A Manifesto For and Against My Country, Romania

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Recently a church representative from the county of Moldavia (Romania) has been trying to get signatures to change an article in the constitution that would define marriage as the union between a woman and a man, and a woman and a man only.

Not that same-sex marriage is a thing in Romania, not at all. On the contrary, Romanians tend to be very conservative, and are often prejudiced and judgmental, unfortunately, often stating that it is against the principles of Christianity for two people of the same sex to be together. I admit, sad and disappointed, that I have heard the exact same words coming from one of my Grandmothers.

What I feel for Romania is a strange, paradoxical combination of love and rage. It is a beautiful country, it has a lot to offer, it has wonderful stories, and some wonderful people as well. However, the mentality is often sickening

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It becomes even harder to re-accustom yourself with this mentality as a given, especially when you have been living (for some years now) in countries with open-minded people, with people who love and accept each other no matter what, who accept that there is something higher than a person’s sexual orientation, origins, or wealth: humanity.

There is something even more idiotic. When the rest of the world moves forward, Romanians like to think that they are somehow smarter, that they know it all better. An example are all the reasons behind the Colectiv tragedy, where 60-something people lost their lives because of a very broken and corrupt system.

Another aspect, which maddens me, is how much of an impact the Orthodox Church can make on political decisions in Romania. I am still waiting for the day when the Romanian state will officially become a secular state. Despite the fact that I consider myself to be somewhere between agnosticism and atheism, I do understand that the religious belief is there, in theory, to bring calm. I will, however, not go deeper into how much calm religion has overall brought to humanity throughout history.

To my understanding, religion was built to define some ethics in the human behaviour that were not defined by the laws in place. To my understanding, religion was built to teach people to love everybody, to be kind and humble.

I am in no power to make any strong statement about the success of those ethical foundations of religion, but I will give you the example of my Grandma. She is a simple city woman. Her goals in life were to take care of her family, to clean the house and to cook. She took life for what it was, and never doubted anything – not her happiness, not her love, not her beliefs. Nothing. Don’t get me wrong – she is and has been a good person all her life, she has taken care of me, has fed me and has read my favourite bedtime stories when I was a kid. She is one of the most optimistic people I have ever met. But, just like everything else, she also took her religious belief as a given. She knew that she was part of an Orthodox society, and called herself orthodox without ever doubting that. I’m not sure if she has read the bible or not, but when I challenge her beliefs, her arguments are rarely logical, or concise. When I challenge her “because the Bible says so” answer and ask her for an explanation, she tends to just repeat “because the Bible says so, and that’s how it is”.

I am not blaming her for anything but not ever doubting the world she lives in. I believe it is in our human nature to always question the things around us, and I believe our society has been evolving through the thoughts of the greatest minds of history.

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To get back to the topic of Romania and its mentality, I believe that not ever doubting anything is one of the aspects that drag this country down. Romanians are somehow forced to accept some societal values and are often not allowed to doubt them, not because they would be prosecuted, but because what should be the topic of a conversation, would turn into a monologue.

As things are accepted as a given and rarely doubted, there is often a lack of motivation for change. Moreover Romanians tend to keep that under an aura of pessimism. “Why would I put any effort into changing something, it won’t change anyway!” would be a typical answer among a large population of Romanians.

Another defining feature of the Romanian mentality is the speed to act and thus, the elite of people (and my, are they a lot) who actually have the power to make a change, and who doubt choices of their society only act at the very last minute, not always leading to a successful effort. Their motivation to keep asking for a change until a problem is actually solved is often lost in the process.

I started this article infuriated, and as I sat down and wrote, my thoughts sweetened. I started this article thinking that I do not want to write it using the first person plural, because I do not identify myself with those Romanians – the ones who never doubt and who are prejudiced. I started this article keeping myself away, as if I had not been Romanian at all. And as I wrote it, it became harder and harder to use the third person, because I realized that, in fact, I am also part of that society. I left my country for better opportunities, came back and left again. I am also guilty, and so are all the other fellow Romanians who left to live better lives abroad. We could have been among those people who doubt, and who have the ability to make a change, even at the last minute. A lot of us left to gain better skills and then go back and make a change, and hopefully that will happen someday.

For now, we can only spread the word and doubt, as I personally believe that they are some of the most important aspects of freedom.

Ioana

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