This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Monday, November 11, 2013

God Bless America... I mean Zambia!

I took this picture in June 2011 at the Iwo Jima Memorial
(officially known as The Marine Corp War Memorial)
just outside the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
This sculpture is massive and took several years to complete.

Two years ago, as we always do, the world and his dog followed the election in the United States closely. One of the things that fascinates me about America is that they seem overly enamoured with themselves, election or none. While it is shocking to observe how much they hate each other politically and that the health of the economy and welfare of human beings is inconsequential to one’s party coming out on top, in one thing, they are steadfastly united: they believe in the idea of America. They may disagree on how this ideal should be applied in different areas, and boy oh boy do they disagree, but they love their country. A good example is to observe the behaviour of Zambians versus Americans when they are at a function and hear the familiar tune of their national anthem. This is how Zambians react - with indifference. It is tedious to have to sing it and usually a child or school choir or lone muggins is given the chore of singing the national anthem while the rest of us a quarter-heartedly (half-heartedly is too generous) mumble a phrase or two. Contrast this with our friends across the Atlantic. I attended a ceremony a few years ago and witnessed the American colleagues singing the their national anthem while bursting with pride, standing ramrod straight and with their hands on their hearts because they meant it.

"My Country Tis of Thee..."

I know a lady that was invited to attend the dedication of the ‘new’ US Embassy building in 2011. She came back bemused that the dedicating prayer took 45 minutes. Forty-five Minutes to pray over a building. Why? Because it is not just a building to them, it is a small part of their nation right here in Lusaka. Last year or whenever it was that Whitney Houston died (my apologies to the fans), a lot was said about her performance of the national anthem at the 1992 Superbowl. I watched the video and then I decided to read the words of the national anthem. I felt that I kind of understood something about what they were going through. The song or poem or hymn is about the flag – the star spangled banner. It is about what it represents. It talks about the fact that in the morning after the bombs had burst throughout the night, he looks for the flag and it is still there as a symbol of hope.

Barack's Crib, aka The White House

So is this only an American thing? No. I have an Aunt married to a Tanzanian. Over Christmas she visited with my cousins. The youngest about two years old, was always singing a song whose main lyrics were Tanzania over and over. I asked my aunt if this was the national anthem and she said no. It is a patriotic song that is taught in pre-schools. Now I am not saying that this automatically makes people care about their country, but have you noticed how countries that systematically indoctrinate their citizens behave toward their country and the idea of their nation? Anyone who has studied in China or Japan or Cuba can attest to this. Similarly, anyone with friends or relatives with children in the US will tell you how disconcerting the indoctrination is, it begins at pre-school. How many people in Zambia can recite the US Declaration of Independence just because you have heard it countless times in movies and TV shows? You probably don’t even realise that you know the words.

This thing is huge!

Read what prompted this reflection on 'Amrika' here.

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