My favorite scene in (one of) my favorite movie, Cinema Paradiso, goes on as follows:

After leaving his hometown of Giancaldo in Sicily for 30 years, Salvatore di Vita returned home and went to his old home. Her mother was knitting and she heard the doorbell, she said, “that’s Toto. I know it.” She immediately went downstair, dropping the needles, leaving the knitting, while carrying the rest of the yarn with her.

As she moves away, the knitting began to unweave. As the unweaving stops the camera starts to pan toward the window and, looking downwards, we see Toto reunited with her mother.

However long and far he went, he is still connected to his mother. Despite Alfredo’s urging thirty years before to forget everything about his life in his hometown, there is still an unbroken connection with his hometown and family, an unsevered umbilical cord that is still tying him with his mother and hence his hometown. This umbilical cord is beautifully symbolized by the yarn that—despite continually unweaving the knitting—is unbroken.

This scene is a reflection that one’s ties, and hence loyalty, to their local community is actually stronger than their ties to their nation, as their community is more real due to it based on a daily face-to-face interactions between its members. A nation is merely an “imagined” community that is socially-constructed and its members only share a mental image about it.

There are of course occasions, when this shared mental image comes stronger than one’s ties to its heimat, this comes especially when a unisonality is needed.

Written by Tri L. Astraatmadja

After living for 10 years in Europe as a Master's student, PhD researcher, and a postdoc, in 2016 Tri L. Astraatmadja moved on to the United States for a second postdoctoral appointment at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC. He is now in his third postdoc at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD.

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