Friday, July 12, 2013

The Land I Love

We were a little too tired from all our vacationing to celebrate Canada Day on July 1st, but here's a flag that Rachel coloured in school for me when her class was learning about continents/countries. She's a real sweetie.

She also did a little "travel journal" worksheet on North America but she chose to highlight the United States for that. "I love U.S.A.," she wrote. "It is sweet. Ther is no bowst or a brag."

So I may have neglected to rotate this picture.
I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I read that.

"What does it mean?" I asked her. "'There is no boast or a brag'?"

"Oh, I learned it from a song!" she told me.

They learned You're a Grand Old Flag at school. But she didn't have a clue what a boast or a brag was. I told her that boast and brag mean about the same thing: showing off or rubbing in or just trying to seem better than someone or something else.

"Well, that's why I like the United States," she concluded.

I also found a picture she drew of me nearer the beginning of the school year (can you tell I just finished going through her paperwork? And about time, too, considering school starts on Monday) and I'm all decked out with American patriotism.

I had to laugh about that because I'm not sure there's any way I'd even be caught dead in an outfit like that. If patriotism were measured in the amount of red/white/blue/stars/stripes one was wearing I'm afraid I'd come in last place.

I also laughed over an assignment very similar to this one where she had to think of four things that began with the letter F. What's the first thing she thought of? Why, Fort Sumter, naturally. And she illustrated it quite nicely, with cannons being fired and everything. (The other words she chose were flower, friend, and flying.)

Defining the land I love is tricky because I love so many lands and while I am grateful for the freedoms America offers and the lovely life we have here I'm also grateful for the freedoms I've enjoyed in other places as well as the parts of my life I spent living in them. America's Independence Day seems to be the favourite holiday of many people (just from a sample I took from Facebook/Testimony Meeting) and many people ooze patriotism, but I just can't because I'm too divided or not invested enough or perhaps both.

July is a busy month when it comes to national independence celebrations with 25 countries celebrating freedom on various days throughout the month. In fact, I think being free and independent is a globally-prized way of life. It's celebrated several times, every month, all across the globe. When you factor in "national days," which are different from independence days in some small aspect that is difficult for me to wrap my brain around.

Independence Day: "an annual event commemorating the anniversary of a nation's assumption of independent statehood, usually after ceasing to be a group or part of another nation or state; more rarely after the end of a military occupation."

National Day: "a designated date on which celebrations mark the nationhood of a nation or non-sovereign country. This nationhood can be symbolized by the date of independence, of becoming a republic or a significant date for a patron saint or a ruler."

So basically, [Independence Day] is to [square] as [National Day] is to [rectangle].

An Independence Day is a National Day but a National Day is not necessarily an Independence Day.

I think my brain has that all sorted out now.

Canada's birthday is July 1, 1867. Basically, the provinces that were in what is now Canada requested to joined as a country "with a constitution similar to that of the UK" and the powers that be (aka. Queen Victoria) granted permission and established Canada as a federal dominion (with the British North America Act). No war necessary. Long live the queen.

Whereas, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, informing Britain, who they were currently warring with, that the 13 then-colonies would now consider themselves The United States of America, was ratified. The war would continue for seven more years.

Both places have their merits and demerits, as do the myriad of other countries celebrating in July (and in every other month throughout the year).

On Canada Day, my cousin posted this on Facebook:

"Americans are so funny. Obsessed with their guns and with their 'right' to privacy. People have no idea how much personal info is already captured by corporations. Why not let the government have it too? Preventing terrorism is worth giving up my call log (more efficient than strip searching all at the airport...)"

I have to admit that I kind of agree with her. The Patriot Act has been around since 2001. Andrew and I have always left notes to the CIA and NSA in our emails and online chats and even have clarified things for agents on the phone.

"We're just kidding, CIA agent listening in on this conversation."

It's kind of a running joke for us, just because he studies Arabic (and has been detained at the border multiple times in multiple countries just for that fact—including in the United States). I grew up country-hopping and it becomes all too clear how much power governments can have (and do have) when you're trying to do the paperwork to immigrate to the United States or get a birth certificate for a child born abroad or when your host parents run the bathtub while they talk (Russia) or when Skype is technically illegal and you have to work around things to call home (Egypt—oh, Egypt! I've been thinking a lot about you lately).

Spying is not new.

But one of my cousins friends on Facebook said this to her, on Canada Day (talk about tact).

"I guess that's why Canada never seceded from Britain. You value safety more than liberty. We Americans believe that to choose thus denies your claim to either."

Never a boast or a brag, my eye.

