Over the last few years, an allegation has been thrown at all and sundry questioning their loyalty and patriotism to their country, Bahrain. Some sections of society have been singled out, even, to levy that allegation onto that they – the accused – had to prove time and again their love and undying devotion. But all of that – as far as I am concerned – doesn’t really mean anything. Loyalty does not happen by chance. It is not a serendipitous concept, it is something that must be nurtured in all of us to arrive at the shores of patriotism. It is, then, a process where your pride in your country is inculcated within your being by concrete actions by the main actors in society: rulers, government and citizens; the respect for human life and their dignity, the prevalence of security, the equal opportunities and representation, the non-discrimination, the freedom to express oneself and the freedoms of assembly.
Patriotism is the ultimate feeling that pushes a person – voluntarily – to stand in the line of fire in selfless defence of ones country.
How is that arrived at though? It sounds like a very romantic and surreal concept. The stuff of novels. But people actually do stand in the path of danger to protect ones country willingly and without the least bit of hesitation. It is like a deep religious zeal. That, I do think, is not arrived at lightly. It is the result of a lifetime of experiences, a lifetime of the feeling of belonging, a lifetime of being embraced by ones country, a lifetime of being proud of ones national symbols and identity.
It is all of those that make one really be a patriot.
What destroys that patriotism; however, is very little. The witnessing of the wanton destruction of a national symbol with the realisation that no one really cares is one factor which can greatly contribute to the dissolution of that noble state.
This is what is happening to our beloved Tree of Life, one of the oldest trees in the world, is not shown the respect it deserves, nor the protection it needs to survive and continue to be the national symbol for our descendants.
I thought I would pay it a visit this afternoon to greet it and I was fully prepared to jostle with a crowd of fellow Bahrainis who are concerned about its welfare, taking into consideration the recent news of arson perpetrated against it. But that was not to be. When I finally arrived at the tree, what I did find is a group of people zooming in and out and about the tree with abandon, with nary a single thought to the sanctity of the place. I was angry and sad to see such a place being actively desecrated.
I approached a person and asked him what was going on and who those people on the quad- and dirt-bikes were, he calmly told me that he owns them all and he brings them in to rent them to people to enjoy. This person had parked his trailer beneath the outstretched gnarled branches of one of the oldest symbols of Bahrain, with two more vehicles parked even closer to its trunk. Those people who were “having fun” in the area – I discovered – were American servicemen and women resident in Bahrain.
I approached them and asked: Do you know that you are parked under the Tree of Life?
“This is the Tree of Life? We had no idea!”
“So how do you feel about the active destruction of what we regard as a national monument? How would you feel if I rode a quad-bike all around the Jefferson Memorial, or the Statue of Liberty?”
The answer was “well, the Bahrainians brought us here! We had no idea. Do you want us to stop?”
“Yes, I most definitely do. You are defiling OUR national symbol and would like you to stop, please. Go elsewhere and have your fun on those quad-bikes.”
They did look a bit sheepish, but fun was to be had and riding the quad-bikes around one of the oldest trees in the world, eroding what is left of the hill it resided on for some four hundred years was a none-issue and they paid for the privilege – to a Bahrainian – to do so. So off they continued, having their fun.
I would have thought that where they came from would have fortified them in the respect of national treasures; at least that was what I believed according to Hollywood, how I am mistaken. There was no cultural sensitively displayed. And again, I don’t fully blame them. The person who invited them to that location is a Bahraini who was completely nonchalant about the whole situation, posing for his picture to be taken without the slightest hesitation. Adel was making his money, national treasures be damned as long as his gets enlarged.
We need to do something to save this tree. Left alone in an uncaring society and environment it will not last for much longer. And when it is gone, the last vestiges of an already tattered sense of pride and patriotism will undoubtedly dissipate too.