Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A letter from Emmanuel Joseph to Zahid - Patriotism as it should be

Dear YB Dato’ Seri,

A few days ago, I understand from news reports, you mentioned in a speech that non-Malays like me shunned the military service because we are ‘unpatriotic’. Honestly, on a personal note, the reason’s is almost entirely economic. Going through a grueling training regime in the hot Malaysian sun, wet Malaysian tropics and dusty Malaysian roads knowing its not exactly going to provide me with enough money to provide comfortably for my family in the future is not exactly my career path of choice. I would much rather be typing in front of a monitor for a living, much like what I’m doing now, and earn more money doing it.

You see, if our government made more money, which would enable it to pay hard working, life risking civil servants like the military, police and DBKL more, I would probably have grown up wanting to be a member of PASKAL much like every American kid wants to be a Navy Seal.

That being said, if you gave me an M-16 and told me a neighbouring miniature island state was trying to overrun Johor with armed with Israeli training, German guns, American tanks, Russian nationalism and Singaporean kiasuism, I would not think twice about toting a gun to defend our country's honour, and to shoot a few of our long-lost cousins for stealing more than a few of our FDIs, talents and beautiful women over the last four decades.

YB Dato' Seri,

Kiasuism and hot former Malaysians aside, one question has been bugging me lately.

What makes a patriot?

To me, a patriot is someone who loves his or her country, is loyal to her, and would die defending her. By extension of this, a patriot would feel love and devotion to his or her countrymen, and would be loyal to them, and die defending them. And truly, there are many Malaysians I would die for.

I would gladly lay down my life for anyone who would do the same for me. Khalid Samad, I would die for. Haris Ibrahim, definitely. The other Ibrahim who was once your colleague, probably ok, maybe. Kit Siang, Karpal, Gobind, yes. Big yes for Raja Petra. I’d even take a bullet for MCA’s answer to Ron Jeremy or even any of our mega-tower obsessed Prime Ministers! I’m not too sure if I’d take a bullet, even from any pretty former Malaysian-now-Singaporean model, for, say, Zulkifli Nordin, or Ridhuan Tee, or the guy who called my mum a prostitute and dad a beggar. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t either.

How do you measure patriotism?

YB Dato’ Seri,

To me, a municipal cleaner who honestly cleans his street corner well, simply because its his duty, is more of a patriot than a high profile municipal councillor who steals from the coffers he should be guarding. To me, a poor single mother who teaches her child the virtues of loving your country is more of a patriot than some venom-spitting bigwig politician who berates another race to climb the political ladder at the cost of race relations.

To me, an honest policemen who stands at a street corner in the rain and shine, directing traffic on a busy intersection, is a bigger patriot than a corrupt high ranking cop who’s on the take from every Ah Long, Ah Hor and A-Hak Ser Wie out there. To me a stuttering Mentri Besar who is honest and tries genuinely to make his state better is more patriotic than any smooth talking Casanova look-alike minister whose ego is only surpassed by his bank balance and whose biggest contribution to the nation is some collapsed stadium or a roof-leak in a government building or a cracked highway.

To me a politician who tries to fight for a better Malaysia, regardless which camp he or she belongs to, is a patriot.

YB Dato’ Seri,

Patriotism to me is to love one’s country no matter how. We have, after all, some funny ways to show our love for the country already - like having huge record breaking teh-tarik sessions, longest flag pole, biggest mooncake, longest popia, and making the Malaysian flag out of paper cans and one cent coins, and its all good except how many people who participated in those activities felt any more Malaysian doing it? In fact how many were even Malaysian to begin with?

And forgive my pessimism, but somehow I feel grinning broadly next to a 1Malaysia Deepavali kolam pointing your forefinger heavenward while being strategically arranged (Malay, Chinese, Indian & Lain-Lain) for a perfect Muhibbah photo is good only for a facial muscle-phalange exercise unless people stop telling the Indians they’re ingrates with too many temples, the Chinese that you shouldn’t be allowed to have your own schools or anyone, ‘you should be thankful you have citizenship’.

YB Dato’ Seri,

I love my country. Very much. So much that I’m still here despite your party officials insulting my mother, my father, my ancestors and everyone else in my family than can be insulted. I’m still here despite the fact your government has told my church what we can or cannot call our God. I’m still here despite my very real fear that someday I may not be able to enjoy my favourite Taiwanese sausage at the penalty of being caned. I’ll still be here tomorrow despite the fact that most of your party members who read this would go ‘Balik China/India’ almost immediately after. And I still want to serve my country, socially, politically, or otherwise. In my case it’s working towards making a better Malaysia, even if it means replacing the current government democratically.

So YB Dato’Seri , I so badly want to be patriotic. I just hope you’ll allow me to be.



Emmanuel Joseph
A Malaysian Who Sometimes Needs Defending, Too.

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