Americans are always going on about how they're the freest nation on earth and, d'ya know what?, it irks me. Especially when they go doing it on Canada's birthday. I mean, we're free, too! Sheesh!

That's why I was so happy when my mom got on and posted the freedom indices—because lots of countries are free. Sure, some are freer than others, but freedom is a difficult thing to measure, I think. That's why there are freedom indices rather than a simple freedom index. Freedom is complicated.

I still speak haltingly about religion thanks to having my freedom of religion stripped from me in Egypt, where we couldn't freely discuss religion. I appreciate the idea of absolute freedom of religion; it's one of the tenets of my religion (seriously—it's #11). And I suppose, according to the law, there is freedom of religion in The States but it doesn't always feel that way (see here, here, and...really just that second here because it lists loads of examples of religious persecution in America).

It's complicated; many types of freedoms are.

For example, who should be considered a person? Slaves? Men? Women? Children? Fetuses? Zygotes? Currently unfertilized yet potentially fertilizable eggs? Where do we draw the line? Should we be drawing lines? I don't know. I mean, we technically can draw lines since we're free and all but drawing lines technically limits that freedom.

Freedom is so complicated, but I'm thankful for it—whether it's in the "true north, strong and free" or "America the beautiful" or any other place, freedom is great.

We spent our Fourth at Brother Brown's house. We barbequed. We chatted. The kids had a water fight and ended up covered in mud because it's been raining so much here that you could launch an ark.

There were bubbles, too.

And good company.

Grace and Rachel
After the barbeque we went home for a few hours before heading out again for fireworks. Benjamin busied himself by getting into everything and while I followed him around cleaning up each little mess, he'd move on and make a new mess for me to clean up.

Here he is with his prized potato. He pulled the entire bag of potatoes out of the cupboard and picked a nice juicy one to chomp on. 

He might've done this while I was out in the garden looking at things. I like to do that every few days when the rain lets up. I think my corn is drowning. But there's nothing we can do about that. At least my sunflowers are beautiful.

Oh, I remember why I'd left him alone in the house for a minute. It was because the girls wanted to play outside but were getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I went outside to spray them down with repellant, leaving Benjamin with Andrew, who was working. 

I suppose I should have just taken him out with me for that little while. 

The girls were trying to play some hand clapping games.

Benjamin pouted by the window, watching them play and wondering why I wouldn't let him outside. The poor baby doesn't understand that he needs adult supervision, even on our new, child-friendly deck, and I was inside trying to get some work done. It's not like he never gets to go outside or anything. I offer his farmer's tan and tow head as evidence that he gets ample outside time.

In fact, soon after this picture was taken we took him outside again! This time we went to the Larson's to watch fireworks on their driveway. The kids had fun with the snappers, a treat relatively unknown to Canadian children (unless their American relatives smuggled them up north (not that that ever happened)).

The Larson children were showing Andrew how to snap them between their fingers and were trying to peer pressure him into trying it as well. He was too nervous to...

...until his three-year-old daughter did it!

After that he was Mr. Bravery. He even tried snapping a few by smashing them between his palm and forehead.

Sparklers came next. The kids enjoyed casting make believe spells at each other, pretending their sparklers were wands. Killing curses and such things were quickly forbidden, though the children were welcome to say "alohomora" or "lumos" (and other friendly spells) to their heart's delight.

Before the sparklers were handed out, Brother Larson made an announcement. "There are two big buckets of water here," he said. "When you are finished with your sparkler, put it in one of the buckets of water."

Miriam was a little nervous to hold a sparkler, but she listened well to the part about properly disposing of used sparklers. Becky handed her a sparkler and she walked directly from Becky to the bucket, dousing the sparkler.

"Miriam!" Andrew said.

"What?" she asked. "I was finished."

We explained that if she wanted another sparkler she'd have to hold onto it until it was all used up so that everyone could enjoy the light; otherwise she could just watch the other kids with their sparklers.

She agreed to these terms, though you can see she hung out by the buckets of water just in case things got out of hand. You can never be too careful.

Actually, I don't blame her. I've never enjoyed holding sparklers.

We had a great time watching the fireworks with our friends! When the show was over all the kids headed over to the swing set and sang patriotic songs in the near-dark. It was pretty cute to hear them trying to remember all the lyrics.


  1. that red sunflower! :D ive never seen one, though i live in australia. are they common in the US?

    1. Not entirely.

      I bought the Burpee Signature "Summer Evening Mix." I think they're quite beautiful, though my girls are disappointed they aren't the quintessential blooms. :)

  2. Maybe the boast or brag thing is like when you tell people how humble you are.

    Enjoyed the post. The red, white and blue on you is rather nice. :)