Thursday, September 24, 2009

History

Happy national heritage day everyone!

By which of course, I mean happy national braai day. And no, I'm not kidding.

In South Africa meat has its own holiday. And the braai is indeed what the word heritage boils down to for many South Africans. Since of course there are things in the past not so many people want to be reminded of.

And not something someone's forefather or elder was somehow party to, but what they themselves experienced, committed, or witnessed.

It's only been fifteen years since the reign of apartheid terror came completely to an end, so I guess kudos for finding something everyone most people and the media can agree on?

I wonder how the guy I know, who used to be a police officer during apartheid, is celebrating today?

Sometimes, when I actually step out of that front door, look around, and talk to people, I'm blown away by the past of this exquisitely beautiful country. By the sheer horror that went on when I was more concerned about whether or not I would be allowed to go to that dance at school and if so, what on earth would I wear. The past smacks me right across my face when I suddenly find myself in a discussion about "shooting monkeys", and then kicks me more when I'm already down from the sheer power of those words to knock the wind out of me by telling me that I wont ever understand because I'm an outsider, and that apartheid wasn't as bad as the media made it out to be.

Sometimes the past just pinches me so quickly that I'm not even completely sure what has happened. Like when I'm confronted with a racist slur by a sales person who sees me as an ally in the face of black customers and I really just want to think I misunderstood, or like when someone, with a completely straight face, argues that "at least during apartheid the hospitals worked," and me saying "yes, for a miniscule part of the population," over and over doesn't seem to sway anyone.

There is so much good in this lovely country that I want to very much celebrate today, but sometimes, I just find it the hardest task of my day to put out of my mind what the reality here was for many, and almost still is for some people.

History, Could you leave me be for a while. Just for a little while. Just to play a round of golf and eat some lamb and drink some wine. And laugh.

Please.

11 comments:

B said...

I saw Skin the other day, about Sandra Laing, have you seen it? It's not a great movie (more of a documentary) but it puts the message across of what apartheid could do to people. There is a scene in which children are at school and the teacher is explaning the differences between white and black people. Shocking, but it makes you understand that if you grew up in that environment, it's hard to see things in any other way. I'm not justifying it, just saying that the country probably needs some time and a new generation of people who didn't grow up during the Apartheid. In the meantime, it's probably a good idea to celebrate meat! :)

Eternally Distracted said...

I am still utterly amazed with how some people treat others ... I live in a very racist part of the world, but it's nothing in comparison.

kristine said...

i repeatedly find myself wishing i could sit down with you for a glass of wine and some good conversation (and lamb, of course).

M.J. said...

Screw meat. Cheese should have its own holiday. Cheese rules, meat drools. Why am I so immature?

Steven Anthony said...

sometimes our world can be so sad....just so sad.

I hope u can forget for a while, and celebrate, have your lamb, your wine, enjoy...u can remember tomorrow.

peace my friend;)

armyblond said...

Funny how the past can leave you speechless ...

Molly said...

Seriously dude, where are you finding these people? I'm not denying they exist but where are you hanging out that you're encountering them?
Racist sales people, yup I've been there, but social racists - you shouldn't have to be subjected to them. People like that seem to be doing a good job of ghettoizing themselves, leave 'em to it!

On a more relevant note - great braai this afternoon - just doing our national duty :)

Not So Glamorous Housewife said...

Wow.

caroldiane said...

I can't imagine that you remain speechless in the face of a racist clerk - I am sure that they knew in no uncertain terms that you were not the ally they thought because of the colour of your skin. Happy Braai day!!

Judearoo said...

History magnet, eh?

Cracking good read, lady. Really excellent.

omchelsea said...

It's all just yesterday in the grand scheme of things. So easy to shove it into the distant past of once upon a time. Frightening and exhilarating - that now we're all part of some kind of change (I hope) and we can push SOMETHING forward instead of putting up with, and nodding, and letting happen....maybe? Thanks for the reminder.