Come every August and September, Malaysians would be urged to fly the Jalur Gemilang in the name of patriotism. Those who decked their houses, cars, motorcycles, trishaws and bicycles with national flags are touted by the media as being patriotic.

If so, anyone including enforcements officers, belting out the Negaraku with gusto and reverberating with pride in flag-raising ceremonies cannot be corrupt. If cheering national sportsmen is deemed patriotism, then what about fanatical supporters of state teams or clubs, as fans can also be loyal to foreign football clubs? Nationalism and patriotism appear similar, but they are not the same. Nationalism is often at the exclusion or detrimental to the interests of other nations.

President Trump is nationalistic but not patriotic if he brings more harm than good to his country, which he is very good at. Patriotism is best measured by contribution to one’s own country without necessarily at the expense of others.

Patriots command international respect while those over nationalistic are ugly in behaviours and deeds. There are many ways citizens could be patriotic or unpatriotic. For example, students who study and play hard to develop themselves fully, such as actively engaging in sports, dramas or other group activities are patriotic.

Adults must work hard, learn what they ought to, unlearn what is outdated and relearn the basics to continuously adapt to a fast-changing world.

Those who are productive and contribute to taxes are patriots. On the other hand, those who opt to be unemployed or underemployed for lack of effort are not patriotic, preferring to rely on handouts by others or the government.

To be patriotic, one must live a healthy lifestyle by not overeating, consume a variety of foods in moderation, exercise regularly and have enough sleep to regenerate. In contrast, those who overeat their favourite food will eventually fall sick are not patriotic.

As eating is their favourite past time and sometimes well into the night, they have little time for exercise. Most of them are in the bottom 40 percent income group and the majority that fall sick seek free medical care at government hospitals and clinics, draining our country’s resources. Great patriots are those who contribute to society or charity.

Their contributions could be in the form of treasure, talent or time. Those with monetary wealth could donate their money to worthy causes. Those with great talents could initiate or organise activities that could greatly benefit our country or society. Those with lesser treasure or talent could at least contribute their time in any activity or worthy cause they choose.

In times of war, conflict or confrontation, great patriots have emerged from all levels of our society, as had happened during the Second World War and the Emergency period that followed. Many retired soldiers and policemen are still contributing in time of peace.

For example, the Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan or National Patriot Association was formed on May 22, 2017 by military and police veterans with the aim of helping Malaysians live in harmony and see a return of a kinder and happier Malaysia. On the other hand, selfish politicians who use race and religion are anything but patriotic.

Missionaries of the past were successful in spreading their religions all over the world because they did not discriminate against people of other religion, language or culture. But today, we have shameless politicians fighting for religion and race in the same breath! Sadly, they command a lot of supporters, as many unthinking Malaysians with shallow outlook are easily swayed by emotions. For a better Malaysia, we must go beyond the superficial and translate patriotic feelings into positive action that will help, or at least not harm, our beloved country. Only then we can hoist our national flag and sing our national anthem with true pride.

Our Jalur Gemilang should not be used as ornamental pieces to be hung in large numbers on windows of large government building or long fences. Mini flags should not be stuck on vehicles as they could drop and land on the road and be unceremoniously rolled over by passing traffic.

Or national flag should be treated as sacred and not used for clothing, although those who have done so had good intentions. Finally, I wish to salute the millions of silent patriots in our midst.

They are the ones that make our country peaceful, not the loud-mouthed politicians. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.