Monday, November 7, 2011

Georgia: It's Our Country

Yesterday, when we were at Uplistsikhe, the cave city outside Gori, a student asked me if I liked it, and I replied that I did. Then I asked her, "Do you like it?"

She said, "Of course. It's our country."

I appreciated her response for two reasons. One, I love when Georgians say "of course." They pronounce it in a melodic and stretched-out way that is charming, especially in the usual context which means, "Of course [it's good/we do it/you like it] because [it is/we are] Georgian!"

Two, I love the student's internalized pride in her country. This pride resides in every Georgian I've met. Georgians love their history, traditions, language, dance, music, art, food, wine, beer, home villages, and the beauty of their country's natural resources.

Americans who can't mention the U.S. without inserting a disparaging remark about their country or the crassness of their fellow citizens who travel abroad make my ass tired.

Americans who are unthinkingly "patriotic" about all that is American do the same. Such Americans express their patriotism in terms that reflect fear or hostility. There's always a domestic or foreign Other to rail against.  The "love it or leave it" belligerence. It is a negative pride.

Georgians' expression of pride comes from a positive assurance that, of course it's good if it's Georgian, everybody in the world already knows that!

(This doesn't mean Georgians are blind to things that are dysfunctional within their society. It is possible to have a frank conversation with Georgians about past and present challenges in Georgian culture.)

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