Each year, around this time, we Canadians begin to feel badly about ourselves. Magazine quizzes asking "How well do you know Canada?" leave us feeling like the insecure teenager of nations. We worry that there's something wrong with us, and spend a little too much time wondering if we're liked.
If we could just take an honest look in the mirror. But we won't.
We know that if we do, we won't see a pretty, homogenous country with a clear national identity, like Iceland, China or Japan.
To be Canadian is to always feel just a little different than the cool kids. How can we compete when every one of us is an immigrant, or descendant of immigrants, and the mix of who we are changes constantly?
Maybe we're asking the wrong question. If we took a closer look, we might find that we're cooler than we realize.
Rampant nationalism was a handy tool of empires, to unite a common people for a common cause. But Canada is the first nation whose identity isn't tied to a specific ethnicity, language and culture. In the past this made us feel like outsiders, who hoped one day to catch up to other more established countries. Imagine our surprise to learn that we're at the top of a new wave.
Today, every country is learning to survive in a global, multinational economy. The immigration we undertook to fill this vast land is now aspired to by nearly all western democracies facing declining birth rates and slowing growth. Our futures are entwined, and none of the problems facing us today -- from pollution to pandemics -- respect those lines our forefathers drew on the map.
All of a sudden, the country with close personal ties between its people and every other country in the world has a distinct advantage. It's up to us to recognize it.
We need to start acting like the leaders we are.
Canadians have a unique relationship with our history. We're proud of the country we built, but ashamed of the steps we took to get here. For many of us, the easiest solution is to try not to look back at all.
But when we don't know our history, we don't just miss out on a dusty old past. It makes it hard to imagine our future.
Yes, we made mistakes along the way, but if we learn from them they're not mistakes anymore. They become lessons,- great, painful lessons that so many other countries have yet to learn.
These lessons will point the way forward. The world needs Canada, and a shared history is essential to defining what we have to offer.
We've been through our awkward phase. We have nothing to fear.
Go ahead, have a little peek in the mirror.