As you may not know, dear reader, I come from a small country in eastern Europe with a long and relative history of medieval and renaissance greatness and a sad series of downfalls. Regardless of brutal oppressions, social and mental castrations and our figurative teeth removal, we as a nation managed to survive, keep our identity and what little piece of land we could.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, because this year, on 16th of February, we have celebrated 100 years of declaration of independence (that’s the first time we have declared independence, we have one more, but that’s a story for another time) and for the first time in my life, I could actually feel part of the country, part of its history, part of the current society and most importantly, part of the future that still exists. This feeling is very strange and foreign to me. I make a habit of looking at politics and history of ANY country through strictly analytical lenses. You know, this war happened because of this parcel of land, this assassination happened because of this conflict or interests, etc. But I sincerely never felt I understood patriotism or how people in, say, crowds of Paris during the French revolution felt. Now I know: they felt French, they felt like one.
This took a very long time for my little country to even begin to achieve. 100 years of mere existence as a dot on a map, less than half free and remainder under very harsh conquerers, it was difficult and infighting (which I do not condone, yet survival was also a factor) was more common that standing together. Now, slowly, my little nation began to realise it’s actually free and without looming immediate danger (again, relatively) again started learning to love each other.
I will spare the 100 political, social and economic reasons there are to not celebrate too early. There are plenty of sick individuals that only see the dark side of everything and are always here to remind us how horrid our current state really is (spoiler alert: it’s not) and how there are dangers from outsiders just around the corner (relatively true, but not enough to dig yourself a bunker yet). I wished those sad reflections of our divided past would wake up and realise how lucky they are to be able to spout their negative opinions. How lucky they are to have opinions. And despite their existence, just the fact that they have the freedom to spit their poison, I know all is good.
I allow myself this small bout of patriotism, dear reader, because I get to be so cynical and realist all the other times. Patriotism takes a certain form of optimism that is able to ignore all objective problems and dangers and still beat your fist to your chest in the name of your country. So I don’t engage in it often, for all my optimism for life in general, I get to be THIS optimistic only once every 100 years.
So who knows when I will feel the same way again or in my lifetime, but from what I can tell…it’s not such a bad feeling.
More information for the curious: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuania
Image credit: Gelatin silver print by Jaromír Funke (Czech, 1896–1945) Gilman Collection, Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift, 2005. Currently housed by Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA.