O Canada--we are sorry.
President Bush expressed it so well Tuesday in his apology, sensitively explaining on TV that the Marine honor guard in Atlanta simply blew it Sunday when it paraded with the Canadian flag held upside down. And he admitted that if such a mistake had been made with the U.S. flag at a Canadian ballpark, Americans too would have gone nuts.
His apology notwithstanding, frenzied fans in Toronto's SkyDome waved little U.S. flags Tuesday night--upside down, naturally. Touche, we suppose, but thoughtful Canadians might use the Atlanta incident to reflect not so much on a regrettable error by a few red-faced Americans as on Canada's own troubled national situation.
After all, the maple-leaf flag is a symbol of that nation's would-be unity. But next week Canadians will have an opportunity to give that unity less respect than that color guard: In an extraordinary national referendum, Canadians will get to vote, up or down, on a new constitutional arrangement negotiated by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the 10 premiers of Canada's feisty and sometimes-centrifugal provinces.
That accord, reached Aug. 28 in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, sought to smooth out long-simmering regional, cultural and linguistic differences that have threatened to break up the nation.
To be sure, arguing about constitutional arrangements sometimes seems an even more popular pastime in Canada than baseball, despite the Toronto Blue Jays' towering popularity right now. But Prime Minister Mulroney, who supports the accord and urges a "yes" vote, is unpopular, and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, enjoying a bit of a comeback, advocates a big fat "no."
If the voters do that, that will be a more enduring black mark than anything a fumbling color guard could do. We applaud the presence of the Blue Jays in the World Series--and hope all their fans will vote for unity. Otherwise Canada could find itself far more upside-down than that flag.