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What patriotism should mean

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Patriotism isn’t about themes and slogans but entails something more profound, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

In my mind, 31 August isn’t just another public holiday where we watch schoolchildren perform live on national TV or recite themed slogans.

It isn’t about watching our armed forces parade around their battle gear, tanks and artillery. It also isn’t about watching our elected reps stand on a makeshift podium while decked out to the nines in Jalur Gemilang outfits and waving to those below, who had practised marching many weeks beforehand.

For those in the peninsula, Merdeka signifies that moment where we identify ourselves as Malaysians for a change and celebrate the accomplishments our country has attained.

The federation was founded on democratic principles that supported individual rights. Our history books depict the socio-political crossroads our forefathers faced.

They defeated tyranny, unfairness and rose up to the challenge of preserving our way of life in a country so divided by centuries of colonial masters. But what made Malaysia unique was that our country had always been the region’s great hope – our neighbours saw opportunity, abundance and prosperity no other country had.

We understand patriotism as the love of one’s country and the devotion that comes with it.

It presents a strong sense of unity while upholding beliefs that national independence is essential for the protection of Malaysians and our way of life. And while a person can be patriotic towards the country where he or she is a citizen or permanent resident, sometimes having this sense of patriotism isn’t about the devotion one has towards a particular ruling government.

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Citizens may experience the devastating effects of living in a government that has strayed from the core principles that once built a nation.

In this sense, opposing tyranny, corruption and urging the return to the federation’s founding principles may be seen as a symbol of patriotism.

In most cases – if not all – citizens who are treated as second-class will also have differing definitions, different from those who are given preferential treatment.

Members of the oppressed class, for example, might not embody patriotism towards their country the same way as members of other classes but might express hopes for socio-political reforms.

Patriotism should never be about blind trust in anything our leaders tell us to do. Showing up to vote once every four of five years doesn’t define patriotism, and it definitely takes more than just waving the Jalur Gemilang once a year.

It isn’t about themes and slogans but entails something more profound. Some Malaysians may have expressed feelings of patriotism only because they felt compelled or perhaps experienced some form of peer pressure.

Who knows? But the truth is, there are no differences in bravery, decency, respect, love and humility; these values exist inside every single human being.

When these values begin to wane and falter, this indicates the failure of leaders to nurture these values and foster them among citizens.

For Malaysians, amid the repeated confusion and antagonism of political disagreements, patriotism continues to be something that has the ability to unite Malaysians, especially in times of national crisis and even triumphant victory.

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Call it liberty or freedom, call it optimism, even. For us living in the present, we will need to understand what being a Malaysian patriot is about so we can begin to educate our future generation about its guiding principles.

What we think, do and say today will have an effect on our country’s performance and outcome.

Loving Malaysia even with all the present flaws in the system often results in the determination that our nation will one day see the socio-political reforms we yearn for – and that, my fellow Malaysians, is what patriotism should mean.

This makes life worth living, worth fighting and worth dying for. And this is the greatest hope for humankind.

Source: The Malaysian Insider.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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