I am a very patriotic Indonesian. When I was little, I practiced marching up and down those steps leading to flagpole minutes after August 17th flag raising ceremonies ended at our little Indonesian Embassy, as all the 'adults' came inside to feast on the day's prepared meals. I joined the PASKIBRA team during highschool when I was actually physically in Indonesia, having to endure many tortures prior to being initated into the group. I memorized all that history about why/how/who of our red and white flag, those UUD '45 pasal-s, all those natioanlistic songs. I knew how to march using the bamboo while only being let to eat a bite of 'singkong' all day long and constant fear of being dipped in mud or sewage water. I relinquished trips to malls during weekends just to get that march down. I knew how to march in straight line and turn in an actual group, with my eyes closed! Yep, I knew how to march.
So I am very patriotic, perhaps because I grew up in very secluded part of Indonesia where they only speak of good things about being Indonesian, a.k.a. the Indonesian diplomatic corps -- I didn't really have anything bad to say about being Indonesian. Even now, whenever I pick up three year old in New York City pre-school, I listen to this very patriotic Indonesian song, when no one else around me probably don't even know we as a people exist. So I dare anyone else who can be more patriotic than I am. I love Indonesia.
But I must say that I am very disappointed in Indonesians nowadays. We keep on picking at the wrong fights that seem to getting us nowhere. We just like to walk on the same spot I think. For instance, why do we pick on what Malaysians should and should not put as part of their tourism propaganda? Is this all what Indonesia is all about? I confess that there are more stuff I can grieve about, but let's just stick to this as one of the most popular thing going on right now.
I remember the time when I would introduce myself as Indonesian and people think that it is some remote area in Bali. I don't blame them. Back then, as the Indonesian diplomatic corps, we are made to tell people about the nice food we have to eat there, those traditional dances, those costumes that we don't really wear anymore except during marriages and such, but we say this is our Indonesia. Oh but some of the food we do eat in real life. But after the Tsunami, we are really popular as being a tragedy ridden nation filled with poor defenseless people, perhaps a smiling terrorist or two. So now we like to get back to being thought of as that remote part of Bali, or at least a Bali-like place, as it is after all a 'better image' of Indonesia?
Our Indonesia is much more than this to me. Much more that those dances I never learned to do, those elaborate costumes I never get to wear, those flavorful dishes. It is about a people who fought to become a free and proud country -- with their blood.
So I don't worry so much about what Malyasian's put in their tourism propaganda since I know Indonesia is much more than these superficial assets we call 'ours'. It is something that can never be taken away by anyone, no matter how many rendang's end up on a Malaysian Restaurant menu. It is what our forefather's have fought for us, the pride and the freedoms they gave us through their sacrifice. Something very much worth the fight. It is up to us to continue this struggle.
My father was Consulate General of Kota Kinabalu when the great TKI tragedy was developing in Malaysia. I remember I was able to go and have peaceful day and get my passport renewed in the Embassy there, while tons of Indonesians, men women children came pouring in looking for shelter, not much peaceful on their front. There are plenty of horror stories to go around. My dad got angry one time an 'Indonesian embasy staff' refused help to a man who was obviously hurt and beaten, as there was no room to take him in at the embassy. My father straightenedd that 'staff' out. So yes, there are plenty problems that we must try to sift through when it comes to our 'relations' with our closest neighbour. But we must be wise enough to pick fights that are worth our while.
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