I’ve often heard a lot of people either speak of patriotism with great fervor or dismiss it with great contempt. What do I think? Like most abstract nouns, patriotism lies in that elusive space between black and white.
I am quite patriotic. I tear up every time I sing the national anthem in front of my country’s flag. I love where I was born, and the culture and values that I’ve imbibed as a result. I identify myself as an Indian. I feel very connected to everything India represents, and I’ve always dreamed about representing my country one day on an international platform. I can trace my roots to a geographical landmass, and that geographical landmass has come to mean something to me. That’s all there is to it.
Now I can’t stress this enough, being patriotic is my personal choice. It’s not a criterion I would judge people on. You can’t make someone love something, and even if they do, you can’t force them to prove it or display it. So if you’re not standing up for the national anthem, that’s your choice. If you think India is a mess and you’d be better off in a first world country, your choice. In fact if you are doing an honest day’s work, you are compassionate and you are making the best of all you’ve got, you’re already better off than a lot of ‘patriotic’ people around.
So do I feel patriotism is a concept that we cannot exist without, no I don’t. But it is an emotion, and it does make a lot of difference.
Now the argument about how we need to identify as humans more than being an Indian, or American or whatever – you’re right. We’re, first and foremost, humans. Solidarity for fellow human beings should be our first instinct. The thing is, I don’t see patriotism coming in the way of that. I don’t see it as something that creates boundaries, because in its essence, it’s not supposed to. I see it as something that helps create grounded individuals who come together as a productive community. We need to celebrate our diversity, acknowledge the plethora of identities we’ve come to create over centuries. I’m all for a world without boundaries, where we don’t have to worry about terms like immigrants or refugees. But I’ll never be excited about the idea of one religion, one nationality, one identity. It’s like opening a box of crayons but finding they’re all one color. Or sitting for dinner and finding that all courses are bread. Forgive me if my metaphors are a little off.
It’s simple, really. At no point let your patriotism give you the idea that you’re superior to anybody, or that anyone is superior to you just because they’re of a different nationality. I guess that’s what makes all the difference. Being proud of where you come from and understanding the pride that other people take in where they come from. It’s not about ‘my country is better than your country’. It’s more about ‘what can I do to contribute positively towards my country, and eventually towards the world’.
So let’s try this. Whenever in doubt, ask yourself a question – “Does my patriotism make me a better person or do I just use it as a douchebaggy excuse to justify my obnoxiousness?”