Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More on School Spirit/Patriotism

Penn State may be a rousing example of school spirit, especially when you go to a football game. The University of Kentucky at a basketball game would give similar experiences. I have played some of the Penn State fight songs for friends and colleagues here in Manitoba. One of them heard words something like: "We pledge our love and loyalty to thee, alma mater". He said, "Could you imagine Canadian students singing that? They would say, 'I'm here for an education, what are you talking about?'"

He's right. We don't do such school spirit north of the border, just as we don't do patriotism. I wonder how unique we Canadians are in this respect. The English understand the concept of school spirit well enough, or they used to. "The old school tie" (I would wear them from Hillside Junior and Hamilton High School in old Rhodesia) meant something in England of old, and in the colonies. As for patriotism: listen to the people singing along at the last night of the proms! "Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves! And Britons never never never shall be slaves!"

I'm American and Canadian, with roots in Zimbabwe under English colonial rule. My spirit answers the enthusiasm of the prommers when they sing Blake's Jerusalem: "And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England's pleasant pastures seen?" "Land of Hope and Glory" has a similar effect.

Canadians? I really can't imagine Canadians cheering in response to a chorus of "Rule Canada, Canada rules the snow, and Canadians never never shall lose hockey!" Hockey: there's the one thing that does get Canadian blood stirring. Along with curling. And beating the USA in anything.

So there's another question for me: not just the question of why I respond to fight songs and patriotic fervour, but the further question of why Canadians in general don't. I'll try to pick that up in the next post. If I don't forget, and if the Jets don't suddenly turn up in Winnipeg. (Could Penguins acquire jet boosters and fly north?)

I think I'll let my American side (with British roots) flow out some more. "We are .... Penn State!" (We are .... Canadian eh?)


KGMom said...

Oh, do I ever remember singing "And did those feet in ancient times. . ." In fact, when Princess Diana's funeral was held, and that hymn was sung (reported to be one of her favorites) I was singing along. The rest of my family thought me strange--but then they usually do--because they hadn't a CLUE what that hymn was all about. What was it all about anyway?
As for prommers--one of our CDs has closing night at the proms with "Rule Britannia." I turn it up FULL BLAST to get the desired effect. Of course, I sing lustily along!

Anonymous said...

The other day David and I were discussing patriotism and differences between the United States and Canada. The Revolutionary War came up and I recalled how when I learned about the war, it was in Canadian History where the loyalists were the "good guys." Perhaps this helps to explain some of the differences in patriotism between the two countries--the United States has a legacy of becoming a country by fighting a valiant war in which the colonists defeated the British against all odds; we just talked it over nicely with Britain and went on with our lives. That might be exaggerating the difference slightly, but I don't actually think by all that much. And when you look at what evokes pride in our respective countries, there is certainly a difference in the way we think of our "founding fathers." That phrase evokes all sort of patriotic fervor in Americans; in Canada I have difficulty imagining a politician evoking John A. Macdonald in support of a principle or idea (it may happen occasionally, but certainly not to the same extent). The only Canadian Prime Minister that I can think of who even comes close to the "hero status" of Washington and Lincoln (both of whom are famous for fighting a war, I just realized) is Pierre Elliot Trudeau. But in terms of our origins as a country, there really isn't that much that people look back on and think of how proud they are to be a Canadian. Louis Riel is the only counter example I can think of.

- Nevin