The biggest question I get asked is ” Where are you from?” Which always harbors an annoying debate of whether that means that by default where you are born is where you are from ( even if you only spent six years of your life there) or where you grew up.
My problem is not that I have any qualms to say where I am from, but that mot people have some qualms on telling me that I am NOT from this place or that or I AM from this place or that.
When I grew up, I was forced to recite the salvadorean anthem, but was told I could not put my hand on my heart because it was not my country. When I went to college, most people could not believe I did not know the american anthem or that I did not know the names of the American states, even though I went to a British school in a salvadorean country and was brought up by my Scottish mother. In England, I was asked constantly why I had an American accent.
The constant questioning gets tiresome, but I only jot it down to people being curious. I never understood patriotism, and instilling exteme love for our country vs other countries. My American relatives would someties tell me ” America is the best country in the world, it has the most freedom, opportunities, etc”.
Some people express that certain countries are barbaric, or are ” third world” and therefore poor and violent.
We grow up in a world that constantly erects fences between countries, between our homes, between races and cultures. Our educational system teaches us half truths which do not give us the whole story, and this makes us paranoid about some unknown ” other”.
Around the world, certain countries are ” ideal” whereas others are not so idyllic. When I say, I live in Europe, people light up and want to know more, but when I say a third world country I get some looks of confusion.
We seem to think that marks of land somehow makes us who we are, and in some ways it might. But it also blinds us to knowing that behind those barriers are other ways of doing things, other lives, but they are all human. Somewhere along the line, we lose this sense by marking what passport we have.
I wonder why we have to think , at the cost of other nations, that somehow we are better than others , we are more beautiful, we are more ideal.
Extreme love of one’s own country I don’t believe leads to anything but blinding ourselves to what other places have to offer. It gives us a distinct sense of self inflicted isolation.
In El Salvador, the opposite happens. Most people I know , when asked , do not have much of an answer to say about what there is to love about El Salvador. This notion has also bled into the high level of pollution, violence and other sociological problems. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, if we believe that a place is no good, then we treat it as such.
I think that there has to be a balance between all this extreme nationalism and the extreme self loathing of a place. It comes from trying to celebrate the uniqueness that each place has to offer, and trying for everyone to succeed together.
But I guess if we cannot achieve even a neighborhood to become united in a common purpose, it is even hard to envision a world without barriers between countries.
There is beauty everywhere, and there is laughter, and also pain and suffering too. But if we choose to turn our eyes away from it we will never see it for what it is.