UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of Penguin Books

True Patriot Love

Liberal leader believes in the brand of patriotism expressed in our national anthem

By Lee Simpson

True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada
By Michael Ignatieff
Viking Canada ($30)

Opening a book, we decide, consciously or otherwise, the filter through which we will read it. As Observer readers, those who select Michael Ignatieff’s True Patriot Love may feel torn between perusing it as

citizens of Canada or as followers of the United Church brand of the Christian faith. Don’t fret: Ignatieff, playing it safe, unveils little of himself.

Less biography and more a portrait of Ignatieff’s influential ancestors, this book draws on material of public record and includes very few personal stories. We are introduced to his maternal great-grandfather, Rev. George Munro Grant (principal of Queen’s University, influencer of prime ministers), and his grandfather William Lawson Grant (soldier, principal of Upper Canada College).

Then we meet Ignatieff’s uncle, George Parkin Grant, a conservative political philosopher. Interestingly, Ignatieff fails to identify Grant as a theologian whose principles are founded not only on a mantle of privileged patriotism, but also on a well-examined belief system. From his Second World War pacifism and his Vietnam War anti-Americanism to his deeply principled and unpopular stand against abortion, Grant said what he believed. And he believed in God and a future with God. He was much less certain about Canada, as he revealed in his book Lament for a Nation.

What Ignatieff leaves out about his uncle is significant. There must have been many meetings between the two; Ignatieff tells only of an eccentric Grant diminished by age. He wants us to know he shares neither Grant’s out-of-sync-with-the-times attitude to abortion, nor his pessimism about Canada’s future. Ignatieff carefully dismisses Grant’s conservatism, leaving the reasons for it unexamined.

But what is it that Ignatieff believes? The truth may lie in the title, True Patriot Love. Ignatieff believes in the brand of patriotism expressed in our national anthem.

What else? We are left with the sense that although Ignatieff bears an enormous burden of familial, historical and personal expectations, it is otherwise easy being Michael. But can a man with such complex intellectual acuity and obvious ambition be so easily summarized? Or is it that, as a potential prime minister, he doesn’t want us to see him sweat?

By the end of this book, there is little that will assist us in making voting decisions, either as Canadians or as Christians.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image