it isn’t perfect or evil is an important aspect of our humanity.
Lets talk about Canada.
Fancy Bebamikawe said it well on Twitter today:
It is possible to see both that Canada is pretty awesome and provides great things, like basic health care and education, while also seeing that it’s pretty bad and incarcerates Indigenous people for offences that white people get probation for or a fine, or that they under-fund education on reserves. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive. They’re what make Canada. Canada is both the good and the bad.
You can like how the Prime Minister worked with the people who set the Tipi up on Parliament Hill for ceremony this week as being an example of reconciliation while at the same time understand that his fighting the implementation of Jordan’s principle directly harms Indigenous children (a fight that’s been happening for a decade now). You can like that the Prime Minister is increasing the education funding beyond 2% for the first time in two decades while hate that it was his party who first froze that funding, something that’s affected a generation and a half of Indigenous people.
Look at things with both eyes open. There are very few things that are perfect, and discussing the tarnish on them doesn’t harm those things, but rather puts them in their proper perspective. You can be proud of Canada while at the same time understanding where it has fallen short of it’s ideals. You can be proud of Canada while at the same time understanding that it’s historic ideals were what we’d call racist or regressive now.
You can be proud of Canada while pointing out its flaws.
Oh… Canada… we can be proud and aware at the same time. That doesn’t make us non-patriotic, but rather makes us better humans and better Canadians.