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Side by side

Nicole Dyer Griffith MA Thursday, March 16 2017

A few weeks ago, I attended a sport-based event, and as I exited my vehicle, the National Anthem started playing, signifying the start of the event. I stood at attention, as one would expect, and looked on as a few other adults passed by walking, and chatting nonchalantly, some even with their children in tow. As I remained in the stationary position, at attention, I began to ponder on the levels of respect we held for our nationhood.

I have often been asked about the rules and pertinent actions related to the respect to be given to our national emblems, and I have written on this in previous articles. This more recent experience however, made me recall that perhaps we need to be reminded of the role of civics in the development of our national consciousness. Each day, before our very eyes we are seeing the stripping away of the appreciation and understanding, not only of our nationhood, but also our culture, our observances, and much of what makes us uniquely ‘Trinbagonian’.

This sentiment extends to more than simply a lack of recognition of our National Anthem by a few. I am reminded, as a child, born into the Roman Catholic faith, and raised in a multicultural environment, I was privileged to have lived between a temple and a mosque, where each observance and each festival was fully experienced and shared with all, and by all. I recall understanding the importance of the call to prayer, and at the same time, appreciating and participating with friends and family in the colourful spectacle called, Phagwa. I recall during the time of Divali, the streets were lined with multitudes of participants, spectators, and everyone in between, because we were all part of this experience. It was more than an observance of one segment of society. Similar to other festivals and observances like, Christmas, Eid-Ul-Fitr, Siparia Mai, Hosay, among others. I remember when every observance was as important as the other to everyone, and there was participation by all. I am certain, many readers can attest to this experience, simply because this is what we knew.

I write, because when I speak of cross culturalism and cultural fusion, I often speak of our reality in Trinidad and Tobago. However, I am finding our reality shifting from what would have been considered a solid example of a unique ‘melting pot’. I am noticing a tangible separation and segregation of the various religious and cultural practices, with visible dwindling attendance and sharing in these experiences by the general population. The uniqueness of Trinidad and Tobago will always be the ease with which we are able to appreciate and participate in each other’s experiences, and sometimes adopt them as our own. If we do not pointedly and deliberately work at building on the historically strong platform upon which these experiences were developed, we will be at risk of birthing a generation sans the authenticity of the ‘melting pot’ experience.

The silver lining to this piece lies in the conversation I overheard between a parent and child at the event I was visiting. The child asked the parent, “Daddy, why were the other people standing whilst we were walking to the gate?” The father’s response, “They were standing because the National Anthem was being played, and you must stand at attention when you hear it playing.” The child’s next question logically followed, “Then how come we did not stand at attention?”

In order to appreciate and understand the importance of nationhood, with its symbols, statements, cultural practices, norms and mores, we must value who and what we are, our history and our journey. We must do more in whatever way we can to protect and preserve the good that makes us great.



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