Does The Gambia suffer because it has so few lovers?

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Dear editor,

Patriotism is not based on what your last name is or how long your ancestors have dwelled in a country. And because you’re part of the majority or minority of any group setting does not make you any more or any less patriotic than anyone else. It surely does not make one any more Gambian. Often, those with names that are not as “common” are regarded as less Gambian than some of us with names like Alagie! Other times, those whose parents or grandparents are relatively recent migrants are seen to be less Gambian than those who claim they can trace their roots here going back a gazillion years. The ability to claim your roots anywhere for seven generations does not make you any more Gambian than the one whose parents migrated here and it certainly does not make one any more patriotic. In the end, your last name, tribal identity, lineage or what have you, does not make you any more Gambian or patriotic than any other citizen. What makes you a good citizen is your love for your country and not some claim on autochthonous bragging.

But since we all claim to love Gambia and call ourselves patriots, I’ll make a bold claim here: Our Mother Gambia suffers because while all of us claim to love Gambia, few of us actually love Mother Gambia! A lot more of us love “ourselves” far more than we love our mother nation. I want to think that there should be a healthy balance between loving yourself and loving your nation but a lot of us seem to have this balance wrong. Our mantra is, get in there, get what you can at the expense of your country and make sure you and those close to you get over while your nation gets by.

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Loving yourself should never be at the detriment of your mother nation. Meaning you should not want so much for yourself that you’d steal from your mother nation. So if corruption, which is just thievery, is one of the key reasons why our Mother Gambia hasn’t progressed, does it therefore follow that our Gambia suffers because she has so few children that love her enough to shun corruption?

A country can only thrive when it has so many of its citizens who love her. When you love, you sacrifice. When you love, you elevate. When you love, you don’t steal from the people you love . When you love, you strive for excellence. When you love, you become creative. When you love, you invest. When you love, you don’t allow anyone to hurt your country. When you love, you certainly will never associate with an abuser of fellow citizens. When you love, you don’t settle for less or wallow in mediocrity. When you love, you don’t forget about your country when it is suffering. When you love you defend even if it means with your life. When you love, you don’t hurt. When you love, you defend that which you love. Love for country demands accountability from each other and not embracing thieves and unrepentant dictator enablers.

I imagine if our mother Gambia had so many lovers, we would all have been the better off for it. Patriotism goes beyond beating one’s chest and claiming some right to a nation. Allegiance to a cause that is hurtful to a nation is not patriotic; it is ludicrous folly! Allegiance to a person that has hurt a nation is not patriotism, it is empty-headed depravity. No one person or cause should be greater than the cause and interest of a nation.

But then you turn around and realize that sometimes in order to love, you have to know. Balafa kollengno beh longno leh noma goes the Mandinka adage! Do we not love Gambia because we don’t know her? Do we not love Gambia because we don’t know the journey she traveled to birth us? Do we not love Gambia because we cannot identify with who she is? Do we not love Gambia because even though we call her Mother, we don’t see her as our mother? Surely, no sane person will hurt their mother. No worthy son will stand by and watch your mother get raped. No worthy son will trade your mother for another just because. No good child will allow others to steal from their mother. No worthy child  will stand aside and watch or cheer as other children of their mother are killed and raped. No worthy son will put their interest above that of their mother if it hurts her.

The next time you steal from your nation, engage in a corrupt practice, defend the corrupt, make money on the backs of the people, abuse your authority, ignore abuse, ask yourself if Gambia will be proud to call you a worthy son or daughter! Our Gambia, our improbable nation, our beloved nation, our motherland, cries for those children of hers who truly LOVE HER! Can you face your motherland and tell her: I love you enough to never hurt you!

Alagie Saidy-Barrow