Monday, October 30, 2006

Love & Country

No, this is not going to be a post about country music—even though love and country are two favorite themes for such.

Last night, I finished reading the next in the
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall Smith—this particular book being called In the Company Of Cheerful Ladies. The book ends with this paragraph:

“Love—that is what redeems us, that is what makes our pain and sorrow bearable—this giving of love to others, this sharing of the heart.”

This series is set in Botswana, Africa, and features the main character, Precious Ramotswe. While there are many other novels about Africa that are far better (for example
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga), I gravitate to this series because in part it resurrects for me a view of the Africa in which I grew up.

When I was growing up in Africa, I used to attend the occasional movie at a theater in Bulawayo, and my memory is that the movies, distributed from the United States, would begin with a display of the American flag and the playing of our national anthem. I always felt a cachet of pride seeing the flag streaming in the wind. Secretly, I would think, a lone American among a theater full of white Rhodesians (remember this was in the 1950s), that’s MY country. I had a cachet of pride not unlike Precious Ramotswe’s strong feelings for Botswana.

I reflect with rue how times have changed for me. These days, when I attend an event where the national
anthem is played and the flag is displayed, I am almost overwhelmed with shame. Yes, the United States is still a great country, and I still do love this country, but I am so ashamed of our bullying stance in the world. If we decide that a country should behave a certain way, why, let’s just march “over there”—wherever there is, and impose our will. A one approach to government fits all. No wonder we are increasingly reviled around the globe.

Well, what about love? The other half of this blog’s subject. Precious Ramotswe loves country and she loves the people around her. In particular, she frequently reflects on her good fortune in loving one good man. (I don’t mean to turn this blog into a comparison between me and Precious, but. . .) I have been blessed with the good fortune in loving one good man—my husband and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary a year from now. So, as I finished the book, closed it, took off my glasses, I reflected—love, that is what redeems us.

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