In honor of Jordan’s Independence Day today, I wanted to think for a few minutes about independence. We celebrate it in most countries that were originally colonized. It is widely (and wildly) celebrated in both of my homes, Jordan and the US. Seeing it in two places gives you interesting perspective into similarities and differences. It’s interesting that no matter how many years later, the celebration continues.
You might think that there would be less rabid feelings about independence when the people you gained independence from were your cousins. After all, America fought for independence from Britain. At the time, the prominent families in America were nearly all prominent British families. These were our brothers, our cousins, our people. In Jordan, it was clear who the colonizers were. The people with blond hair and blue eyes were probably here as part of the colonial empire. But, America’s euphoria at Independence Day is no less than Jordan’s. Or perhaps I should say no more.
Today I used the holiday to take a small break. I had lunch with work friends whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. We worked together some time ago (many of you may recall my post on the topic of the fine company). We enjoyed catching up. Two of the gals have babies, one has gone on to a stellar career with an international company’s Jordan office. Each has grown. After lunch, I had to take the girlBeans to rehearse for their upcoming performance. Coming home, we passed the King Hussein Park. We were fortunate in being able to get to the far left lane of the street passing it as the revelers have 2 of the 3 lanes blocked on the road. There are copious amounts of police officers in place to inspect vehicles causing a back-up for quite some distance.
In addition to the big gathering, the fighter jets fly in formation about the country (some long-time readers may recall my confusion and alarm at this our first year in Jordan). It’s a lot like a Blue Angels show. Very impressive to see and hear. And large crowds gather to celebrate the independence of the country. Flag sellers replace flower and junk-toy peddlers on the street corners. In all, it is clear that people are gathering to have a great time.
So, what does it all mean? Why do we get so excited about independence? Well, I’ve got some ideas about that.
- Togetherness: Independence Day reminds everyone of the fact this is one country. It isn’t Jordanian Jordanians vs. Palestinian Jordanians. It isn’t Christians vs. Muslims. It is all of us together. Everyone celebrates the country that has captured our hearts today.
- Uniqueness: This day is about celebrating what makes Jordan special. It’s not a day to compare ourselves to others. It’s a day to see that we are special for who and what we are, as Jordanians.
- Separateness: Rather than looking at global inclusiveness or even pan-Arabism, today is a day that we celebrate just being us. We are alone and stand on our own. Somehow, in this high desert people managed to carve out a life. Even today, we make the experience of living in Jordan our own. This is our country.