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Pondering About Nationalism Through the Prism of

Olympic Games


                                                                                    Adal Isaw


Few political issues, if any, galvanize people in a manner that mimics issues of nationalism.  This is especially true in a country where so much has been and is being paid to keep it sovereign and free. 

Nationalism is the front and center of most political issues, and, to stand against it by mere implication let alone by bold assertion is a political suicide that no political party is willing to take.  But there are exceptions to this presumed rule of politics; and quite few political parties may stand against a prevailing issue of nationalism, to commit a political suicide of the weirdest kind for convoluted reasons. 

The issue of nationalism is not that simple to describe; it is a complex concept that overlaps and subsumes most political issues.  But more than anything else, however, what makes nationalism a convoluted concept of politics is the fact that it entails a compelling power to instantly induce deep-seated human emotions. 

On one end of your human emotion, for example, nationalism may bring tears to your eyes and jubilation to your soul, while watching Ethiopian runners on TV, zooming past other runners to claim victory.  This is may be how you express your affinity, without any tangible effort that is, but nevertheless wanting more positive outcome from your country and people. 

Your jubilation at the very moment of a victory by your athletes, may be is the mask that covers your sense of wanting to see great outcome in the life cycle of your country in your life.  Your nationalist fervor under this context may be is relatively short-lived as well.  And what it may compel you to do at the end of the day may not be more than trickling down your tears over your cheeks while giggling with some form of jubilation.  You may do this alone; may be with friends and family members, and, you may not do anything else thereafter, except to talk and boast about if for a little while, or, may be for a bit longer if you can afford the time.

On another end of your human emotion, however, there is the lasting kind of nationalism that   compels you to cringe, shiver, and cry out loud after seeing your own fleshless child citizen succumbing to hunger.  It makes you wish to be everywhere to do everything you can.  Not that you have not tried this enterprise before, but wanting a bit more of everything positive, to make your country a better place to live for your child citizen.  This type of nationalism may compel you to live the rest of your life giving life to the life that was given to you by one of the kindest people on earth.  This is especially true, for instance, if you were the privileged one among the many who amply benefited from the free education that the poorest of the poorest of our people subsidized.  That subsidy might have taken food out of the mouth of the fleshless hungry child, enabling you and many others like you to learn all the way to a PhD, a Medical Doctor (MD), an Engineer, a lawyer (JD) and so on.

I guess; if the child that subsidized your education is still alive, she is by now a grown up citizen working hard to better her life; that is, after you had taken hers to have the better life that you have now. 

Tell me; how can you go to sleep knowing this truth?  How is it possible for you to turn your back on a child that was forced to pass a better life to better yours? All that I am asking while you are in the middle of savoring the wins that our Ethiopian athletes are registering, is for you to measure your nationalism—to caliber it tight and precise according to the compelling needs of Ethiopia, and to do good for the child that gave you the better life that you have now.  This may require real work and a commitment by you to go beyond the pedestrian—the lusterless day-to-day affairs of discoursing based on nationalism of the undesirable kind.

Not guilt but the preferable kind of nationalism should have made you cry aloud to help your own child citizen.  It should have made you call upon other citizens to join you, not to find comfort in each other, but to find the common thread for a long-lasting national endeavor.  You do this to better the life of your own child citizen—the child that was forced to pass a better life to better yours.  Think about it; there has to be something that you can do to better her life.  I would not say what, since you have learnt to figure that out at ease.  But among the many things that you can possibly do, to have ill will for any child of Ethiopia should not at all be one.  Go ahead; keep on pondering about nationalism through the prism of Olympic Games, and hopefully, you may end up agreeing with me on building something long-lasting for the child that gave you and me the better life that we have now.