Canada: Olympic Paragon of Virtue

To watch this Olympics ad by Air Canada, you would think that Canadians have gone to Pyeongchang to not only take home an arena full of medals, but to show the whole world how to live. Because apparently, we’ve figured it all out; enough to be properly evangelical about our liberal values:

This is ‘our time’.

Our time to show the world what we’re made of. Not just how fast we are on the ice, how tough we compete in the snow, or how many medals we bring home.

Let’s do more than show the world how great we are. Let’s show them why: Why we find strength in our differences; why we’re unstoppable when we work together. It’s our time to show why we’re proud of our home.

 ‘Cause in showing the world why, we’re showing the world…how.

Really Air Canada? Really Canada? Though I have enjoyed reading about how our current Prime Minister is what the song Imagine would look like if it took on human form, this is really a step too far. Is this what we have become as a nation?

It’s one thing to think you are a great country. It’s one thing to say, ‘Look how great our athletes are!’ It’s one thing to aim to bring home a ton of medals, and to complete fairly – that’s what the Olympics are about. But we’re going to show the world how to live? Really? That’s another thing altogether.

We’ll show them how to make sure indigenous communities have no clean water to drink. We’ll show them how to build systems and structures that talk about diversity but have sexism and racism built into them. We’ll show them how to colonize and exclude and pretend that we can rewrite history. We’ll show them how to exploit the land of all the resources we can, while hiding in the shadow of the military and economic might of the USA, picking up the crumbs that fall from the table. We’ll show them that.

One of things I used to value about Canada was that we were sorry, and practical, and others thought sometimes we set a cultural moral compass through humble service, and self-sacrifice. We seemed to know there’s enough patriotic hubris in the world already. Telling the world like another Olympic ad does, that ‘what the world needs is more Canada,’ is somehow very un-Canadian. It’s ok for President Obama to say it…it’s not ok for us to say it about ourselves.

Sadly, public theologian Reinhold Niebuhr again diagnosis the disease. In a sinful response to the fear of our vulnerable contingency, we extend our collective will to power through nations. We can do it through weapons, or through moral arrogance. Either way it leads to hypocritical violence against those who do not share the dominant agenda, nor the fruits of the victory perceived by the storytellers.

This is what happens when we trade responsibility to a Higher Power for faith in our own divine incarnation.

The very things we want to teach the world are sowing the seeds of our own demise.

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