Am I a patriotic Singaporean?

National Day is drawing near.

The local radio stations saw it fit to start a ritual of broadcasting the “famous” National Day songs, like a countdown to the actual day. This morning, over the radio, I found out that the most popular National Day song, in a recent vote, is Stand up for Singapore.

My God! I hate that song.

As the song started to play over the radio, I saw myself in my school uniform, standing in line with the rest of the school singing this song in the school auditorium. Not out of patriotism or of my own accord, but forced to do it because it is a compulsory school assembly.

Since then, I find all the National Day celebratory activities a chore. I can see (rationally) why it is important for nation-building but somehow all these expressions of patriotism just make me cringe. I don’t think I have ever attended the National Day Parade live or sit through the telecast. I dutifully hang the Singapore flag from my windows and corridor only because I didn’t want to be a difficult case for my Residents’ Committee volunteers.

Does that mean I am not patriotic? Does that mean I am not a good Singaporean?

Sometimes I think so…

…until someone badmouth Singapore.

An overseas friend once complained to me that he thinks the malls and food places closes too early in Singapore, comparing Singapore to a certain place where food can be found everywhere, round the clock.

My reaction was a surprise even to me. I can’t remember my heated retort exactly but it was something like Singaporeans don’t loiter out too late because they have very comfortable homes to go back to…unlike some places!

I mean, I have my own pet peeves about Singapore and Singaporeans. But somehow, I’m still protective. This is the place I was born in, a place I grew up in. So many of my cherished childhood memories are tied to places here. There are good reasons for certain things being the way they are in Singapore.

So here I am, still cringing at National Day Celebrations but yet still celebrating Singapore as a distinctive, unique and independent nation-state.

Happy Birthday Singapore!