Still in the spirit of Independence, I continue to ponder how our country is viewed. Last week, I related the experience of walking along an important historical street in the capital and seeing so many broken structures. I mentioned how the city and Guyana was once so glorious that as Guyanese we should be proud of robbing the British of such beauty and how we have let things depreciate. Today I would like to share with you how our national symbols reflect who we are.

The National Flag: The Golden Arrowhead is rightfully named for its sharp pointing golden arrow tip. It is quite a beautiful flag and perhaps our best recognised symbol. But have you ever looked at the way we treat this national symbol?

Many a day I see tattered flags flying, washed out almost pale flags hoisted, wet bedraggled flags, flags flying on crooked flagpoles, flags not taken down at night. At Mashramani it’s worse because flags are dropped on the road for people to trample on. Do you know how many flags I had to pick up on that day alone? And I gave them to little children who seemed happy and proud to hold them and wave them. Why we can’t we all have that innocence and pride of being Guyanese?

culture boxWe need a flag code to respect the first line of the National Pledge: “I pledge myself to honour always, the Flag of Guyana.”

The National Bird: Probably the most ironic of them all! The National Bird is the Hoatzin known locally as the Canje Pheasant aka the Stink bird. That’s right! The Canje Pheasant is the world’s most unpleasant smelling bird! HA! Maybe not the best representation for the country, but perfect for present day Georgetown, don’t you think?

It is notoriously lazy and sluggish (like many Guyanese youth) but overall it is a scientific marvel for its oddity to not be related to any living animal today. It is thought to be a direct descendant of dinosaurs.

While all that’s fine, I have personally always admired the Harpy Eagle. It is the largest and most ferocious bird of prey in the Americas. While the Hoatzin eats grass all day (little weaklings) the Harpy Eagle is known to carry away young pigs and monkeys (majestic beast). Shouldn’t this bird be our national symbol for pride and courage?

I am not intimidated by the Canje Pheasant and its ability to let out a musk smell when afraid. I would rather have a bird that would claw someone eyes out as my national symbol: “Don’t mess with my country!”

The National Animal, the Jaguar is perfect! One of the largest cats in the Americas – ferocious, lean, smart – it is a great representation of a young nation. All we need to do is to live up to its standards.

See why our national symbols are very important? They are a representation (and reflection: stinky Hoatzin) of who we are. Certain things, like the flag, need to be treated with care. The Hoatzin and Jaguar are beautiful creatures that are protected in this great land.

Nationalism needs to be taught and enforced from nursery onwards. Respect for things like our National Anthem and national songs (yes, we have those) is lacking today and this should not be. Somewhere along the way, it seems, we just forgot to care. (Jairo Rodrigues)

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