Loving one’s country – inner pride or outer attire?

Loving one’s country – inner pride or outer attire?

The inside out perspective

The other day, I came across an interesting article by a Romanian journalist (Lucian Mandruta, Romeo, Punkt.md), tackling this subject with an ironically driven, open-minded attitude from an inside-out perspective: Loving Romania is like the Romeo and Juliet story, he mentions, a little riskybecause you never know which of the two families will come at you.
The Romanians seem to have this oxymoronic tendency to love and hate their country at the same time, flavoured by a fatalistic vision about their own future, with an ambitious quest to find redemption under the roofs of others, rather than under their own.
Whenever I visit my country from abroad, my co-nationals complain about the same things with the same monotone diatribe Ive been hearing for the past 10 years: nothing works in our country, it must be better where you live.
Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side. I would name it curiosity, while in their minds its already an assertion. Still, dancing with wolves doesnt necessarily imply Kevin Costner in the ritual. This would be more a matter of Hollywood and its encapsulating dreams.
What happened to the idyllic Latin island in a Slavic ocean? What has become of the little Paris, once a cluster of culture and art in the 30s, nowadays famous for the street holes, or often mistaken for Budapest, the neighbouring capital? Has loving our own country really become an optional convenience? Patriotism no longer seems to be an inner pride, rather an optional attire to put on, now and then. To suffer less from the eventual loss, they found an excuse: globalization.

The outside in perspective

A while ago, I was flying on the Berlin-Munich route and, on board, I was skimming through the informative magazine, distributed in thousands of copies on the national and international flights. An interesting article, written by famous intercultural analysts absorbed my attention. It was about Dos and donts in the international business world. The article also referred to Romania. Wow, it must have become an important trading country I was thinking, with my doubt out loud.

As much as I expected the well-known stigmatic stereotypes about my country, I was bewildered to read: Dont: when in a business conversation with a Romanian, dont get offended if your partner constantly answers his/her mobile phone. Hmm, the Romanians have become the impolite business partners of the 21st century. Id rather they had stated: When in Romania, bring your garlic along.

In the past 10 years of travels through Italy, France and Germany, I was confronted with the same biased images or innuendoes about my country: gipsies, Dracula, homeless children, vanguard dogs and the Securitate tales, some of which were really whopping. Nobody seemed to know much about the uniqueness of a Voronet, an Infinite Column, a Happy Graveyard, a Porumbescus ballad, the rich folk dances and the kindness of a people with traditional upbringing.
I never had much chance to actually present my country because I had to deal more with defensive pleas in front of an ever changing jury, rather than to share cultural diversities, on a one-on-one level.
It took me a long time to reassure my ex parents-in-law that my childhood had not been endangered, that the best winter holidays were actually spent in the countryside at our grandparents house, where the goodies were already bio at no extra cost, and where, in the lack of ready-made do-it-all dolls and 3D video games, we invented our own toys, the way we wanted to. That we read more than we watched TV and that we had broad views to shape our dreams, without already preconfigured fantasies by computer games and simulations. Yet, this would be another topic about traditions and globalization to develop on a different occasion.

And the final apparel?

A bold and picturesque campaign focused on positive thinking, intended for national and international display and initiated by deceiubescromania.com printed a few names promoting the values of our country: Coanda, Nastase, Comaneci, Paulescu and Odobleja (aeronautics, sports, medicine and computer technology excellence). Its a very nice initiative and at least one bold step forward, yet it hardly envisages the uniqueness of the Romanian culture and enrooted traditions. While looking at one of them, a big green poster with a huge tennis ball on the side, I was puzzled: how will I ever be able to describe, from abroad, my country and its valuesthrough the symbol of a tennis ball? Whats love (for a country) got to do with it?

Ads for beauty creams promise miracles from the surface to the depths of the skin, yet the real beauty starts from within and bursts to the outer finish. The Romanians seem to be confused about the attire they would put on to please their visiting guests, or to display while they are abroad. They long for affection elsewhere, while they have forgotten to love themselves right there, where they belong. How about keeping our roots alive to explore our inner resources and unravel a unique identity in the present modern world? How about not expecting the extraordinary, instead just being it? The best attire entails the fastening sewing within. We have the surface through our virgin landscapes and we have the ingredients the intelligence. Lets hold on to our hearts: the essence of what we are about. And love will emerge.

(Written on the occasion of Romania National Day, commemorating the “Great Union” Day: the unification of Transylvania to the country. Photo Credits: www.econnect-usa.com. December, 1st, 2011)

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