Last year I went with BB#1’s third grade class to a heritage schoolhouse to experience what a typical day was like for children 100 years ago. So we learned about such quaint, outdated practices as corporal punishment, addressing the teacher as “ma’am”, and singing “God Save the King” each morning.
I know: some of you are surprised that once upon a time, our national anthem was not, in fact, “O Canada”! But it’s true! Then times changed. And so did our anthem. It wasn’t actually that long ago either, Canada as it is today is pretty young in the grand scheme of nationhood. And probably, people resisted at first. Probably they said stuff like, “people are oversensitive these days” or “what a silly change” or “why are we rewriting history” or “if we change the anthem to suit one group, pretty soon other groups are going to demand other changes”. Or even “if you don’t like OUR Canada the way it is, get the @#$%! out!”*
Sadly, Twitter and the internet comments sections on news sites didn’t exist back then, so we can never know for sure.** But I think it is safe to assume some people reacted much as they do every time someone makes the suggestion that the lyrics to our current national anthem be changed ever-so-slightly in order to include the other half of our population: you know, our daughters.
What’s particularly ironic is, the lyrics have already been changed at least once. They weren’t actually handed down from on high, written on stone tablets***. We can and do change these kinds of things to reflect the current society (did you know at one time women were denied the vote in this country?) And life goes on. Okay, so “thou dost in us command” might be difficult for modern-day Canadians to sing, but the proposed change to “in all of us command”? Seems like it would roll off the tongue. And hey, we’d get to lose that pesky “thy”! Win-win.
Of course there are always the “there are bigger fish to fry” folks, who suggest activists focus on a more important issue than a few words in a song. Classic distraction technique. Okay then: If it’s no big deal, why not just make the change? Or better yet, let’s change it to “in all thy daughters command”? Because of course, when we say daughters, we really mean “everyone”, don’t be so sensitive! After all, it’s just a word, right?
*to these people, I have to say, in the words of Jack White, even though he was speaking to Americans: “Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.” (Unless they are First Nations of course.)
**actually I’m sure there are archived letters and newspaper clippings on the topic, if you would care to do the research.
***which brings up the whole issue of “god” in the anthem of a country where we’re supposed to have a separation of church and state. Let’s just say, I don’t sing that line either, because atheist.