Today we were invited to a BBQ by some new friends. They are, in fact relatives of some old friends of ours, which makes introductions and ice-breaking a little easier than with complete strangers. Making friends in a new country at our age isn’t easy, I might tell you.
So. The BBQ. We were 4 couples in all, plus my stepson and a gaggle of much younger children – don’t ask me who belonged to whom. What was unusual – for me, anyway, these days – was that we were all South African (well, apart from one but he sounded more South African than anything else so he’s obviously lived there long enough to be counted as one). I had forgotten how manic South African women are. We had barely all finished eating before the dishes were stacked in the dishwasher, the leftovers packed away and the counter-tops wiped clean. Glasses were refilled and the place was spotless. My own timetable is somewhat … less frenetic, shall we say… I would have been quite happy to finish my glass of wine before clearing the table. I found this strange because I always thought I was a little obsessive about cleaning up. Could it be I have become … laid-back…???
But never mind that. It was the conversation that made me wonder the most if I have changed so very much in the years since I left the country – it’ll be 9 years ago, this year. Inevitably, it turned to The Terrible State That The Country Is In These Days. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a fan. I have no desire to live in a place where I don’t feel safe. That’s why we came here instead of going back there. But there was an undertone from everyone else at the table today that I simply couldn’t share; such a strong loathing and bitterness it was almost palpable. The thing is, I’ve noticed that people who feel that way – South Africans who feel that way – automatically assume that all other South Africans who no longer live there share their point of view and along with it all their hatred and bigotry.
But guess what? I don’t.
I don’t hate.
I don’t want the place to implode, in an it’ll-serve-them-right way.
I actually have hope that things will improve.
I am sad, yes, that my home is not what it was, and that I don’t feel I can have the life I want there. But who knows what the future will bring?
I felt terribly uncomfortable, for a while, sitting at that table surrounded by people who are actually quite nice but who were saying things that go against my own moral beliefs. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a rebel or a dissenter or a left-winger or a right-winger or whatever-winger… in fact, I’m not very political at all. I seldom have a strong point of view because I have an uncanny ability to see both sides of any argument – in fact, perhaps that is exactly why I don’t feel as strongly as my companions, today.
Or perhaps, after all this time, I have made peace with the country I have left.
I just don’t feel the need to fight it, anymore.
And I do wish that the haters and the racists – in fact, the world in general – would realize that not every white-skinned South African is also a racist and a hater.
Isn’t the point of a Democracy to allow everyone to have their own point of view?