I love the idea from writer Taiye Selasi that she doesn’t come from a particular country, or even two or three, but from all the places where she feels at home.
Couldn’t that go for all of us? We could come from the street we live in now, or the city we visit every summer, or the house our parents have lived in for the last thirty years. Take it beyond geography and our ‘nationality’ could be the year we were born (I’d be a 1967ian), the books that have shaped us (I’d be Narnian, Phantom Tollboothese and Midnight’s Childrenian), or even our favourite foods (Chocolate-coated Sproutian).
I’ve never understood patriotism, which the dictionary defines as ‘vigorous support for one’s country’. I’m not saying it’s wrong, though things do get nasty when it turns into nationalism (‘a feeling of superiority over other countries’). I just don’t get it. I feel neither pride nor shame at being born in England. Sure, many wonderful things have come from that little plop of land – Shakespeare, the NHS, Roald Dahl (well, bits of him) and Crunchie bars – and many less wonderful things, like colonialism and Marmite. But that’s all it is: a little plop of land. I didn’t choose to come from there, so I can’t claim any credit or take any blame.
Isn’t it more helpful, and definitely more fun, to think of every person as their own little nation, a unique bundle of stories and smells, jokes and wrinkles, that walks around rubbing off on other little nations, discovering that their similarities are so much greater than their differences, and hopefully breaching some border controls while they’re at it?