It's true, I don't like the Star Spangled Banner. Call me a crank or question my patriotism but it's horrible to try to sing it because it's all over the place. The lyrics focus on one battle in one war and give an extremely limited scope as to the values Americans hold dear. Personally, I prefer Amercia the Beautiful because it celebrates a broader range of our history and cultural values within a more singable range of notes. In any event, the title of this post is Trini Tuesday so for today I'm again rerunning a very old post about the anthem of Trinidad and Tobago. It has a dignity befitting an anthem and it sounds lovely whether played by an orchestra or on steel pans. You won't hear it at the Winter Olympics but in case you wondered they've won medals in the Summer Games.
For now, you can click on the video and just listen as you read. I'll share a few thoughts on the lyrics below.
Forged from the love of liberty,
In the fires of hope and prayer,
With boundless faith in our Destiny,
We solemnly declare,
Side by side we stand,
Islands of the blue Caribbean Sea,
This our Native Land,
We pledge our lives to Thee,
Here every creed and race finds an equal place,
And may God bless our Nation,
Here every creed and race finds an equal place,
And may God bless our Nation.
Patrick S. Castagne composed the words and music of the National Anthem in 1962.
Forged from the love of liberty, in the fires of hope and prayer... Trinidad and Tobago was alternately controlled by Spain, France, and Britain. It is one of the few Caribbean islands which still has a small enclave of indigenous people. It is very small, and there are none with 100% Carib or Arawak blood, but a group still exists and there is deep pride in what culture remains. The bulk of the nation's population, roughly 80-85%, is descended from African slaves and the East Indian indentured servants that were brought to replace the slave labor lost upon emancipation. Entire villages from southern India were transplanted to Trinidad with promises of freedom once the cost of passage was worked off. These are a people with a collective history of oppression yet who maintained an indomitable spirit. Independence was gained on August 31, 1962. It is really quite a thing to sit and listen to the stories from 1962 when they are told by someone who was there for such a moment in history. It was a bloodless handover of power unlike our own revolution but the excitement over the right to determine the path of one's own nation still carried great impact.
With boundless faith...side by side we stand. While Trinis may be quick to criticise government and perhaps lack faith in their leaders every bit as much as we do or more, they still know that without unity they are doomed. When times get bad they pull together, neighbor stands with neighbor. A sense of community exists that is a great strength in the culture. We were the recipients of such warmth and generosity on many occasions. We lived at the very end of the water pipelines, as such we were the last in the neighborhood to get water. Water does not flow into houses around the clock so tanks are the norm for storing water to use throughout the day. At the end of dry season our water tanks were empty even though our neighbors had begun getting enough pressure to fill their tanks. As soon as neighbors realized our predicament every hose in the neighborhood was running from 3 different neighbor's houses to fill our tank. We didn't ask for it. They asked us, "Do you have water yet?" When we said no they flew into immediate action. People look out for each other and lend practical assistance not just words of encouragement.
Here every creed and race finds an equal place. In addition to the Africans and East Indians there are significant Chinese, Portuguese, and Syrian minorities as well as the odd Brit, American, or immigrant from other Caribbean nations. Religiously, you'll find large populations of Catholics, Anglicans, Hindus, Muslims, and the syncretic Spiritual Baptists who blend a little bit of everything. One set of neighbors was representative of most of this. The father was a practicing Muslim, the mother an observant Hindu, the children were sent to Catholic school. Religion is not a forbidden topic of conversation, neither is it generally a thing that causes heated debate when discussed. True to Trini love of liming, more religions and cultures means more opportunities for a day of work to party. Whether it is true or not, I don't know, but Trinis like to boast that they have more public holidays than any other nation on earth because each culture and religion is represented in at least one official holiday. It's not at all unusual for folks of widely differing spiritual practices to share each other's holidays. Racial terms are bandied about very casually, but again, not in a derogatory manner. Because of the intermingling of races there is a descriptive term for just about every mixture. When you meet someone new an early question is going to be 'What's your mix?' I have to admit, I used to get a kick out of being ambiguous looking enough to confound them....Hhhmm, American accent, black hair, good tan......"Gyal, what yuh mix is? I cannuh figure yuh!" Is there occasional conflict based on religion or race? Yes, of course. But overall, there seems to be a really refreshing embracing of differences rather than mere tolerance.
....and may God bless this nation.