The feeling of loving your country and being proud of it is what the Cambridge dictionary defines as patriotism.
Which means, patriotism as an ideal only extends as far as the country is concerned and not necessarily the government, as most people assume.
Furthermore, the love of country is what pushes one to seek involvement and participation in the country's governance, not the other way round.
James Baldwin said it so well that he loves America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, he insists on the right to criticise it perpetually.
As a result, patriotic citizens are expected to speak not only when good things are happening but particularly when the bad occurs.
Patriotism has for a long time been confused with sycophancy, which is defined as excessive obedience or behaviour towards someone important in order to gain an advantage.
Sycophancy is targeted towards specific people of importance, more often those who run the country, while patriotism is purely about the country.
Patriotic citizens recognise with clarity that the country is infinitely and eternally bigger than its government, and consequently seek to hold space for improvement of democratic governance and governance processes such as accountability, integrity, rule of law, equality and many other best practices.
Patriotism is not about being selective over what to say so as only to look good as we sweep all other things under a rag.
We can then agree that the labelling of those who call out the bad and ugly parts of their countries as non-patriotic is not only unjust but is extreme cruelty, which should stop.
The Kenyan Constitution is anchored on many wonderful beliefs and ideals, one of these that stands out is the power of the people.
This power is fundamentally about the people's voice and participation in every level of governance.
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Additionally, this very power is the essence of what makes patriotism a right accorded to every Kenyan and that should be practised in public.
Its time we taught ourselves that we cannot claim to love our country if we do not have the capability to critique its governance.
Our patriotism cannot simply be about wearing bracelets with the Kenyan colours while our lips are sealed on the countless injustices that people are grappling with.
Our patriotism cannot be about demanding that those who receive nothing but contempt from their leaders be expected to express positivity and hope when they have none of that to give.
We must stop being citizens who are patriotic to sycophancy. If we deserve better, we must sow and demand better.
Scheaffer Okore is a policy analyst; [email protected]