Patriotism is defined as love, devotion and attachment to one’s homeland. My literary contributions to this journal (EABJ) have always focused on economy related issues pertaining to the country and with Somalia facing extremely adverse conditions such as famine which take precedence, it may seem ill-timed to write such a piece. However, I see this as precisely the perfect opportunity because of our extreme uphill battle towards success that we cultivate the spirit of patriotism as a major tool for national development. That we are the generation that recognizes and creates a positive link between constructive patriotism and economic development.
The first step to being patriotic is to love your country by being proud of your origin and your homeland. I remember one of my essays for graduate school was to articulate why I wanted to go to the most global public policy school (Columbia University’s SIPA). So naturally my essay was centered around my definition of a global citizen. While writing this, I discovered that being global is not a culture or a nationality – nor is it a substitute. The reason why it feels void and most people sense an identity crisis looming is because it is precisely having your feet in so many places – that displaces you. I am fortunate enough to speak five languages fluently and have lived in many countries; however, that doesn’t give me my identity. My identity is the one given to me by my parents who are Somali. That is the one I should claim – that in fact needs my claim. Although they will always compliment you on how well you speak their language - Italians don’t really want you to claim them; especially if you’re black and Muslim. It’s logical to claim American identity until they subtly remind you of your race and religion as other constantly. That’s when I realized it became clear that the identity issues of my generation stemmed partly from not being patriotic. That just like everything else, identity was a choice. Who could blame my generation? There was war, destitution and despair. There is sabotaging politics and stagnating tribalism without intellectual reason which most of us do not fully comprehend and at this point it serves no purpose to perpetuate tribal politics. So it's easier to identify as global - 'I grew up here,' 'I live here,' until you're reminded of where you are from when the persistent 'but where are you from...originally' keeps forthcoming. The truism of this realization allowed me to understand that claiming your identity gives importance to your homeland. It is a patriotic duty to value our country, work on our land, cultivate and invest in our people, marry our own, and work alongside our own.
A crucial element of being patriotic is being optimistic. This is the time for optimism and trust in our intentions and our governments national development plan. We need to have a courageous level of optimism to reclaim a land that is rightfully ours. But our patriotism shouldn’t be delineated by our cultural tribes or political history. It should be a new collective patriotic front towards rebuilding, reforming, and reframing our country and our collective future.
Being patriotic means a devotion and care for one’s country. One of our reputations in the world that I am deeply proud of is that Somalis are known as astute businessmen/women and they are respected for their kindness. Somalis are some of the most generous people who give enormous amounts of money consistently to their relatives and communities. Caring manifests itself in action such as direct contribution towards development through work, employment, entrepreneurship, investment etc or caring through positive remarks, constructive criticism, and active citizenship engagement. Although not much research exists on the link between patriotism and economic development – it does have tangible effects that later contribute to economic development. For example, patriotic leadership should lower corruption levels, decrease brain drain, increase entrepreneurship and investment – all factors that directly affect economic development in a positive way. Studies have been done outlining the difference between ‘blind’ patriotism and ‘constructive’ patriotism with favorable outcomes coming from constructive patriotism where the citizens are actively engaged in their country’s policies and want to see the country move forward in the positive direction.
We can no longer sit on the sidelines with our myriads of passports and assumed safety nets abroad and watch our country from afar. For those who are able to contribute, I urge you to find a way to work with this government or private sector or establish businesses. For those who are not able to contribute, then I urge you to be optimistic and keep your country in your prayers. For the past 26 years – without tiring - my mother has consistently done a dua everyday for our country to find a peaceful resolution. At times, I wondered out-loud if there was a point because that never seemed like a factual reality and Somalis didn’t seem to have an end game or strategy forward. But I always admired not only her perseverance but her conviction that victory would come to those who believe and pray. I believe we are now in reach of such victory. There’s a new sentiment and hope that is brewing and some say its early to call it. Some say my statements are naïve and that Somalia is doomed in corruption and tribalism and needs more than patriotism. I’ve always chosen the realistically optimistic lenses in life and agree with Prime Minister Hassan Khayre’s statement that if one doesn't have anything positive to say about or contribute to the country, then they should be quiet. Because being patriotic requires a sense of unity. As acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks stated, “we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
Lastly, we need the government to take patriotic policies for national development. Policies that put the interests of the country’s weak and vulnerable first. Policies that bring back safety, free education, and affordable healthcare. Policies that bring jobs, investments, and livelihoods to most Somalis. Policies that will deepen our patriotic sentiments and allow us to have tangible reasons to have a deep affection for our homeland. I speak on behalf of my husband Abdulhamid Ahmad Cirro, the Bashir Yarow family, and my mother Zahra Fartaag, when I say that we have full confidence that under the leadership of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Prime Minister Hassan Khayre and his ministers - our country will prevail on the right side of history during this critical time and finally push Somalia in the only possible direction: forward. The attachment and love for the homeland is understanding that the beauty of this nationhood experiment is ours to claim and it must be a patriotism of inclusion, of moving forward together, and of re-imagining our future. As writer Thomas Merton accurately said that the “deepest level of communication is not communication but communion. It is wordless… beyond speech… beyond concept,” because when there is unity there is an impenetrable and unstoppable force that we finally need to Make Somalia Great... for everyone.
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