Returning Home I: Redefining Patriotism
Just in case you missed the excitement, let me repeat myself: I’M GOING HOME!
*Insert wide smile here*
Then here, insert a wobbly unsure smile.
Why? Because as much as my whole being longs for home, my head is smart and hosts no delusions. I know the reasons I had to leave in the first place, and the reason a lot of others fight to leave on a daily basis. I know of the adjustments to be made upon return which are diplomatically labeled “Returnee Culture Shock”. I know I’ll miss the fast internet connection and the ease of ordering books and having them delivered to your front door. I am also fully aware that returning means starting anew at seeking employment, and probably frustrating attempts at beginning a new career. We all know the reality of life back home.
Yes, I’m happy, but scared. Eager but anxious too. And it’s alright to feel all of that and more simultaneously.
What I feel above all else though, is brave.
Recently social media was buzzing- some in outrage and others in applause- over the word brave being used to describe Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner. Those who were outraged by it put up photos of war veterans who had lost an arm or leg, soldiers on peace missions in war zones. They pointed out that those patriotic people were the brave ones, not Jenner. I’ll neither agree nor disagree with either group, but the debate led me to musing on just what it means to be brave and/or patriotic.
Thinking about it led me to this saying:
Similarly bravery and patriotism aren’t always found in the daring, fearsome things we may do (in my opinion it is rarely found in picking up a weapon on command). Rather, as this year away from home has shown me, most times bravery and patriotism is to be found in the ordinary, those regular choices we make that speak of self-determination and identity.
Bravery is in choosing to venture into a country you do not know, have no one in, in search of a better life.
And patriotism is in remembering home all the way.
There is bravery in taking yourself so far out of your comfort zone, and there’s patriotism in every journey you make back despite the cost, despite the hassle because you know despite the condition of the soils back home, your root are anchored there.
There is bravery in believing in the future of your nation and acting on that belief; as there is patriotism in every time you answer that ignorant westerner and school them on what being a Cameroonian/ African really is.
As I go home, I want to acknowledge the bravery of the average diasporan, who plays the role of an ambassador daily representing a nation wherever they are. Who takes risks elsewhere, some good some bad, because their country couldn’t give them what they needed.
I also want to recognize the patriotism of the returnees who are increasing daily. Who with the knowledge they’ve derived elsewhere return to invest back home, make their own little corner shine, contribute their own development effort. Those are my patriots.
I want to appreciate the patriotism of Cameroonians I have come to know this year. While we may not write “Proudly Cameroonian” on everything and though a lot of us would disparage our underdevelopment rather than recognize and work towards the promise of better, there is need to appreciate those who have and who are.
So I may be going home happy and scared at the same time; scared that I believe too much in the possibilities, hope too much. But still I’m going home with joy because my faith in fatherland outweighs the fears. If that’s not patriotism I don’t know what is.