Many shades of patriotism


  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 20 Aug 2019

EVERY year, when we commemorate our National Day on Aug 31, the word that always comes to my mind is “patriotism”.

What is patriotism? We can define it as love and respect for our homeland. As a sense of natural pride in one’s country that drives one to work hard to develop it, to protect its heritage and culture, to and safeguard it from being destroyed by external or internal forces.Adlai Stevenson, a former United States politician, once said: “Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

What this means is that patriotism also equates to the dedication and sacrifice of a lifetime for the nation.

Patriotism is usually symbolised by flying the flag and respecting the national anthem.

A national flag symbolises the spirit of patriotism, pride, unity and devotion to the nation. Under a common flag – the Jalur Gemilang – Malaysians have built our lives harmoniously irrespective of race, colour or creed. And under the Jalur Gemilang, we continue to strive towards building a sustainable nation for future generations.

However, I also want to stress here that flying the Jalur Gemilang is not the only way to express one’s patriotism.

Patriotism can come in many forms. When we speak up and defend our country, it is a patriotic act. When we refrain from committing acts of vandalism on public property or littering in public places indiscriminately, we are being patriotic.

When we contribute towards making our community free from crime or when we protect and preserve our environment, we are being patriotic.

Being patriotic also means contributing one’s sincere views and opinions in areas that can bring good to the country.

Expressing one’s unbiased and sincere feelings about the affairs of our nation is not only a right but a responsibility that should be practiced by all patriotic Malaysians who want the best for the nation.

In this regard, making constructive criticisms in the interest of the nation does not make a person less patriotic.

Patriotism should be inculcated during childhood because when children love their homeland, they will grow up appreciating its heritage, diversity and history, and strive to improve it in all aspects.

A sense of belonging is a significant element that needs to be nurtured and preserved among the young. Only through a sense of belonging can Malaysia’s younger generation be moulded into responsible and mature citizens as well as future leaders.

Children can be taught not to look at things through race-

coloured lenses. Put the children together and let them grow up together so that they will be able to get to know, understand and appreciate their peers of different skin colours and religious backgrounds.

Teachers need to use creativity and skill to get students of all races to participate in activities that enhance racial integration and unity. Such activities can enable students to interact with one another and build lasting friendships.

Nationhood and nation-building is meaningless if the younger generation does not learn the appropriate values as they grow up to become citizens and leaders.

Our youth must have the ability to become ethnic bridge-builders, to improve ethnic relations in the country by neutralising the politics of hatred, racial polarisation and racial exclusiveness – all of which seems to be on the rise nowadays.

After 62 years of independence, all of us should proudly identify ourselves first as Malaysian. I have always believed that identifying as Malaysian does not make a person less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh, etc.

National unity and integration could be made stronger and more vibrant through inculcation of patriotism.

History has proven that Malaysia is able to overcome any challenge if its people are united.

Our diversity is our strength and it is the recipe of success in achieving development and socioeconomic progress, as is our ability to conquer all sorts of adversities.

Malaysians of different ethnicities, religions and skin colours complement each other, so our diversity should not be seen as an obstacle to unity.

We should be mindful that our ultimate goal is not only to make Malaysia a fully industrialised nation in the economic sense but also to ensure it is fully developed from all aspects, including from the environmental, moral and ethical dimensions.

We must put an end to issues of disunity such as religious and racial bigotry, and deal with those who make provocative and incendiary statements that create tensions within society.

Yes, patriotism can manifest in many ways. Love and pride for the country can be displayed through simple, random acts of kindness in which we set aside our differences. These actions show that we are proud of our country and want to make it a better place for all.

TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE

Trustee, Malaysia Unity Foundation

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