Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. –Theodore Roosevelt
Belonging to a country is like having a surname – it doesn’t define you personally but it gives you an identity, more than your first name alone.
Were I to not like the name my parents gave me, I could have it changed, and people do, which is perfectly acceptable. But to change my surname and to change my nationality would be quite a different matter. If I were to translocate to another country, I could adopt all the habits of that country and become a loyal citizen, but in actuality I would until the end of my days be a South African living in a foreign place. My children born there would be nationals – the country of our birth is who we are – and not just born, but also where we grew up.
So why are there disgruntled people who begrudge their fellow countryman/woman equal nationality? If I were born in a small country town, or in a big cosmopolitan city, or a rural hamlet or even in the bush or wilderness, I am neither less nor more an indigenous person than the next. I would not dream of telling you that you don’t belong here, just as I would not like you to tell me to go back to ‘where I came from’, when actually I come from the same country as you.
Part of how nations have formed is through the people that came from different countries and settled in their new adopted home. With them come new genes, new skills, new traditions. It is an ongoing dynamic among humans which began at the beginning of time. Whether my ancestors migrated here 300 years ago, 10 000 years ago, or two generations ago, this is my home.
With the way people have evolved, there is no possible way to unravel the knitting of who we are today, into separate origins. Perhaps you could do this very broadly from an historical point of view, but the “origins” of a person and also a nation are like a tapestry. Unravel or remove some of the threads and you will lose the picture.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I do want to own up to being worried about how we as South Africans do or do not cherish what we have – our history, our science, our music, our culture, our natural resources….our future. Instead of bickering about who invented what and whose technology is entitled to being preferred and practiced, let us take stock of what we have and fall silent in our awe and gratitude.
Thankfulness, no matter who you are, is a very good state of mind.