More Facebook trouble……..

Recently Thandiswa Mazwai posted her (negative) feelings about singing Die Stem part of our anthem on Facebook. Yup. Another person getting into trouble over Facebook.
And my, what trouble it was.

It was published in the papers, became big news and white people everywhere went crazy. (As if our country needs Thandiswa to sing that part! I mean, have you heard it being bellowed out at the rugby?) Predictably, the general rant was something along the old lines of: Apartheid is, like, so in the past. Get over it already. How dare you still be upset about something that happened, like ages ago! It’s been like 15 years! Gosh

By that reasoning we should’ve stopped hearing about the Holocaust in 1960. But those damn Jews just don’t want to get over it. Bloody crybabies. And anybody still feeling emotional about the Anglo Boer War more than a hundred years later must be a total nutcase. Which makes all those DeLaRey fans even bigger crybabies.

But seriously. I have a lot of sympathy for Ms Mazwai. Hell, I’m white and I don’t sing that part. Nor do any of my friends. Because it reminds us of a dark, awful time and frankly, just creeps the hell out of us.

To borrow a phrase from my youngest son, Apartheid sucked. And I’m not even talking about the true horrors of the past – as a privileged suburban white woman I don’t feel I have the right to lament the injustices done to the majority of South Africans. I’m talking about the sheer banality of the vanilla existence I grew up in.

Do you even remember South Africa in the eighties? The endless insane propaganda in our schools, the hate speech, the semi war torture that was Veld Skool, the crazy patriotism that had 11 year olds raising the flag at 7 am in the middle of a Transvaal winter. No, jissie. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Those were the days when male teachers were allowed to spank 9-year-old girls with wooden implements, boys were forced to play rugby and do “Kadette” in order to be “paraat”, and girls were taught how to make a peppermint crisp tart without electricity (I kid you not) so that we’d be prepared to flee and survive in the wild when the black masses finally got fed up and decided to cook us all in a pot.

Remember at midnight the TV would switch over to the rippling flag with the names of all the boys who died on the border?
“ons sal lewe
ons sal sterwe
ons vir jou Suid Afrika” indeed.

All that Afrikaner Nasionalisme, Christelik Nasionale militant mumbo-jumbo that made me want to kots in my taal. The NG Church has since apologised for actively condoning Apartheid but sadly, Afrikaner Nasionalisme is still limping along just fine.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m proudly South African,and with regards to our anthem: I quite like the fact that it’s so patched together. But whenever I hear the bars of Die Stem after that weird bridge part, it sends shivers down my spine. Because people don’t change overnight. In fact, they don’t change much in 15 years. I refused to allow my children to sing Die Stem when they were growing up because even as  children the irony that it was only 10% of the country’s voice didn’t escape me. I love my country and its people – all its people – but my white Apartheid chip on my shoulder make the words of the old anthem taste like ashes in my mouth.

Our past isn’t magically going to disappear. And it shouldn’t. So instead of saying it’s time to “put everything in the past” or “get over it” or whatever other lame platitudes people spout, we should rather make peace with the fact that we all come with different sets of baggage. And to tolerate, hell, maybe even respect that.

So, if your baggage allows you to sing all parts of our anthem with equal gusto – good for you. But be fair, and allow people like me and Thandiswa our different sets of baggage, which might make singing those words more difficult for us than you could ever imagine.


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