I just finished reading “I am Malala” and I realized that I’m not patriotic. I never talk about Vietnam the way Malala talks about Swat valley, how she yearns for the mountains, the trees, the people of the valley. If she is traumatized that she is displaced from her homeland, my whole life I’ve been working to be able to be away. If she talks to her friends in Pakistan every day when she’s in England, I talk to my family probably once a month and my friends back home around once a year.
I don’t miss home. I don’t have that overwhelming sense of pride when I tell people that I’m Vietnamese. It doesn’t matter to me if I was born in Vietnam or in England or in Malawi. I took no part in deciding where I was born, therefore I deserve no pride in my nationality.
But aren’t we supposed to be patriotic? Is it wrong for me to feel this way? I told Tung, an older and much wiser friend of mine about this. He told me that my feeling is normal. Patriotism almost everywhere (with the exception of the USA where people display an inexplicable sense of pride in “the greatest country on earth”) is only displayed in the extreme situations, such as wars. It’s similar to how we don’t value many things until we almost lose them.
Maybe he’s right. But maybe he’s not. I still think patriotism is an absurd emotion. Saying you’re proud to be American, Italian, or Vietnamese is like saying you’re proud to be tall, blond, or white. It’s something you were born with, you didn’t choose and can’t change. We don’t deserve to be proud just because we were born into a random country.