Running my fingers through every single sewing-line, every thirteen of them…closely feeling the patterns of the stars, the art of stitching at its best…the contrast, the harmony, the embodiment of patriotism in a piece of cloth that symbolizes our “Call of Duty”.
I shake and hold his hand longer than other visitors, perhaps only for a second or two; yet it gets his attention, I look deeply in his eyes – his light blue tired eyes – and he looks at my lips the moments he sees the tears summoning in my eyes noticing how hard I am trying to hold them back; he is just back from his second term in Afghanistan and while waiting to be called up again, he serves the family of the other soldiers at the cemetery: he passes on the message and he helps them to arrange the funeral. He is shy and avoids eye contact; he has a scar above his left eyebrow, and I would have asked about it if the others were not waiting for me back in the bus – we were heading for a ride around the cemetery, the perfectly designed cemetery, which buries hundreds of thousands of fallen warriors.
I can’t resist…at the same time that it thrusts my heart to see all these perfectly lined up graves, the pattern captivates me: it’s mesmerizing and peaceful; I put my sunglasses back on despite the cloudy sky just to hide the tears that I can’t hold back anymore; all the images of war that I have ever seen in my life are running through my head on a speed of light and once in a while there is a focus on an image: the soldier leaning on the side of the trench with blood running through the right side of his face, and a smile at the corner of his lips; the pile of bodies over each other, soulless; the group of crying kids walking through the road being guided by the soldiers, the girl in the middle is completely naked; the soldier taking a breath while kneeling under a 65 pounds combat-backpack; the video of YPJ sniper’s near hit; the child-soldiers…
For the rest of the day – and for the rest of my life – I will be asking this question, over and over: who would you defend if we go to war? And by you, I am referring to anyone and everyone with a Dual- or Multi-nationality. How would you choose on which side of the line you are going to stand, when our nations choose war over dialogue? And don’t tell me that our countries would never go to war with each other – history would immediately debunks your naivety – and don’t tell me you would never have to choose: you will and you should.
Would my British-Dutch colleagues protect the lowlands or the island? Would my Iranian-Dutch friends stand by the Dutch troops or guard their untouchable heritage and perhaps undeclared investments in Iran? Would my Turkish-Dutch neighbor choose liberty over tradition? Would I ever feel safe in my home – in the Netherlands – next to anyone who has an additional nationality next to the Dutch nationality? The idea of it makes my skin crawl.
We don’t want to make choices, we don’t want to make choices that are relatively difficult because they are fundamentally based on our principles – principles that are not firmly defined in modern days as we rather to live by the motto of “everything goes”; nationality is most of the time given to an individual through her/his parents, it’s a vertical identity – usually people don’t try to change it – in case of being born to parents of different nationalities, most states grant nationality of both parents to the new born; and I believe there needs to be a moment in everyone’s life to make a choice – to decide where they belong, to declare where their loyalty lies, to assert where they are local – and yes you will argue that circumstances in which one gains a new nationality (like marriage) most probably change over time and my counter-argument for you is that you have to stand by the consequences of your choices: you can’t simply have the best of two/multiple worlds at all the time.
And lastly don’t mistake dual- or multi-nationality with multiculturalism and diversity: you don’t need to have the passport of a country to understand and respect its culture and have an inclusive approach towards the people of that nation.
When the time comes, when it’s your “Call of Duty”, which side of the line are you going to stay? For which nation are you willing to sacrifice and have a life for rent?