All Flags @ Full Half Mast

This Canada Day – and for some days after – the flags here in Canada (the ones I’ve seen anyhow) have been flying at half-mast. This has a common meaning everywhere: somebody of some importance has died. Flags come down (but not all the way) to mark that and morn – sometimes for a day, sometimes for more.

I am pretty clueless about news much of the time, I admit; following the reports of what’s going on in the world is one more thing that requires me to read and watch and surf. Somedays I just don’t want to be in the Information Age anymore. It’s no real excuse for my not immediately clueing in what the flags were about.

It was about this. And this. And this. And this. And so on.

Our national issue with residential schools, and the ongoing effects in our societies from those, in this geography which I’ve been calling Canada. It had other names before that one.

I’m in no position to expound. None. I probably know less history of this land than the average successful candidate for admission into Canadian citizenship.

I’m not here to explain the problem (even if I could) that is our nation’s sitting-atop the nations of others to this day, and carrying on with celebrations and patting ourselves on the back now and then about what a great country we are, and how proudly we should wave our flags about. This month is not the time for flag-waving. Nor is this year. Nor is this century.

I’m here to very quickly give my assent to this statement, from my government’s official Half-Masting Notices website (the things you don’t know exist until you do):

Updated Notice of half-mastingMasting period: From now until further notice.Occasion: DISCOVERY OF REMAINS AT THE FORMER KAMLOOPS INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL


Good call. I think our national flag should stay at half mast until our country has finally resolved – to the satisfaction of every nation it is composed of, out of geographical and cultural necessity – its ongoing issues with itself. Our flags can just sit there, half-mast, until that happens. That has to happen.

And then, when we have reconciled things – when, not if – those flags should stay at half-mast in memory of the countless human souls who have suffered and died and continue to do so in the name of nationalism and empire-building, anywhere nationalism and empire-building have been and still are being carried out. A lot of places.

And then, our country should invite other countries to do just that same thing: lower their flags to half-mast, until further notice; until they too have reconciled their bad histories and unredeemed errors and unresolved horrors. And then we should invite them to keep those flags at half-mast along with us, as we look to our neighbours and wish beyond words they might heal too – that we might heal together, somehow. That we might live together, and someday raise the flag of peace and reconciliation to its very top, without irony – and then leave it there, forever.

I have no right to speak about orange shirts, I know, or what my country or my own body and mind owe to others. I don’t have a right to speak right now, about some things. My job is to listen. I’m not even doing that well, so far.

But I do absolutely have a right to ask my government to man/woman-up, and set some kind of example for the rest of the world: follow the lead of those asking us to stop waving our sheet in everybody’s face – to bring it down, and with it, our pride, right now, misplaced.

Maybe that’s what flags are now for. God, I hope so. Someday soon, please and Amen.

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