AS I SEE IT COLUMN: One-word change to national anthem at NBA all-star game stirs big reactions
I love when a sports story becomes more than just a sports story and leaps from the sports section into the news section.
At last weekend’s NBA All-Star Game a singer brilliantly changed one single word to the Canadian national anthem and the reactions – those in favour of the change and those not in favour – were as you would expect.
The vast majority of the responses to the one-word change were extremely positive. So much so that on social media, the hashtag #ourhomeONnativeland was trending shortly after the NBA All-Star Game.
Here was the change: Instead of “O Canada, our home and native land,” Canadian R&B singer Jully Black replaced the word “and” with “on” so the line was “O Canada, our home on native land.”
Over in the right-wing echo chamber, where it’s all victimhood all the time, conservatives were reacting the way they typically do: with ridiculous “woe is me” martyrdom, as if that one word and what it means somehow makes them the victim.
Critics do have one point: if a singer dared to change a word in the U.S. national anthem at the NHL All-Star Game or Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, Americans would be apoplectic.
But Canada is not America. We don’t elect buffoonish reality TV hosts as our leader, someone who was impeached twice, ripped babies from their parents’ arms at the border, suggested ingesting bleach was a way to fight COVID or called Putin’s immoral invasion of Ukraine “genius.” And we don’t’ live in a country where nearly half the population believes that every election their side loses was stolen.
There are exceptions to that rule, as the so-called freedom convoy sadly showed, but generally speaking Canadians are more tolerant and open-minded about pretty much any issue, so changing one word in our national anthem was seen by an overwhelming majority as something to celebrate, not something to complain about.
Plus, we just changed our national anthem in 2018. To be more gender inclusive, the lyrics were changed from “in all our sons command” to “in all of us command.”
If you think about it factually – something that is hard to do for many on the right, who are ruled by emotion instead of things like facts, evidence or the truth – our home truly is on native land.
Indigenous peoples inhabited this land long before it was supposedly discovered. Literally every person in Canada who doesn’t have Indigenous roots, had ancestors who came to this country from somewhere else on earth.
Our home was on native land then and it still is today. It’s a fact of life and national history that will never ever change, no matter how many people on the right attempt to rewrite or deny our true historical roots.
As we learn more about the horrific residential school programs, changing one puny word in our national anthem – albeit with profound implications – doesn’t seem like a big deal when there is so much truth and reconciliation needed to right the wrongs of how Indigenous people were treated.
Here’s a tip to soothe the frayed nerves of snowflake conservatives who are triggered by the idea behind the one word change to our anthem: go to any Jets game, Bombers game, Goldeyes game or Valour game. You will hear a land acknowledgement that states in plain, easy-to-understand English, that the game you are about to watch is being played on Indigenous territory; in other words, “on native land.”
Black magnificently brought that reality into our anthem, and that is a great thing.
Here’s hoping Ottawa makes the subtle but poignant change permanent, to reflect the true reality in which we all live.