National Pride

So Friday was National Pride Day, and individuals and groups around cyberspace hailed the wearing of Bahamian colours and the celebration of all things Bahamian.I'm glad. It's a start. Maybe it's more than a start; maybe it's a step or two towards understanding ourselves and our country, the fact that we the people made the choice to celebrate our nationality and took matters into our own hands.Because not even ten years ago such a day didn't exist. It came into being in 2004, when the Independence Committee headed by Winston Saunders (who had spearheaded the celebratory 29th Independence revelry, celebratory because many Bahamians then believed in help and hope, and the even larger Thirtieth Anniversary celebrations, when it became fashionable and possible to enjoy Independence), noted around the table that even in the midst of the thirtieth anniversary celebrations several very disappointing things had taken place. The first was that many stores and businesses throughout the country had had t shirt days recognizing American independence, decorating their storefronts and windows in red, white and blue, but far fewer were celebrating Bahamian independence in the same way. The second was that people had begun to recognize a need to celebrate being Bahamian but few people really knew how; few people stood still and proud when the National Anthem was being played, many slouching and talking, and many allowing their children to frolic and disturb others; merchants were investing in flags and other paraphernalia but the colours were all too often wrong, more Bajan than Bahamian; and several people in their zeal to celebrate the nation were unintentionally disrespecting it, transgressing the laws governing the national symbols, combining crests with flags, turning flags into clothing or umbrellas, and the like.And then there was the story of the young woman--a girl, really, who had been sent to represent The Bahamas on a broadcast programme in Britain and who, when invited to sing the national anthem, warbled: "O, say, can you see ..."The committee--on which I was sitting for the first time in my capacity as Director of Culture, moved by the overwhelming public embrace of the two independence celebrations of 2002 and 2003--decided that it was time, time, long overdue time to start educating the Bahamian public about the nation, about Independence, about national colours, about the national symbols. So National Pride Day was established. The first one was held the Friday before Independence! And Rawson Square in Nassau was turned into a place of celebration of all things Bahamian.The fact that Friday seemed to be the first time it really took off, replicated itself without the specific and concerted effort of the government, indicates how governments can (and should) plant seeds, water them, and then watch them grow. All too often we underplay, misunderstand, or misrepresent the role of governments in the creation of social and national coherence. For some, the role of government should be invisible; for others it should be omnipotent. The one leads to chaos, leads to vacuums and nature's abhorrence of them, nature's filling of them with all sorts of nonsense like the redefinition of black and white in the Bahamas, like the rewriting of history, the re-enacting of falsehoods. The other leads to rigidity, inflexibility, marginalization, and the dreaded victimization of people and things that don't fit the paradigm.What has happened with National Pride Day is evidence of how governments can work best.So. A step in the right direction, indeed. But it's only a step, and we need a quick march. So let's celebrate the celebration and work on moving on. Or, perhaps more appropriately for this time of year, moving forward, onward, upward, and together.