By Sharon Claire –
As Mark Twain put it, “the report of my death was an exaggeration”.
Of course, the usual conspiracy theories about how it was a plant to reverse the trend of declining NDP viewership and yada yada are all springing up. Frankly, I find all these to be ridiculous. Look, the NDP is going to be watched no matter what. If they wanted to make the numbers impressive, they could just easily fudge up a number (I am a strong believer that statistics are all a matter of how you draw the boundaries of what gets counted and what doesn’t). Who’s going to have the time to check, anyway? Plus, you avoid this whole clearing the air and dealing with the backlash mess.
Besides, as I half-jokingly remarked to my husband, LKY wouldn’t attempt to upstage a nation’s celebration with a private issue–he’s got way too much class for that.
It is interesting to note that the reactions of the large majority of my friends, both opposition and PAP supporters alike, were of profound respect. There were, however, some online who were very vocal about their hope that he had or would kick the bucket, and made clear their disdain for the man.
Let's be honest: it’s a complex tangle of emotions to discuss a person like him. You can’t be indifferent–you either love him, or hate him. Some people maintain that you cannot hold on to an opposing set of principles and still respect him. I beg to differ. This may be surprising to some, as I am known among my friends to be no fan of the man. And that has not changed. I do not approve of his methods, nor a large number of his views. Let me explain.
Perhaps it would be best described thus:
It’s like having a parent. And I’m not referring to the ideal parent kind of thing. I’m talking about the kind who you have a love-hate relationship with. The one who beat the crap out of you with the tin-nah because you had the gall to talk back. The one who lectured you loudly with those irritating platitudes because you didn’t do as he told you, and that if you didn’t do as he told you, you would end up being a good-for-nothing sweeping the roads (oh how you wished he would shut the [email protected]#k up). The one who sat up and kept an eagle’s eye while you did your dreaded maths homework, ruler ever at the ready to deliver that much-hated sharp rap across your knuckles for each careless mistake. The one who yelled stop making that awful noise already when you were bawling because someone bullied you in school.
He’s the one who, when his temper got the better of him, argued loudly with mum about your future until all the neighbours could hear, and you were embarrassed. He sometimes criticised her cooking, although it tasted just fine to you. Sometimes he would pick fights for no reason with the neighbours upstairs just because, and you cowered at home while the shouting match went on, dreading seeing the neighbour’s kids the next day because they would also start yelling nasty things at you. He’s the one who threw your favourite elder brother (who always played with you and defended you when you were in trouble) out of the house and disowned him on the grounds of bringing shame to the family (you were too young to understand everything, but all you knew then was that you really hated your dad’s guts). And when you found out when you’d grown up that it was because kor kor had made some friends your dad considered ‘sam-seng’ and he’d felt that kor kor was rebelling against his authority as the head of the family, you detested him even more. He’s the one who made you save up every last 1-cent coin you had left after your daily allowance was spent because I’m not going to raise you when you’re older okay and by the way you can forget about any inheritance, you can sink or swim but you can forget about any help from me (a threat he made good on), and you felt he had no family feelings. The one you got into a shouting match with because he disapproved of your chosen field of study, and the cold war lasted for weeks.
But he’s the one who gingerly cradled you when the nurse handed you over because he was afraid that he’d drop the baby. He’s the one who came home late every night, exhausted after a long day at work. He’s the one who, when the boss did a mass lay-off exercise, went knocking with mum on the doors of all the people he knew to try and get a job to raise the young family. He secretly kept your report cards (even the crappy ones) and flipped through them from time to time, proud at your academic progress. He watched you toss your mortarboard into the air with quiet satisfaction that all the scoldings paid off and you should be able to get a nice cushy job. He’s the one who, a few months before you got married, got a few friends together and did up your new flat. He shook his head disapprovingly when you refused to cane the kids (They are turning out fine, Pa; for goodness’ sakes we’re civilised, we don’t beat the crap out of our kids these days.) because he thinks you’re spoiling them rotten. He cried (surprisingly hard) when mummy passed on. He drops in to your house uninvited because he hasn’t seen the grandkids for a while. He still doesn’t talk to the neighbours and when he does, he still irritates them (but no one actually gives a shit anymore). He still refuses to discuss kor kor, who you managed to get back in contact with and told you the other side of the story (you still think it was unjustified). And now that he’s old and frail, he calls you once in a while on your handphone, still spewing out the same annoying platitudes and eating up your free incoming call time, but with the growing realisation that you’re making polite sounds and have found a new way to live your life, and that his old way is increasingly irrelevant. Sometimes, he wonders whether you are going to visit his grave when he’s gone. He concludes that he can’t be sure.
Then one day he falls ill and when you visit him in hospital, you are shocked to see how old and frail he has become.
And somehow, you know that for all his faults, and faults he had aplenty, for all the times you wished he would just disappear forever, for all the times you swore you would do things different and you did, you know that he’s still your dad. And that you respect him for everything he’s done for you.
I don’t believe in lionising a person or viewing things through rose-tinted glasses like some of my more establishment-loving friends do. I also don’t believe in pillorying that same person mercilessly for their wrongs, as yet others do. At the end of the day, we have failings, but we are still capable of meaning well, and doing good. It’s all part of the complexities of being human, and that's something to be celebrated.
So Mr Lee Kuan Yew, even though I have never been and never will be a fan of yours,
Thank you for everything that you have done for Singapore–as earlier stated, I may not agree with you on many things, but I do believe in many ways, you meant for the best, and that I can respect. Get well soon, good health, and good luck to you.
P.S. don’t worry too much about us kids. We’re fine.