A wee bit of nationalism

I'm finishing re-reading Samuel Huntington's Who are We? for an article I'm working on and had a rather odd reaction. Before I knew it, I was overcome by a raging torrent of nationalism sweeping over me. Soon after, I was attempting to tear down the American flag waving outside my local library (the nearest American flag that I could find) though my attempts to replace it with my nation's flag was also thwarted by a couple of police officers who reckoned I was trying to fly a pennant and just laughed at my efforts. Despite my repeated attempts to call them fascist pigs of the imperialist world order who wouldn't recognise a unique and unusual flag when it hit them on the nose (though I didn't actually hit them on the nose), they merely told me to go home. Let me tell you this would never happen in my home country. I'd have been arrested and chucked in jail and never heard from again. Americans! No wonder Dr Sam is worried about the core culture being diluted. I guess I don't have to tell you where these police officers were probably from.

Being denied the satisfaction of having my flag proudly fluttering in the breeze outside an institution of learning (the flag is the highest symbol of nationalism, says Dr Sam), I decided to sing my national anthem instead. I did get to the second line before I realised I'd actually forgotten the rest. National anthem-singing is not compulsory even in public schools and I didn't actually go to school in my homeland until the sixth grade. Another childhood deprivation to think on and another reason to shed a tear for that tiny bit of nationalist sentiment I shall never be able to get back now. Oh, Dr Sam, you were so right when you talked of how important it is to have children recognise and believe in the American Creed. Without a Creed of my own, I will probably suffer throughout my life. My life, as a nationalist patriot, will never be complete.

Getting back to the anthem, since sixth grade, I was in a Catholic school so I realised that while I couldn't remember the majority of my anthem, I could recite the Lord's prayer as well as the one we had to say while taking the bus home. This involved praying for the bus's safety. I think this one actually worked though one of our drivers died when I was in 8th grade so I guess the driver was not covered in the prayer policy. The words of the rest of the national anthem however remained sadly elusive. Did it ask citizens to populate the mountains with children or was it with animals? I couldn't quite remember. I also found out that people in the DC suburb where I live have a remarkably high tolerance for a girl standing outside Giant supermarket and singing (and muttering) in a foreign language. People looked at me and walked away.

So, no national anthem either. As I walked away from Giant, I thought about recent mentions of my country in the news and had a moment of (quiet this time since I was now walking towards my apartment and this involves passing numerous other apartments and it was nearly midnight) pride about how we had managed to revive a formerly forgotten and scorned ideology. It's all about how us folks can't keep a good idea down. It's not just Communism and Maoism we have managed to bring back from the brink of disaster (take that, "the former USSR"! here's to you, old man Mao!
East Germany: what were you thinking? That's why you needed Goodbye Lenin, mates!) but also Absolute Monarchy and intense surveillance of citizens. By the way, I have to say this: George, old chap, you were decades off the mark. Really.

As Dr Sam winds down his book with views on how Anglo-Saxon culture is being eroded in America leading to questioning of national identity, I realise my people know who we are: short, mountain climbers; zen buddhists who live in monastries; poverty-stricken villagers who manage to be quaint and cheerful; power-hungry monarchs (well, just one since the others were knocked off); middle-class liberals; a Liverpool-supporting student and even a wide variety of non-human elements. Unlike America, where Dr Sam wilfully ignores the glorious bald eagles (those that remain), the newly-born panda cubs and the native animal and plant populations to concentrate on people , my country knows well who we are. We are inclusive. We do not write people-centred books (I'm not sure we, the country that is, even writes books. But, even if it did, it'd write inclusive books. Rather like the Wiggles in book form). The national airlines even has our beloved Yeti (flying is not one of the Yeti's skills) as its mascot.


At 1/12/2006 8:11 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

DOn't you know that Huntington is meant to be read in very small doses? That way you can think hard about his statements and place them properly in their theoretical context.

At 1/12/2006 11:16 PM, Blogger Priya said...

I now realise though that I am one of those assimilated people that Huntington praises: after all, I was born in a foreign country and am yet extolling my (newer) nation's virtues. In Huntingtonian terms, I'd be an assimilationist, not an advocate of those wishy-washy multiculturalism or bilingualism since my loyalty is to Nepal, even though I wasn't born there. Oh, and also my capacity to understand the "language of birth" is minimal, further showing how much I've assimilated (no bilingualism here, no sir!). The things one can do with Huntington.

At 1/19/2006 11:10 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Except you're here, which runs afoul of the "Damn Farners are Ruinin' Our Country" article from last year's FP.


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