Two days after my last post, the daily prompt is “I Pledge Allegiance”. Very funny. The question: “Are you patriotic, and what is patriotism to you”.
(08-30-2013, updated 07-15-2018) It has never meant one country that I love above all others. When I lived in Australia, I couldn’t wait to go back to the Netherlands, because my grandfather, who was a teacher, told me that in the Netherlands teachers go to jail if they hit a child. When I lived in the Netherlands, I loved school, and I loved my jobs later on, but I felt that Holland was flat and boring. I looked forward to going to Great Britain every summer to hike in the mountains. Now I realize that I didn’t know the meaning of flat and boring until I moved to the Rio Grande Valley.
And I didn’t fully understand beforehand what it means–psychologically–to have to write a check when you go to the doctor. The Dutch social safety net is one of the best in the world. Sure, it’s being tightened a bit at the moment, but it’s still one of the best. In general, education is good in Western Europe, but service is much better in America. And yes, it does have more ice cubes and cupholders.
America has inconceivably vast areas of drop-dead gorgeous wild land, but wild camping in Great Britain is better; apart from midges, there is no wildlife to worry about and you won’t get shot for trespassing on private property. In fact, most landowners accommodate hikers with stiles for getting over the stone walls dividing meadows.
I wouldn’t mind living in Great Britain for a while, were it not for the plumbing and the infuriatingly bureaucratic attitudes of public transport personnel. I would love to go back to Australia some day. I know I’d feel a nostalgic connection to the land and it would be fun to revisit the places I lived more than forty years ago. But I wouldn’t call it patriotism. There are lots of countries I wouldn’t mind living for a year or so, like Vietnam. I’ve never experienced the laid-back simplicity of life in South-east Asia or the beauty of Eastern-European countries like the Czech Republic.
When I hear the word “country”, I suppose I think of the distinctive cultures, of the common characteristics of the people, and of the landscapes. The only time I ever cried when I left a country was when I stood on deck of the ferry from Dover to Rotterdam after my first visit to England. It had been love at first sight, and watching those white cliffs recede in the distance physically hurt. A year seemed an unbearably long time to wait to go back.
I do feel–and I probably always will–that the Netherlands is my home, but I wouldn’t pledge allegiance to any flag.
What is patriotism to me? I associate it with flag-waving, national anthems, claiming to be proud to be a certain nationality. I don’t relate to any of that. I’ve written in previous posts how I feel about flag-waving, the pledge of allegiance and nationalistic songs–I associate that kind of stuff with the Hitler Youth. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I certainly don’t feel proud to be Dutch. I could just as easily have been born in Australia, if my parents had had the sense to emigrate to Australia in the ’50s instead of in 1965. Being Dutch is not an accomplishment, just a matter of geographic circumstance. Having said all this, I will celebrate with an extra beer when the Dutch soccer team wins from the Germans! And that beer would be a Heineken or a Grolsch.
So that’s my roundabout personal patriotism definition.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “I Pledge Allegiance — No, This Is Not the Same Post”, 08-30-2013)
Header image: http://newglobalindian.com/articles-and-views/politics/2531