The fourth grade teacher, who’s Columbian, is singing a song with her class, a blend of Central and South Americans, Europeans and Africans. She tells them the song is local Caribe-African, she’s singing in English. I hear it from the other room and can’t help but wander to her class. It’s a Scottish song, an old traditional ballad, most definitely Scots. She disagrees, telling me that the immigrating Afro-Caribes brought it from Africa via Jamaica. It’s ‘My Bonny Lies Over The Ocean’, as Scots as haggis and proper whiskey. Later when I have the class I tell them the song really isn’t a love song, the real message is one of revolution. The Bonnie is not a sweetheart, but Bonnie Prince Charlie, the heir to the Scottish throne, raised in France and almost ready for the Jacobean uprising of the 1740s. The song was a way of spreading propaganda and support for the rebellion under the watchful eyes and ears of the bastard English. I look at the faces in front of me, the
incredible diversity in the classroom and I wonder what this can mean to them, how they might relate. In other parts of the world people still die under imperialism, sacrifice themselves in revolutions. But I teach the bilingual children of Romeo and Juliet in a country which abolished its army 60 years ago.
When I was a kid I was fiercely proud of my nationality, my culture, history, country. While I continue to appreciate its beauty and the characteristics and story of its people, I can no longer feel the pull of nationality. For me, the future has to lie in these blended children and their belief that the world is their home, the earth is their land, their blood the blood that flows through all peoples.
Today we celebrated cultures day, each family was invited to share a song, game, play, dance or story from their culture: we had offerings from Nicaragua, Columbia, Argentina, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Jamaica, Italy, Spain, the US, Japan, Costa Rica, Brazil, South Africa and Scotland. Later we shared a cultural feast of traditional dishes. It was rich, heartfelt, beautiful. If we could share our cultural souls, our folk souls without the attachment and fear which bring racism and imperialism, if we could maintain the ‘same but different’ understanding then maybe we would have time to devote to the real issues.