One of the noticeable aspects of cultural differences is the way in which we commemorate national holidays. This was clearly evident when I read my usual news websites, which gave details of the various rallies that were held to commemorate Freedom Day yesterday (27 April 2010). And I won't be too surprised if in the next few days there will be at least one letter or statement bemoaning the fact that certain population groups are "unpatriotic" for not attending such commemorations.
But for me it's not a question of patriotism, but culture. For instance, I consider myself to be a patriotic South African (note that "patriotism" or "loyalty" does not mean one is uncritical). People have asked my why, when I hold dual citizenship (I'm British by birth; South African by naturalisation), I chose to remain in South Africa when I have the option of emigrating to Britain. The answer is - I love this country. After living here for nearly 36 of the 41 years I have walked this earth, I consider myself to be South African.
However, there are a number of reasons why I did not attend any of the rallies yesterday. The first one is the same reason why I did not go to Angus Buchan's "Mighty Men" gathering the other week - I don't do crowds. Even the Easter services were uncomfortable for me, not because the whole thing was in Zulu (in our church you learn to live with worshipping in a different language), but because gathering together with thousands of people is not my idea of fun!
Secondly, I don't particularly enjoy being castigated for how I supposedly benefited under apartheid, somehow owe the world a living because of my skin colour, and the like - and that is how political rallies in South Africa in the 21st century tend to turn out. No thanks - I've had quite enough of being told that, whatever I do to try to make a contribution to the New SA, it will never be enough because my skin is simply not dark enough.
But thirdly - and this is the main reason - Freedom Day happens to also be my son's birthday, and so I celebrated James' 12th birthday (and SA's 16th) by spending the day with my family, making it an extra-special "boys' day" and staying as far away from political mouthpieces as possible.
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