I wish I had more of a sense of patriotism like Americans do. I envy how they so obviously love their country and how the national anthem moves them. I have to confess that watching Americans while the national anthem plays, even moves me. For that matter watching the national anthem of any country play on TV at the Olympics for instance and witnessing the pride of its citizens moves me tremendously. I guess our anthem as well. It’s just that we have been forced to sing it in school since we were six and it was enforced. We were not taught the meaning of the anthem and we just learning the sounds. Primary school in the 70’s was definitely not a pleasant memory for me, apart from recess.
Beyond just the anthem, Americans seem willing to die for their country, while most of my male friends will confess that they loathed the enforced National Service and I am so thankful I was born female from the awful stories I hear of blanket parties and such. Strangely a lot of them made their strongest friendships during national service and remain close buddies for years after. Still, in my mind, patriotism should not be enforced in any way and it should be natural. Just like filial piety cannot be enforced. It has to come from the heart. Loving your parents because you love them unconditionally and not because it’s the right thing to do.
I do have a sense of belonging, but I somehow don’t feel I can call it patriotism. I don’t fly the Singapore flag on National Day because I feel like the government wants us to do it. If we were free to do this all year round, it might change my mind. I think we should be able to display our pride in the flag whenever we please. Allow us to wear it on our clothing and such. I don’t think this is disrespectful although our water polo team got quite a bit of flack for this. I think we need to look at the intention.
The one thing I do know for sure is that if Singapore is harshly criticized and it’s not a fellow Singaporean doing the criticizing I do feel a tinge of annoyance. I’m so sorry, just trying to be honest here. It’s sort of like, we know how it is, and we don’t like it being pointed out to us. It’s a bit like I can criticise my own family, but if anyone else does it I get so upset and protective. Would you call that patriotism? I don’t quite know.
I also recall feeling upset at a fellow Singaporean who starting going on and on about how awful Singapore is after he migrated to the UK. Everything he said was true, like the rude drivers on the road, but it sure did rile me up. Perhaps it was a feeling that I was stuck here. Perhaps deep down I wanted to leave things like this behind as well and escape to a nicer place? A place where I would have real freedom of speech and not feel so stifled? On a superficial note, a place where I would not be melting in this perpetual summer and where I would not have elbows in my face during peak hour in the subway.
The strange thing is whenever I come back from a holiday and the minute I step into Changi airport, I feel like I am home. For the next few days I love my country. I love overhearing the Singapore accent that usually doesn’t please me even though I speak that way myself. I am so darn proud of the efficiency and just plain gorgeousness of our airports, the clean smooth roads and canopies of trees. Even the taxi driver feels like a friend and not a complete stranger somehow just by virtue of the fact that he is obviously Singaporean.
Apart from the harsh school environment, I love that I grew up here and I am super nostalgic about Singapore in the 70’s and 80’s. And of course nothing can beat the food we have here and I absolutely love that we are a lovely mix of cultures.
I guess we are still a very young country and have a long way to go. Singapore is only a bit older than me at 45. Perhaps when she’s a 100 she might be filled with a more patriotic bunch.