Growing up there are many things that we are told by elders, such as “Love your country, love your people. Be a patriot, child. You have to stand up when the national anthem is played, with your hands by your sides and feet joined together.”
It is hard work being a patriot. A country is represented by its people. But how do you love people who steal from you? How do you love people who kill? How do you love people who smoke in a room full of children? How do you love people who will spit absolutely anywhere?
How do you love people who break the rules, rush off before the signal changes to green? How do you love people who turn their backs on you when the going gets tough? How do you love people who will disown you if you step over the invisible line society has drawn? How do you love people who think that all the religious restrictions are to be enforced particularly on one of the two genders?
How do you love people who will shame you if you do not fall into their very limited concept of beauty? How do you love people who won’t love you back? How do you love people who are the exact opposite of what their country’s founder was? How do you love people who want to leave their country as soon as they can get a chance? How do you love people who make justice feel like a far-fetched illusion? How do you love people who have no regard for each other’s safety?
What did you think being a patriot was all about? It is not just about the size of the flag you buy, or the songs you sing or the decorum you exhibit every time you hear the anthem. It is not just about the size of Jinnah’s portrait in your living room, absolutely not about the magnitude of the sound of your fireworks and fire crackers on the evening of August 14.
It is not just about the grasp you have on your national language. It is not limited to the cricket stadium. It most definitely is not about criticising one another’s ideas and growth.
Patriotism is making sure that none of the above-mentioned rituals become the only part of your definition of patriotism, because patriotism is loving your people who are hurt, weak and hopeless. Patriotism is sticking up for these people. Patriotism is showing these people that you have not given up on this country. Patriotism is every time you appreciate another Pakistani for their efforts. Patriotism is when you throw garbage that does not belong to you into the trash can that is not the one in your home.
Patriotism is taking charge and showing the misguided the right way. Patriotism is showing your wounded, rule breaking, criminal-minded people the light of education. Patriotism is owning up to these people and their scars. Patriotism is healing them by becoming better humans. Patriotism is letting the ambulance behind you pass through. Patriotism is believing in these people. Patriotism is not stopping halfway through a bridge to watch two driver’s fight — patriotism is stopping them.
Patriotism is restoring people’s faith in humanity.
Patriotism is a tool for change, one that will lead the nation into the 21st century. Sure, it will take time, a lot of time and ‘unity, faith and discipline’, something our Quaid advocated. It is time we had some faith; faith in the people we were finding so hard to love earlier; faith in ourselves and our founder’s faith; faith that on this Independence Day, after 70 years of bloodlust and barbarity, we will rise. We will take a step. We will be patriotic.
Published in Dawn, Young World August 12th, 2017