Patriotism and I

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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OPTIONAL JULY QUESTION: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

MY ANSWER: There are so many, it is hard to choose, but I think the most valuable one is: you can find story ideas anywhere. When I started writing, I hoarded my story ideas. I was afraid – don’t laugh – that someone would steal them. I’m not afraid anymore. I have so many ideas, I won’t be able to write all my stories. Maybe someone else will use some of my ideas. I don’t mind. After all, I steal story ideas too, but my stories based on those stolen ideas surely are different from anyone else’s stories based on the same ideas.
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One of the ideas that is floating around, especially in the fantasy genre, the genre I write in, is patriotism. A number of writers touch on this theme. In one of my published novels, Eagle en Garde (out of print for now) the protagonist is a patriot. Many of his choices are dictated by his love for his country and its people. But do I have the right to explore this idea?

My relationship with patriotism is complicated. I believe that patriotism is not a clearly defined concept. I think I’m a patriot. I live in Canada. I love Canada. My country celebrated its 150th birthday just a few days ago, on July 1st, 2017, and I feel warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

For many years, I’ve been a subscriber to a classical music series by our Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Every year, I try to attend the first concert of the year, because the Orchestra starts every season with the Canadian anthem. Everyone in the audience stands up. People sing together. It’s a very uplifting experience. I love it.

I don’t usually pay attention to commercials on TV, but one of them caught my attention in 2000 and still holds it. It’s the famous commercial for Molson Canadian beer. I don’t drink beer, but I love this clip. I always smile when I watch it.

My problem with all this is: I wasn’t born a Canadian. I’m an immigrant and I lived half of my life in Russia before immigrating to Canada.

Years ago, CBC ran a contest for the best ending to the phrase: “As Canadian as…” The winning entry was: “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.” That phrase applies to me, but can I really consider myself a Canadian patriot? Is that okay to be a patriot of a country that adopted me, not a country I was born and grew up in? Shouldn’t I be a Russian patriot instead? Because I’m not and never have been.

I’m Jewish, and Russia has never been nice to its Jews. Canada is. Canada has been very nice to me. It gave me all I wanted and all I needed to fulfill myself as a woman and a writer. Is it right to be a patriot of a country because it is a good place to live? What about countries that are not so good, countries where life is tough? Could my heroes be patriots of such countries, while I myself am not? Can I write about such patriots convincingly?

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23 Responses to Patriotism and I

  1. J.S. Pailly says:

    Patriotism can come in many flavors. There are immigrants, like yourself, who know first hand how good their country is compared to what they left behind. There are also those who, out of a sense of patriotism, stay behind in a bad situation, hoping to make it better. And there are some who take things a little too far and do awful things in the name of patriotism.

    I think a story that explores the many different kinds of patriotism would be a compelling thing to read, and and it sounds to me like you are uniquely well qualified to tell a story like that, if that’s what you want to do.

  2. Juneta says:

    I agree, sounds like a great idea.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  3. You sound patriotic to me. Almost everyone in the Americas was once an immigrant. If Canada is your home and where your heart is, then be proud and patriotic.

  4. Loni Townsend says:

    I agree with Alex. It’s being proud of your nation, regardless of where you were born. 🙂

  5. Very interesting post this month! I love the principals my country was founded on, though I don’t see them in action as often as I’d like to.

  6. I think it’s perfectly fine to be patriotic for wherever you choose to live. For instance, I grew up in the western US, but once you go Florida, you never go back. =)

  7. patgarcia says:

    I so agree. You can find stories anywhere. However, your heart must be open to receive them.
    Wishing you all the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G at Everything Must Change

  8. Stories are everywhere! There is no bad story, just bad delivery. Anything can be interesting depending on how you deliver it! I use to safe guard my thought seeds jealously as well. Madness! Happy IWSG day!

  9. P.S. I usually don’t use so many exclamation points.

  10. I’ve had the fear of someone stealing my ideas, but it was never bad enough to keep me from sharing those stories. I figure someone out there probably has had similar ideas to mine, so it’s not worth stressing over.

  11. Erika Beebe says:

    I really like that question. I have flirted with it from time to time myself. But I finally found a place to call home and I think eventually our characters do too, and that’s what matters. Finding a place we are comfortable.

  12. Yep, story ideas really are everywhere. I was reminded of that when I participated in Story A Day and was busy gathering “story sparks.” I’d gotten out of the habit, so it totally stretched my creative muscle. And I’m still stretching. 🙂

  13. Oh yes, story ideas are everywhere! 🙂 You sound patriotic to me. There’s a lot to love about Canada. You don’t have to be born someplace to love it. My heart is with Canada. I was born there, but I fell in love with an American, so I live in the US. I made certain to get my son Canadian citizenship when he was born, so he can live in either country.

  14. ChrysFey says:

    My very first story idea came from a rusted screw I found, so I definitely believe story ideas can come from anywhere. 🙂

  15. Pat Hatt says:

    Ideas can sure pop in from anywhere, the cat proves that at his lair lol Doesn’t matter where you are born as long as you enjoy where you are.

  16. Widdershins says:

    ‘Canadian as possible under the circumstances’ Me too 🙂 … just about as Canadian a sentiment as you can get.

    The most important thing I learned? I can do this! 😀

  17. spunkonastick says:

    For most people, where they live is all they know, and whether it’s a good country or not, they will likely be patriotic. Some rabidly so.

  18. I’m always amazed how different people can take the same story idea and have such utterly unique takes on it. It isn’t the idea as much as the execution of it that matters.

    This is hysterical and seems so Canadian to me –> “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.”

  19. You have every right to explore patriotism as a theme in your writing and in life. I think you have a unique perspective on it. My maternal grandfather was a German Canadian (parents came from Germany, he was born in Canada) who immigrated to the US by joining the US Army. He was a strong patriot of the US and didn’t want to celebrate any German traditions and didn’t want to even visit Canada (which is kind of sad, I think). In his mind, he became a patriot as soon as he crossed the border, but I think it’s sad that he felt he had to give up his heritage to do so. I think it’s possible to be both a patriot of an adopted country and to celebrate our heritage.

  20. Nick Wilford says:

    I think it definitely makes you a patriot if you love a country enough to make it your home. Definitely an interesting area to explore, like you say – what makes someone a patriot of a country that seems dubious to most outsiders’ eyes?

  21. Story ideas? Mmm. I really need to get out and about more, and stretch the creative muscle by looking at things differently… from other perspectives… ask more what-if questions… and keep that notebook handy.
    Patriotism? I won’t even go there… it’s a comment for another day. 🙂

  22. Writing about a patriot to a not-so-nice country has a lot of plot potential in my opinion. Conflict everywhere.

  23. Misha says:

    It’s a good question, but I believe you are a patriot if you love your country, even if it’s the one you adopted.

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