IT is the obligation of every patriotic citizen to strive for national unity but those involved in heated exchanges only succeed in driving people apart.
Allowing emotions to rule or taking a simplistic approach would fail just as miserably as equating unity with uniformity or conformity.
Many feel that getting all of us to speak a common language would achieve national unity, without taking into account that it is often lacking even among families, organisations and ethnic groups that communicate in the same language.
For decades, the Arab-speaking world had been embroiled in turmoil and, although they share a common religion, these Arab nations were never united enough to stave off its lone arch-enemy, Israel, since 1948.
Since 1950, the two Koreas remain in a tense state of armed truce, with both sides possessing enough firepower to wipe out each other in a full-scale conflict.
On the other hand, people in the United States may be divided between Democrats and Republicans, but the American Foreign Service will extend the fullest aid to all its citizens overseas, including those recently naturalised.
Malaysians can be more united when we learn to differentiate between nationalism and patriotism. Raising our national flag and singing theNegaraku naturally make us swell with pride, especially during medal presentation ceremonies.
Nationalism, in its ugly form, is exemplified by ultra nationalists who feel good by putting others down.
Patriotism goes beyond nationalistic feeling and is demonstrated through positive actions.
Those who study or work hard; are productive and contribute to society; courteous and respectful to both Malaysians and foreigners; not corrupt or wasteful, protect the environment and the weak; are patriots.
In a real crisis, they are more likely to come to the defence of the country than those engaged in rhetoric or express supremacist views.
Switzerland has four official languages and 26 autonomous cantons. Its multicultural heritage and strong sense of national identity empowered the Swiss to stay neutral in both World Wars.
Over a million Malaysians work overseas as their skills are welcomed by many host nations, and also due to their proficiency in languages, especially English, Mandarin or both.
My parents were Chinese school teachers when they sent me to study in an English school, casting aside their pride for the oldest surviving written language.
To me, Malaysia is the united states of Asia and we were already truly Asia more than 500 years ago
when people from the West, South, East and Southeast Asia settled in Malacca.
We should be celebrating a diversity of languages, cultures, religions and traditions as the Almighty had intended, and not strive for uniformity in the name of unity.
Divergent views and creativity are catalysts for progress to transform our country into a developed nation, and embracing universal values would make us good global citizens. Y.S. Chan, Kuala Lumpur NST Letters 8 AUGUST 2014 @ 8:10 AM