I love me some sports-bonding, whether it’s on a school team or a national sport. There’s something so uplifting and joyous about bonding with strangers over one shared interest, however fleeting: your team. Everyone is hunched over, anxiously watching the players, when it gets tense. Everyone is cheering and leaping about when runs and goals are made. Mostly everyone is cursing and tearing their hair out when the seeming six gets caught or balls and pucks bounce off the goalposts. And there is nothing quite so powerful and goose-bumpingly beautiful as a stadium packed to the rafters with flag-waving sports aficionados, all singing the next-best-thing to our national anthem—Dil Dil Pakistan. It is splendid, and last week Lahore got to do all of this. It also got to be choked with traffic and brought to a near-standstill by it, and when one is on the road, crawling along in bumper to bumper traffic for three hours, one gets to thinking many things other than “now is the time to procure a helicopter, or a flying car”.

We are now a country that has been fighting terrorism for years and years. We’re constantly told by other countries how we aren’t doing enough and heaven knows we’re trying our best. It’s come to a point where now, to have anything that is fun and healthy and bears any semblance of what our normal life used to be, we have to pay a massive price. You can no longer just decide to have a literature festival, or a puppetry festival, or a cricket tournament, and then just do it. You have to get security clearance, you have to secure a perimeter, you have to convince your participants that it is safe. One cricket match now means picking up the kids early from school, or not sending them at all. It means skipping work, or taking a half-day so you aren’t stranded at the office until the roadblock opens up. It means praying to all the powers that be that nobody needs to go to a hospital on a cordoned-off boulevard. Our entire lives have to come to a standstill so that for three days some of us can feel normal again.

Many people feel like this cost is justified by the moments of joy it gives us as a collective. If you bleed green, as we do during cricket, then we’re properly patriotic and the rest are just ungrateful whiners who don’t understand. What puzzles me, as someone in-between, is why our patriotism seems to be so neatly tied into sporting events, and stop there. We only bleed green when there’s a match on. We will brave hell and high water to stripe our cheeks green and white, to follow each over and wicket and then discuss it in minute detail the next day with anyone willing to listen. Then all that green blood settles down and we go right back to our usual lives with nary a thought given to the Great Green until it’s time for another match.

That’s the trouble with bleeding green—for it to actually matter, you need to keep it going all the time. All sports fans know that you don’t just support your team when the World Cup is on, you do it all year round, regardless of performance. And patriotism should be the same, n’cest ne pas? Where’s our patriotic fervour when we’re throwing garbage on the side of the road? Or parking behind someone’s car outside a busy shopping mall and instead of apologising, telling them to suck it up because “aisa hi hota hai yahan”? Or does bleeding green not apply to the everyday, boring things that are difficult to do and therefore nobody wants to do them? It’s so easy, isn’t it, to feel virtuous for a few days while you listen to the cricket commentary on the radio, stuck in traffic, feeling like you’re taking one for the team and then, conscience satisfied, carry on as usual? Bleeding green is the easiest, laziest form of patriotism. It’s the fairweather-friend patriotism lite that you have in bucketfuls because it’s photogenic and fun. But—big surprise—civic duty is a cornerstone of patriotism: being mindful of your fellow citizen and following the law means a country that is peaceful and safe. I’d much rather have civics than cricket, quite honestly, because when systems work everyone benefits. When government tankers are watering green belts in peak school chutti-time traffic, holding up everyone, I wish for civic sense that would mean tankers water plants at 5 a.m, when the streets are empty. When the road outside my children’s school is dug up the day before it opens after the summer holidays, I wish for civic sense that would have done roadwork when school was closed for three months. Civic sense means thinking of the people, and that’s what governments are supposed to be doing: making things better for us, without making us pay through our noses for it. And if our patriotism were truly deeper, down to the blood, we would demand much better for ourselves. We would write furious letters and make furious phone-calls and lodge complaints until the offices our taxes fund took notice. But that’s hard. That means having to work at something, putting yourself out, getting frustrated, getting hot and sweaty and tired.

To my mind every protest, every surly letter to a newspaper op-ed page, every time someone stops to help someone with a stalled car, runs after you with the credit card or phone you forgot in a restaurant or holds the door in a shop—it is all patriotism. For what better way to honour your country than by respecting your fellow citizen? By valuing everyone’s right to exist as Pakistanis together? Your heart is Pakistan, but the rest of it is too.

You can no longer just decide to have a literature festival, or a puppetry festival, or a cricket tournament, and then just do it. You have to get security clearance, you have to secure a perimeter, you have to convince your participants that it is safe.