Monday, August 09, 2021

Table of nations


‘In you, O Lord, do I seek refuge;
let me never be put to shame...
What troubles and adversities you have shown me,
and yet you will turn and refresh me
and bring me from the deep of the earth again.’

Psalm 71:1, and 20

Many of the athletes who have competed at Tokyo 2020 are immigrants to the nation they represent, refugees embraced as children long before their talents were known; or first-generation, the children of immigrants, born in their adopting country; while others are second-generation on one or both sides.

This, then, enables us to explore ideas of nationality and nationhood.

What do you do, when your motherland is ravaged by war or climate disaster, or when you are rejected by your own people on account of your religious or political beliefs?

What do you do, when people come from elsewhere, wanting to contribute to the life of your nation, asking to be counted as one of you?

For the first time, all of the medals won at Tokyo 2020 were made from 100% recycled gold, silver, and bronze. If minerals extracted from the ground can be recycled, what of humus-kind, the creature moulded from clay? Might not the humus-kind be recycled, melted down and recast through the crucible of adversity, brought once again from the depths of the earth, from the shadowy land of the dead to a new life?

And what of land itself? Is it something we posses, by virtue (or vice) of our heritage? Or something that possesses us, inspires us to contribute to the good of a particular community? Are we British, or American, or Dutch, or Belgian, regardless of what we contribute—some inalienable right—or do we continuously became more or less so by virtue (or vice) of our contribution or lack thereof?

When first- and second-generation immigrants shut the door to others, they make themselves bastards and orphans, cut off from their motherland and adopted motherland, from past and future. And when those who can trace their family tree further back, rooted in a particular soil, reject the precious minerals offered to them, they impoverish their own place, their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

What does it mean to be of a nation? What difference does it make to add ‘together’ to ‘faster, higher, stronger’?


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