"What are you hiding behind your back?" asks Mrs. Pops.
"It's a bag from the Dollar Store. What's in it?"
"Canadian flags for the front porch for July 1st. I want to win the CanFest prize
for best decorated home."
"What is the prize?"
"I don't know. I just want to win it!"
"Guess what? There is no prize, Dollar Store Patriot. " (I hate that tone of voice.)
"So you must be some expert on patriotic Canadians?" I says.
"Yes. And that doesn't include people who buy Canadian flags in order to win non-existent
prizes. Did you vote in the recent Ontario election?"
"Do you have to bring that up again when I'm just getting over it?"
"You know I did!"
"It's your patriotic duty. But the half of eligible voters who didn't vote seem
to think it's patriotic enough just to tack up a few flags once a year."
"Well," I says, "you could pass a law making voting compulsory, like in Australia.
Then throw the slackers in jail!" (Hey, they deserve it.)
"Why not give voters a tax credit?" she says. "Use the carrot instead of the stick."
"Isn't that like giving a prize for putting up flags?"
"Did you cheat on your income tax this year?"
"You are changing the subject!"
"I always cheat on my income tax!"
"Will you never learn? Last year we were audited because you tried to claim Barker's
medical expenses. "
"You should be able to do that!"
"He's a dog!" (You should still be able to do that.)
"What's wrong with cheating? The fewer of my hard-earned tax dollars that the government
wastes, the better!"
"An excuse cheapskates use to cheat this great country."
"I'm some kind of cheapskate?"
"Well, you did buy those flags."
"At the Dollar Store."
"If you are saying that anyone who cheats on their income tax isn't a patriotic
Canadian, you have just eliminated a whack of patriotic Canadians."
"Not in my opinion. And that also goes for people who constantly complain about
their taxes. They should thank the gods they are fortunate enough to live in this
great country. Billions would love to trade places with them. It's people like them
that force hospitals to rely on lotteries and charity! They are just beer-commercial
patriots!" (You should never wind a Communist up.)
"So are you trying to tell me I don't love this country because I don't fit your
definition of a patriotic Canadian?"
"Well, you do donate blood."
"That's volunteerism, not patriotism!"
"No. It's patriotism. It's an individual, unpaid, act, that will never get your
smiling face in the papers or be part of some group's public relations campaign.
And it will benefit some Canadian you will never know. The long weekend is a good
time to be that way patriotic."
"You vote, give blood, don't cheat on your tax return, or moan about taxes. So I
guess that makes you the perfect Canadian patriot."
"You said it; I didn't."
"So if you're such a great Canadian, why do you spend your winters in Florida?"
(She hasn't talked to me since.)
Editor's Note: Pops McKernan is the byline of writer Patrick Harding, author of Splendiferous, which is serialized in our Regional section.