On Patriotism and My Favourite Japanese Toonie Store

The Queen, David Johnston, and the flag

This morning was a morning of adventures.

First off, at 8:15 we went to the immigration office where, along with 78 other people from 23 different countries, my husband swore to faithfully observe the laws of Canada; he pledged allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II; and he promised to fulfill his duties as a Canadian.  He did this in English and in French and in so doing, he finally became a Canadian citizen.

So now he can vote, or work in government, or cross the border to the states without having his fingerprints and $15 taken every time.  That’s pretty much all that’s changed from a practical perspective.  He didn’t even have to give up his Australian citizenship to do it.

And yet.

And yet, the ceremony was somehow indefinably moving.  This is a country of immigrants.  Canadians are aware of that, and I think proud of it as well.  There was something really beautiful about seeing this rainbow of people from all over the world who chose to make Canada their home.  There was a sense of both solemnity and excitement to it.

I don’t know their stories.  My husband came here for love.  He is not escaping a dangerous country, or one where people are stifled by their government.  I’m sure ours is a common enough story, but there are so many other reasons to make such a change, and I wondered about what was going on in the minds of the people there.  Was this a joyful event or bittersweet?  What were they leaving behind?  One woman wept.  I don’t know if it was out of happiness or sorrow.  Other people’s lives: they are a never-ending and fascinating mystery.

Now.  I do not believe in patriotism.  I think where we are born is a matter of luck – something to be grateful for perhaps, but not a legitimate source of pride.  I think national borders are artificial, often arbitrary, and in many ways dangerous.  I think that viewing yourself as part of a country instead of part of a shared Earth leads to short-sightedness and conflict in regards to limited global resources.  It also leads to lack of perceived responsibility when your nation’s actions do not affect you, but rather a nation on the other side of the globe.  I believe that we need to see ourselves as world citizens if there is to be any hope for the future.

And yet I find myself inexplicably thrilled that my husband now officially belongs in my country.  He belongs as much as I do, or maybe more because he actually had to work for it.  I didn’t expect to care.  I thought this was government paperwork.  But it seems I do care.  It makes me happy in a deep and quiet way, but I can’t say why.

One of the neatest things about Canada is that our national crest has a unicorn on it.

So strange.

Here’s something fun though.  With his citizenship package, my husband received a letter from the Right Honourable (cough, cough) Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.  Apparently Mr. Harper does not share my ambivalence toward patriotism.

Here are some highlights:  “In choosing to immigrate to Canada, and to become a Canadian citizen, you have chosen the best country in the world.  No other is as rich in promise and potential as our beloved Canada….  We Canadians can trace out ancestries to every imaginable culture and faith, and we have achieved harmony in our diversity.  Indeed, Canada is home to the most peaceful and prosperous society the world has ever known.”  Now, I’m not complaining about my life here, but this seems like an awful lot of superlatives and just might be a bit of a sugar-coating.  (Do any of my non-Canadian readers have thoughts on this?)  My favourite part though, was at the end of the letter when he says, “Thank-you again for choosing Canada.”  It makes us sound kind of desperate and a bit like we’re a supermarket: “Thank you for shopping at Safeway.  Come again.”

So that was that.  To celebrate, we went for brunch at the Cafe Medina, which gives out free wooden matches and sells heavenly waffles with fancy toppings like lavender milk chocolate, fig orange marmalade, and raspberry caramel.  If you are in Vancouver sometime, let me know and I will go with you to have brunch there.

And then, because we were in the area, we went to Yoko Yaya 123, which is my absolute favourite Japanese toonie store in the whole entire universe.  (The fact that it is the only Japanese toonie store I have ever encountered is irrelevant.)

Because really, who doesn't want their fried eggs to look like chickens?

The 123 refers to the fact that it’s a dollar store.  Everything is 1, 2 or 3 dollars, but most of it’s 2, so I say it’s a toonie store.

I smile when I think of using one of these at work.

But this is not just any dollar store with cheap kitchen and art supplies.  It is a treasure trove of weird and wonderful things, usually bearing comically translated labels.

Thin thickness!

Often these are things that I didn’t even know existed before I went in.

Stationery set. Now, I can hear you asking yourselves, "Wait! Does that really say 'Flesh Food?'" Yes it does, my friends. Yes it does. What is flesh food? I don't know and I don't think I want to.

So, that was my morning.  It was happy.  Life is good.

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4 thoughts on “On Patriotism and My Favourite Japanese Toonie Store

  1. “I think that viewing yourself as part of a country instead of part of a shared Earth leads to short-sightedness and conflict in regards to limited global resources. It also leads to lack of perceived responsibility when your nation’s actions do not affect you, but rather a nation on the other side of the globe. I believe that we need to see ourselves as world citizens if there is to be any hope for the future.”

    Amen to that. America, too, is a nation of immigrants – and now there is a radical faction that wants to close our borders. How ridiculous this seems – even the engraving below our Statue of Liberty: “Give us your tired, your poor; huddled masses yearning to be free” – OH, except YOU …

    Nice post, thanks.

    • And thank you! I love positive feedback. It makes me feel very clever. 🙂 You’re right that immigration is always a bit of a polarizing issue, politically. There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy there.

  2. Maybe you feel that, even though we are all citizens of the same planet, we can still feel a sense of pride for the specific part of that planet we call home. This was both wonderfully moving and gently humorous, and was fun to read. I’ve been to a 99-yen store in Japan, and they have some great stuff.

    Excellent post, Stephanie!

    • Thank you for the lovely compliments! I don’t know about your theory. I’ve always seen pride as something you should earn. I don’t think I have any right to be proud of my country, good or bad, because I don’t think I had anything to do with what it is. Does that make sense?

      To be honest, I think a lot of what makes me happy about my husband becoming Canadian is that it was a “grand gesture,” and I’ve watched enough movies to find grand gestures very romantic.

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