I have always wondered how does one develops a patriotic spirit? Is it an innate sentiment, or an impression inculcated by education?

Many have tried to define patriotism, but none have came out with a objective standard. Bersih 4 rally goers might have felt that it was their patriotic duty, as quoting Howard Zinn in Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology “If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, nor as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles”. Perhaps, they agree with Mark Twain that “the modern patriotism, the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism is loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”

For those who did not participate in the rally, can we judge them to be unpatriotic? No, we can’t. They might agree with the American statesman, Adlai Stevenson who has said “patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

On the contrary, I don’t think the rally goers or participants of the national day parade must be patriots. Their actions could be criticised by the well-known British novelist, H.G. Wells “patriotism has become a mere national self assertion, a sentimentality of flag-cheering with no constructive duties.”

Those who accused the rally goers might think they are patriots, but it is more probable that they are confused between patriotism and nationalism. They might not know that, to quote Sydney J. Harris, “the difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to way”.

What do I think about patriotism? I feel patriotism the same as I feel an affection for the family. For me, it is an intimate presence for oneself, and therefore he or she will have on one hand, a fear of losing his or her home country, and on the other, a responsibility to their community. And we could neither let go of nor break ties with our home country, even if we reside in another place, it is a lifelong relationship between the nation and ourselves.

Or it could be the case that patriotism is very similar to a kind of love, the first love. Therefore when one lives in a foreign land, he or she would always reminisce home, the house where one lived, the restaurant one used to dine, the mall one used to shop, the school one used to attend. You would live your life with its shortcomings and share the nation’s joy and sorrow.

One’s home country could be a friend as well. While gaining knowledge and working here, we also give our best back to the society and contribute to national prosperity. We like to work with the people here, meet them in lively restaurants and refreshing parks. And most importantly, when something happens in this country, we feel it is incumbent upon us to support the nation.

Am I describing patriotism accurately? You may have a different perspective.