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A letter to my Valentine


Weren’t expecting that one, were you? I’m the anti-love, anti-relationship cynic, right? Well, not quite. So here goes:

Dear Valentine,

To be honest, I wouldn’t say you’re the love of my life. I’ve known you were there, and I’ve known, theoretically, that you meant something to me. When others said you were gay or misguided, or to blame for our problems, I thought they were being a bit unfair.

Then I got to know a bit more about you. How good you are with children. How you care about the environment, and how firmly you support freedom of speech, even when the insults are aimed at you. I love what you stand for. You believe in the dignity and equality of all, and that no individual has rights that supersede those of somebody else just because of religion, or gender, or race, that nobody is more equal than anyone else. I admire your outlook: you’re forward-thinking and you understand that in a diverse society, there must be compromise and flexibility if we’re to get along. There’s a lot I can learn from you.

You’re not perfect. How could you be, when you have to satisfy so many competing demands, some of which are mutually exclusive? I don’t know how you do it – I couldn’t. Overall, you’ve done a pretty good job of being even-handed, I think. I don’t like everything about you, but the funny thing is that often it’s easier to love things that are just a little bit flawed than things that are perfect.

So, yes, I admire you. I’m familiar with your good points. But admiration or pride is not enough. I love you too. I love your values – truth, freedom, dignity, equality. I love your essential goodness and what it symbolises. Oh yes, and I love the fact that you’re better than the Americans – better, probably than any other nationality. I loved it when US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the South African Constitution would make a better model for Egypt than the American one. (Boy, did that get Fox News’s knickers in a knot.)

So I love you, my Valentine, because you’re the document that is the bedrock of our democracy. You’re the set of principles that guarantees my right to love who I choose, an alien concept to many countries around the globe and, increasingly, in Africa. We might not realise it, but you are what makes us who we are. We may all support the Springboks when they play the All Blacks, especially when Bryce Lawrence is involved, but in truth it is our Constitution, especially the preamble and the Bill of Rights, that defines us as South Africans. In it we are reminded of our shared future and our intermingled destinies.

I wish we were better at living up to the standards you set for us, but that doesn’t mean these standards should be lowered or denigrated. You represent us at our best, and I wish more people would see that instead of carping on about their own petty disagreements with you.

I love our Constitution because you are our conscience and our reminder of the kind of society we can and should be, and I will never forget that.


PS I think it would be a very good idea for a lot more South Africans to tell the world why they love our Constitution. A million of us, in fact. Go to to find out more, write a message on our Facebook wall, tweet with #loveourconstitution, participate on MXit or SMS your name and message to 078 949 3735. Better than overpriced red roses any day.

we the people


  • Sarah Britten

    During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia.