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Deciding on National Days

It is observed that the winner writes and interprets history. History is utilised as the primary basis for celebrations and reinforcement for the future of a country. National Days are examples of such celebrations. The problem starts when the concept of a nation is viewed only from the perspective of the ruling power/majority population and not for all groups co-existing in a so-called nation.

Think about the origin of National Days around the world. In Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, most of them involve religion, race and/or the anniversary of liberation from the rule of colonists or parties with strong opposing philosophies, and where there had been hectic and intense battles in mind or spirit, political conflicts and physical toll in loss of life, coupled with economic destruction, before reaching the marked day of freedom. Nations become stronger with a greater sense of unity and shared philosophy when a certain extent of blood has been shed in a common cause and much sacrifice incurred to reach that point of most recent independence.  This is most effectively attained when there is a sense of us against them and when us ultimately wins control of government and society. Think about China's October 1st, Vietnam's Day of Reunification, Argentine Declaration of Independence Day, Indonesian and Malaysian Merdeka Days, the Filipino Day of Independence or India's Republic Day.  History did not commence in those countries with the curently recognised National Days, but a sufficiently significant event did occur which still requires the nation to remember it as the National Day.

The Fourth of July in the United States is still marked with parades and a collective pride after more than 230 years.How this is managed, despite changed demographics, new dangers and different imperatives for its future, reflects the very strengths in how that nation was formed and born with. A Constitution and Charter that transcends the immediate events of 1776 has laid viable foundations that still carries a federation of different states confidently to the future, despite unknown waters and problems.  Where countries base their National Days on arrivals in a foreign land alone, it is hard to convince the natives of the conquered land to join in the celebrations. Observe Australia Day, now also spoken of as Invasion Day for the many Aboriginal nations existing when Captain Arthur Phillip claimed the lands around Botany Bay for the British crown..  New Zealand is cleverer, for Waitangi Day celebrates the day a mutually agreed treaty was signed between the arrivals and natives on more equal terms. 

The Repiblic of France celebrates the momentous events - and meaning - of Bastille Day.  Royals lost in this change of social order.  Spain had a more recent turbulent time in politics and societal disorder, and so did the separated nations that once formed the Yugoslav Republic, togetrher with all the various states that once were under the lock and key of the rule of the Communist Soviet Union.  All these aforementioned nations have been truly reborn, sometimes with boundaries redrawn, and how a reconstituted nation goes forward is also echoed in how it selects its new flag and National Day.  A national flag belongs to all in a nation and should not be hijacked by some to the exclusion of its other citizens - just like the meaning and spirit of a chosen National Day. In increasingly multi-cultural societies, the challenge of a foresighted Government is to utilise a National Day as one of reconciliation and common purpose, and not one of exclusion and divisiveness. How one began its first National Day at times may not matter - Brazil was freely granted independence by the then King of Portugal - and what is more critical is how a nation uses the day for its future.


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