Friday, November 06, 2009

Of Symbolism

Not to harp on things – nay, never in this blog! – I am moved to add a few more lines about the monarchy and its symbolism, prompted by the attention, so to speak, His Majesty’s visit has brought forth.

In particular, I have just finished listening to and trying – unsuccessfully as usual; - to get through to respond, to BC Almanac, guest hosted by Gloria Macarneko this week. There was a good back -and forth on the deliberately provocative either-or choice that Ms. Macarenko used to lure call-ins. The question was – “Are you keen about the visit or would you rather do away with the monarchy?” Like most exercises in political legerdemain, a logical fallacy -- the false dichotomy of choosing between two extremes -- was amply employed.

A pro-monarchist guest more than held his own against the usual bevy of pseudo-nationalists who equate being a good Canadian with snuffing out all connections to Britain. There was also a surprising number of what I would deem sensible souls (because they agree with me) who, among other good points, spoke of what bad manners it was, with Charles and Camilla in BC at this time, to even be making this a discussion item. After all, if you have a house-guest, perhaps it’s best to defer debates about whether you want them as long-term friends (which, really, is what the British monarch is for Canada) until they’ve headed home.

I was struck by the anti-monarchists several times bringing up the “symbolism” issue, as in “what does it say about a country that isn’t mature enough to have its own native head-of-state”!? – Most of them seemed intelligent enough to be able to grasp that Queen Elizabeth II has about as much power over the conduct of Canadian governance as the wee dachshund sleeping across the room from me does. But it’s the symbol, get it?

Well, if we are going to get excited about symbols, perhaps we should think harder about how so many of these same astute Canadians are queuing up to see an endless array of nobodies run about the country with a lighted stick in their hands in tribute to the gathering of an elitist small array of wintery nations in a city whose jingoist residents are always telling everybody else that they do not even “get winter” (a fabrication, of course, perpetrated by Vancouverites' feigned looks of shock when every year they do get snow). This glorious little flame that we’re hoisting around like excited tots is, like the British Monarchy, a tradition, something which droves of Canucks seem to think connects us and our costly little two week skiing party with the glory that was Greece.

Well, that was where this particular silly flambeau was lit all right, but the custom is far less ancient. The torch relay appeared for the first time at another Olympiad when the host nation was also out to make an international impression for itself: Berlin 1936 where the ceremony fit nicely in with Hitler’s intent to establish the superiority of what he deemed to be his Aryan race. Oh yes, let’s not also forget as we bandy about symbolism, that when this monster’s quest for supremacy culminated in the ferocious bombing of London, our future King’s grandfather was standing upright with the Queen Mother amidst the ruins, a symbol of resistance for all their subjects, including Canadians.