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An English-Only Anthem at the Stampede? Now That's Bullshit!

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Under what circumstances should Albertans be required to sing the national anthem in French? If you answered "all," then you're pretty close to the mainstream press' reaction to Tuesday's horrific revelation that the Calgary Stampede's chuckwagon choir sung (or more properly, lip-synced) an English-only version of O Canada for a full three ghastly days!

This story is an interesting case study in pre-emptive censorship, since it seems the entire anthem-gate outrage was promptly corrected mostly out of a sweaty, Tell-tale Heart-esque guilt complex from the very people who made the decision to go unilingual in the first place, as opposed to a frantic reaction to some backlash of the offended.

Maclean's magazine, for instance, after noting that the Stampede's bilingual anthem spawned "overwhelming" negative feedback, could find only one festival attendee willing to to go on record as being just as riled by the monotongue edition. In his column on the matter, the Calgary Herald's Don Braid notes that the head of the French-Canadian Association of Alberta (a fun bunch, I'm sure) literally didn't even have time to pick up the phone to express his indignance before the Stampede folks themselves called him to apologize.

Indeed, by all accounts going unilingual was never intended to be anything more than a brief stop-gap measure while event organizers scrambled to find a new MP3 to replace the unsingably "stylized," (as in, techno-crap remix) bilingual version of the anthem that had yielded so much audience disgust. But don't expect that to stop the commentariat from cooing approvingly at the tenuous political symbolism of a pragmatic, logistical decision they had precisely zero influence over.

At Yahoo!'s Daily Brew, Steve Mertl describes the whole episode as a thankful victory over Calgary's "redneck stereotype." Herald opinions page editor Licia Corbella hopes "Alberta's reputation recovers" just as fast as the music itself was fixed. Jen Gerson at the Post, perhaps getting a little carried away at this point, sees promising signs of a province "more willing to play nice with the rest of Canada, even French Canada."

In short, the overwhelming tone has been one of courtly relief that the principle of national bureaucratic conformity has happily smothered the one lingering corner of the country whose public culture possessed even the tiniest inclination towards openly acknowledging Western Canada's English reality.

Now if only someone can figure out how to turn surrendering to the Ottawa consensus into a full-fledged Stampede event...

* * *

So Justin Trudeau got out of bed this week, which means it's totally time for yet another round of Messiah Watch! Experts agree that with the Liberal leadership election a mere 10 months from now, summer of 2012 is very much the ideal season to gawk admiringly at the party's presumed front-runner (possibly because he's that much more likely to have his shirt off).

The Toronto Star's Chantal Hebert says that despite his coyness, young master Trudeau "is very much acting like someone who is running for something," and "has been a constant presence on the barbecue circuit," winning over converts and Twitter followers by the bucketload as his lesser rivals cower in fear. Postmedia's Lee Berthiaume, however, is left with the impression that it's still pretty "impossible to tell how he'll fare until the race starts," while Lawrence Martin at the Globe worries that Justin's chronic gaffing and political inexperience could make him the victim of a Dan Quayle-style character assassination if he ain't careful.

As you can see, none of these leading observers have anything remotely revealing, insightful, or novel to say about the man that hasn't already been said six thousand times previously. Yet they still feel the need to share a few hundred words of tired and self-evident bromides just the same.

Considering the frequency in which we're told how "interesting" young Justin is, you'd think it wouldn't be quite so hard to write something, you know, interesting about him. Or maybe the problem's that he's just too interesting, and all his interestingness collapses upon itself, creating a sort of black hole effect.

Either way, it's going to be a long summer.