Monday, 26 July 2010

NATIONAL DAYS

In July, we celebrate several of these days. I cannot get too enthused as most commemorate certain, often contentious, events that involved blood letting thus satisfying only those who are descendants of the winning group. They have become embellished with myths that cloud an honest insight into history.

I do applaud the United Kingdom which gets by with no national day, although its four parts do indulge:
01 March: Wales Saint David’s Day
17 March: N. Ireland Saint Patrick’s Day
23 April England Saint George’s Day
30 November Scotland Saint Andrew’s Day

But, are not all these Christian saints? What about the Celts and others contributors?

July National Days include:

01 July: Canada celebrates Dominion Day, that revisionists call Canada Day. At least this is one of the few national days not steeped in blood. It commemorates the 1867 confederation of 5 loyal British colonies: Ontario, Quebec (Upper and Lower Canada), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, done largely for unified strength to deter further invasions from the United States. The name “Dominion” was taken from the Bible for the ‘Dominion of Canada’ name. That most important province, Newfoundland, did not join the family until 1949. Inuit Nunavut was not formed until 1999 and Haida Gwaii has just now regained its original name. And, what about Cabot, Champlain, Frobisher, Madeleine de Verchères, Mackenzie, Wolfe, Montcalm, the Habitants, the Acadians, Tecumseh, the United Empire Loyalists, the Algonquins, Hurons, Kwakiutl, Inuit, and so many others like my ancestors who were highly successful in producing progeny in Canada since 1669?

04 July: United States of America, Independence Day, 1776. This ignores all the great pre-colonial and colonial days, and commemorates a civil war between Britain and 13 of her 29 American colonies which the vast majority on both sides did not want. It did not give independence to all. It did lead to a great nation, but Californians had little to do with Boston rebels and Sam Adam’s preference for Dutch tea. The Texans had their own rebels but against Mexico, not Britain.

14 July: France, Bastille Day, 1789, exchanged one tyranny for another. It killed many great philosophers and scientists. It did give us fine words like équalité, liberté, and fraternité, which had to wait 50 years before beginning to be implemented. It gave us a national anthem dripping in blood and Napoleon.

20 July: Colombia Independence Day, 1830. Separation too often leads to further separation. On independence from Spain in 1819 Gran Colombia was made up of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. This broke up in 1830 and Colombia became Nueva Granada. In 1886 it adopted a new constitution and the name Colombia. Panama remained a part of Colombia until the US supported a revolt in order to build the Panama Canal. Of all of Spain’s former American colonies, Colombia retains Spanish customs the most.

21 July: Belgium: With support from France and Britain, Belgium revolted against being part of Holland. On 21 July 1831 the newly-formed Kingdom of Belgium elected Léopold I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as their first king. International recognition came in 1839. However, French and Dutch-speaking tensions persist.

28 July: Peru Independence Day: In 1821 Peru became independent of Spain. The Creole (Spanish born in America) were not unhappy with Spanish rule, but 60,000 Inca led a 1780 revolt which failed but sparked subsequent Inca and Creole revolts culminating in José de San Martin from Argentina landing with an army, followed by Simón Bolivar who defeated the Spanish at Junin and Ayacucho.

Countries evolve and boundaries change. Yesterday’s are seldom today’s and today’s are unlikely to be tomorrow’s. When we draw artificial lines around segments of this world it may be good for those living within such boundaries to build an earned pride of nationhood but one that needs to include appreciation of all earlier inhabitants. This dictates choosing a national day, preferably in the warmer months of the year, that has nothing to do with a specific event, religion, or person.

In 1919 the Commission Internationale de Navigation Aerienne chose one or two letters of the alphabet to recognize aircraft registration by country (G for the British Empire, F for France, D for Deutschland, N for the US, and so on with Canada later being assigned CF then C). Perhaps national days should be assigned in a similar manner.


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