I’m not comfortable with patriotism. When I was growing up, that meant standing to attention in the school hall while the school and county’s flag were paraded down to the front of the stage. It meant us against them. It meant “Die Stem” and commemorating The Day of the Vow – or Blood River Day – in all its grim detail. Being told, as a small girl, that my thumb represented God, my index finger the President of our country ( P. W. Botha at that time) the middle and ring fingers were parents and headmaster and the smallest finger was myself.
I have not heard “Die Stem” for years. Blood River Day has become Reconciliation day. The flag is much improved, and I only ever see it in connection with sports teams.
Other things have changed. In the city center of Cape Town, foreign faces and voices. Nigerians, Kenyans and Congolese guarding cars and selling food, shoes and hair extensions. British, Dutch and American hippies fill the backpackers in Long Street. And there are so few other white South Africans in the city centre that I’m constantly being mistaken for a tourist. Why is it so infuriating to be asked “Where you from?”
I’m a stranger in my own country.