UPDATE: Well, crap. I think Pacifica just blew this post out of the water with her comment below.
In the series The Vikings, Rollo becomes a Christian (see below). Afterwards, his Viking companion Floki reproves his abandonment of the gods of the Vikings. Rollo protests that it was just a joke and he wasn’t serious. So is Rollo a Christian or not? Floki says that the Viking gods didn’t think it was much of joke. The attitude of Floki harkens to an ancient view that oaths made before men and gods are serious business, and one cannot enter into them casually or lightheartedly. For him, this baptism is no joke but a formal and solemn oath, a clear change of allegience.
A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality—2) taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, after having attained the age of eighteen years;
Now it is unlikely that a person claiming the singing of “O Canada” as an expatriating act will easily persuade a US State Department official. However, I would argue that it is, that a person could indeed claim the singing of “O Canada” as an expatriating. Many border babies have been trapped in a situation in which they have not had to swear an oath to the Queen of Canada because they either were born Canadian citizens or they became naturalized citizens before the age of 18. Yet it is unlikely that any Canadian citizen has never had an occasion to sing “O Canada”.
The singing of “O Canada” is a formal affirmation of allegiance for the following reasons:
(1) It is the officially recognized National Anthem of Canada. Upon swearing my oath to the Queen, we immediately sang “O Canada” in both French and English. When it is sung, it often serves to make an event more solemn and formal, e.g., a hockey match.
(2) People sing it in front of witnesses. Likely, other people saw me actually singing “O Canada” at the Georgetown Rotary Club on Saturday evening.
(3) Body posture is important. While we don’t put our hands on our hearts here in Canada when we sing, we do take off our hats (gents) and turn towards a Canadian flag if one is present.
(4) The words of the song presuppose sole allegiance to Canada. True Patriot love indicates something which is undivided with the love of another country, including the United States. We sing that we will defend Canada, and this means against any invader, even if it is the United States. This is our duty as Canadians, and we should take it as seriously as did General Isaac Brock who sacrificed his own life defending Canada. This is a potentially expatriating act in and of itself.
(5) It is common to sing “O Canada” as a regular part of school curriculum in Canada, to inculcate a love of country in Canadian youth. This means that it is a formal aspect of Canadian nationalism and thus teaches the exclusivity of Canada’s role as protector.
(6) “O Canada” is in lyric and verse, and the intention of this poetical form is to aid memorization and to stress its solemnity in formal situations.
(7) “O Canada” invokes God. Thus, it follows a very ancient form of an oath, which calls on a god or gods to help or to act as a witness. Webster’s dictionary, for example, states that an oath is “a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says … “
Perhaps we overlooked the singing of “O Canada” as a formal declaration of allegience because it is so common. It is the 400 lb gorilla in the room. But just because it is such a common occurrence in Canada does not mean it is not a formal declaration of allegiance. It is indeed a formal oath before God of exclusive allegiance to Canada, and I mean it every time I sing it, even if Stephen Harper doesn’t.
Now, the only other really important aspect of this formal affirmation of allegience is whether the person sings it with the intention of relinquishing US citizenship. Look in your heart and ask yourself if you ever sang “O Canada” and really meant it. Or did you sing it like Rollo, with no intention of being an exclusive defender of Canada? If you did mean it, rejoice! For you are not a US citizen–at least under the correct spirit of the meaning of US law.