O Kebek? Oh, Quebec

The Societe St-Jean-Baptiste has commissioned an anthem for Quebec, called — oddly enough — O Kebek. It’s a terrible little song, completely unsingable (you can listen to it here.) But the worst part are the lyrics: “There are no patriotic calls to arms beneath the rockets’ red glare, or bragging about ruling over a vast empire, or any of the militaristic overtones of so many national anthems.”

So why have an anthem, then? Patriotism is essentially a form of brand loyalty, and the only way you’re going to get your preferred imagined community to coalesce around a proposed national identity is to make it clear not only who is included in the community, but — crucially — who is excluded. You have give the nation a narrative, either of triumph over enemies, or of ongoing collective suffering at the hands of oppressors. Instead:

“O Kebek” in its long version — which encompasses eight stanzas — references Quebec’s diversity and its natural wonders, announcing that “the St. Lawrence flows through our blood.” It pays tribute to the French, the English, the Irish, and the aboriginals as well as the Snowy Owl, moose and the Aurora Borealis.

I guess there’s no mention of the moneyed interests and the ethnic vote, so that’s something. But “under a rainbow of love we sing of liberty”? Sapristi.

I love national anthems, the more militaristic and confrontational the better. And I’m all for Quebec having one. But come on guys, give yourselves a proper anthem, instead of this Free-to-be-you-and-me, Hinterland-Who’s Who Trudeaupianism.  How about “drinking the blood of Don Cherry, we sing of liberty”. Or “By the fist of Rocket Richard, we beat the hated Leafs.” Or “The winter was cold, and the English humiliated us again”.

Here’s some inspiration.

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