Reflections on Patriotism

National day looms. For some, it will just be a day to enjoy wonderful performances and fireworks. For others, it will be a touching day to recall past hardships and celebrate today’s success. Yet still for some, it will just be another uneventful day.

And for me? It calls forth some reflections on what it means to love your country. After all, it’s just a country that you were born into, with little choice or say in the matter. Or really, is it?

Growing up in a generation where war and turmoil is seen as a distant past in history books or movies or as news in countries far, far away from our little island, the idea of patriotism is much less clear cut than it used to be.

There was a time when your love for your country was not professed in words or song, but by blood and tears. It was certainly much easier to stir up strong emotions when you’re at the risk of losing your beloved homeland, at any moment to a foreign threat.

Without such pressing circumstances to temper our emotions, it’s easy to forget what our country really means to us, if it means anything at all. There are just some things that are difficult to treasure until you lose it.

In that sense, I’m glad to have spent two halves of my life in two different countries, affording me some sense of perspective. Somewhere along the way, I have come to realise that some places are just a piece of land that you spend time in, and some places grow to become an environment you are attached to. Thus, I may not love the land I was born into, but I do love the country that I now live in.

To me, what makes the difference lies in the emotions that have silently wriggled their way into my heart, the little quirks and eccentricities that tug at my heartstrings each time I leave one place for another. Each sight, sound and smell, or absence of it, reminds me of where my loyalties lie.

Home is truly where the heart is, and it is during moments like these, I know to where my heart and home belongs.

More than that, it is the bonds we form with the people around us that tie us to our homes, the very same bonds that transform a place of living into a living place. It is through these bonds of community and brotherhood that really create that sense of belonging, drawing me further in to immerse myself and, in turn, further strengthening the bonds in a positive cycle.

It is heartening to see the flurry of interest in our nation’s affairs in recent events, and the voices that spoke out have shown that there is still much concern for our country even if the times are different from that of our forefathers. Whether we agree or disagree, the healthy participation can only lead to greater attachment for our country.

In this modern day and age, it is no longer true that you cannot choose your country, since the possibility of emigration is always there. But I say, give your country a chance, try to look past its faults and see the wonders it has to offer, and you might find yourself loving it more than before – just like I did...

Happy National Day, Singapore!

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