“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
With flag-raising ceremony?
With huge flower terrace?
Or, even a mass wedding?
In Hong Kong it’s firework. Yesterday a grand 30-minute firework show illuminated the Victoria Harbor, celebrating the 67th National Day of People’s Republic of China.
On Oct.1, 1949, Mao Zedong, standing on the Tiananmen Square Tower, declared the establishment of P.R.C. “As the rooster crows the break of dawn, from today on the Chinese people stand up”, these words of Mao were recorded in textbooks and became my earliest memory about National Day. Ever since then, every October 1 has been marked with celebrations on progress and patriotism.
What is patriotism? According to Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, it is love that people feel for their country. But if you asked me when I was a primary school student, I would reply that patriotism is all about intonation. As an announcer at the school radio station, my daily work was to broadcast the best stories submitted by other students with proper intonation. The topics were various but could be easily categorized—school principle, stories about morally good behaviors and patriotism speeches. I still remember the day after Hong Kong’s return in China, there came an article celebrating the event which ended with the slogan “Long live the People’s Republic of China”. Without much thinking, I read the slogan out with full strength, as if I were among a joyful parade marching across the Tiananmen Square. Few minutes after the broadcasting, a teacher rushed into the room and asked excitedly, “Who did the broadcasting just now? Very well done!”
This episode left me an impression that when it comes to patriotism, the louder your voice, the better. The notion that patriotism is simply about speaking out the words aiguo (Chinese for “love the country”) loudly lingered quite a long time. Instead of tagging that love is blind, the love I feel for my country is surreal—no need to ask why, no need to ask how.
Later, the surreal feeling gets the reality touch bit by bit, starting with a secret related to the year I was born. When I was in high school, I heard about the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protest for the first time. Those who participated into the protest appealed for democracy and freedom, with the patriotic vision of a better China. I was shocked, because I didn’t expect patriotism in other forms, one that resulted in death and painful memory.
Unfolding “untold stories” like the 1989 protest, conflicts between social groups like the street vendor and city administration officers, strains put on young people in mega cities, all these, together with the positive side—rapid economic growth, elevated life quality, expanding urbanization, and improving social openness, were like small pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, forming the reality of China in my mind. When reflections of the past and present weigh in, patriotism became a more complex thing.
So, back to the opening question, how do I love thee?
Other than trumpeting lovely words with right intonation, let me love thee through knowing more about thee, through more connection with thee.