Calgary Stampede ranch girls hold the Canadian flag for the Canadian National Anthem , sung only in english with no french in Calgary, Alberta on July 10,2012
Credits: STUART DRYDEN/CALGARY SUN/QMI AGENCY
It's the safest bet in the city. Of course, they cave.
They don't need the aggravation. They take the path of least resistance. This is no hill to die on.
In no time at all, they bail, pushing the Are You Happy Now? button.
The nation, apparently, can rest easy.
And the rest of the country presumably will now take us to the collective Canadian bosom and not shun us as unrepentant rednecks.
We will not be the ultimate criminals against what official Canada sees as good and evil, unworthy souls against the measure of what is correct.
So the story goes. Enlightenment abounds. There is no more English-only O Canada.
The Stampede hustled Tuesday to record the national anthem in both official languages, to be played and sung before the chuckwagon races.
Oddly, at the Stampede rodeo it will remain an English-only O Canada.
Guess the cowboys and their fans are beyond the pale, unsavable in their incorrectness. The Stampede says the artist who performs the anthem on any given day goes with what they know and feel comfortable singing.
This story is a curious one.
Unlike other yarns where an injustice is uncovered, outrage goes into a high-temperature orbit and the authorities are forced to bend the knee, this time the masses in the Stampede Grandstand or on the streets of Calgary aren't banging on the door demanding anything.
As the Stampede tells it, last Thursday and Friday they rolled out a "non-traditional" bilingual rendition of O
Canada whose arrangement was "complex" and "embellished."
People didn't like it. Early reports said folks complained. They wanted to be able to show their patriotism and sing along.
It's still fuzzy on exactly how much push-back was about the anthem being half in French and how much was about it being a hip but hard-to-follow version, a tune individuals never learned in grade school.
Whatever. On Saturday, the Stampede records a traditional English-only offering and replaces the botched-up presentation of the anthem.
It is a busy opening weekend and the Stampede says it is the quickest route to go.
The English-only O Canada holds fast through Saturday, Sunday and Monday with little stir from the public.
Then a news report hits the street Tuesday. Gadzooks, bilingual Batman! There is no French in the anthem.
Newshounds try to gather opposition. They sweat and fret. What will central Canada think? What will Quebec think? Inhabitants there already consider us backwoods bozos fit only for cutting cheques.
Alas, there is precious little argy-bargy except from the usual suspects. A Montreal keyboard puncher talks about the redneck fringe. Yawn.
Calling local politicians, you either get people who won't touch the story or you score responses close to the pulse of many in the body politic.
Andre Chabot is an alderman who sits on the Stampede board. He speaks French and has belted out O Canada in that tongue.
"Suck it up, Buttercup," says Chabot, not translating his remarks into Canada's other official language.
"This is Calgary. Almost everything we do is in English. Most people refer to things in English. That's the reality of where we are."
Rob Anderson, a frontbencher with the opposition Wildrose Party, is quick with his retort.
"What is this, Anthemgate? Look at a map. We're in Alberta not Quebec. We sing the anthem in English."
The legion of voices of dissent and dismay do not exist except in the fear of the possible. Where once we rolled over like a heifer in a ditch when there was actual anger in the east, now the mere possibility of it is enough.
In a few hours it is done. The Stampede say they've had time to catch their breath. They don't want to offend. They're sorry. They played the anthem in French and English in the past. They will play it in French and English from now on.
They stop just short of sackcloth and ashes. They like Quebec. They love Quebec. Their affection for Quebec is, in their own words, "undying." If Quebec en masse could come to Calgary, everyone would get a corn dog. Bonhomme would hug Harry the Horse.
The Stampede tried something new. It didn't work. A new bilingual O Canada is happening faster than a flapjack coming to life on a pancake breakfast grill. Promise.
The Stampede's Kurt Kadatz says there were very few e-mails and phone calls of complaint before the news report. Criticism was "really light." Even after the news broke there were maybe 20 calls and e-mails on the topic, with a mixed response.
"This isn't French versus English," he insists.
"We did this because it was the right thing to do. We are a national icon."
The script is complete. It is the easy way out.