Alien Messages: We People

Charo: "There is a very iconic French singer and poet of the 1960s and 70s, Georges Brassens, who has a song called La Mauvaise Réputation about a man who takes a different path in life and is, for that reason, discriminated and criticized in his little town. One of the verses says, 'On 14th July, I stay sleeping in my bed, because marching music isn’t really my thing.'  The song is not only hilarious, but it's also, among other things, a denunciation of people who establish themselves as guardians of patriotism and immediately assume everybody must show, not necessarily share, their same enthusiasm for the patriotic symbols of their country."

Kalpana: "Of course, we are talking about this because of a sports journalists who recently said people like us only like the Canadian lifestyle but we do not wear the poppies."

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Charo: "We are going to humor all people by explaining why immigrants are not so friendly to patriotic symbols, and the first thing is we come from older countries; countries with long histories and lots of skeletons in their closets. Patriotic symbols are loved and loathed in equal parts by us, people. For example, when the anthem sounds in Spain, some people listen with their hands on their chests, and others jeer because they want to form their own republic, or because they come from Latin America and the anthem reminds them of their cultures lost to Spanish colonialism. And we tolerate this.  Nobody would be prosecuted or publicly shamed for expressing their feelings about patriotic values, no matter how much we care for our country."

Kalpana: "That’s the thing with democracy. Oftentimes other people will say or wear or not wear, or sing stuff that we dislike and we have to take it as it is."

Charo: "Yes, because otherwise it’s a dictatorship. And we had a dictator 40 years ago, General Franco, who appropriated the Spanish flag to his regime and, for many years, people did not dare to wear the flag because it had been tainted with the foul stench of fascism. It is only now that we are recovering our flag and shyly putting it back on our balconies and our lapels."

Kalpana: "Yeah, both your country and mine have seen dictators and politicians of all colours and shapes proudly enforcing symbols as they massacred the population, and somehow we all learned how deceitful they are. Of course, the poppy is not one of them; quite the opposite. It symbolizes the sacrifice that needs to be done for tolerance and peace, but it is a symbol, not an identity card that you must wear at all times. In India, we have had our share of colonialism and upheaval as well, so we are careful with patriotic symbols. We show our patriotism and our solidarity to our fellow citizens by working hard, paying taxes, and participating in our communities. And we celebrate Remembrance Day by sporting the values those men died for in the Second World War, respecting our brothers and sisters wherever we are, abiding by human rights and being tolerant to other people’s ideas, religions, and skin colours."

Charo: "Because those veterans died precisely so that nobody would call us You People and so that we would be free to wear or not wear a poppy on our lapel. I personally empty my pockets every time I see a moneybox gathering funds for the veterans. I'm from Europe, so were it not for the sacrifice of those brave, generous men that came all the way from Canada and America to fight in Europe, I would probably have grown up under the Third Reich, without freedom, without identity, and without culture. I owe them big. I express my thankfulness to them whenever I get a chance, like now, and I give my money, but I hardly ever wear the poppy. So I’m one of the You People, indeed."

Kalpana: "So am I, and happy to be. I distrust people who say you can’t wear a veil or a turban to be a good Canadian, or that you have to wear a poppy on November 11 and a maple leaf painted on your face on July 1. I wear my patriotism and my feelings in my heart, where they should be."

Charo: "Of course! A flag is easy to burn, but hard work and respect for one another are the building blocks of a nation."

Charo Lloret is from Spain; Kalpana Loganathan is from India. Each week, they’ll reflect on their experiences immigrating to Canada and settling into their new homes in Fort St. John.

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