40 years ago, my parents were newlyweds faced with the daunting task of keeping up teaching appointments in two different districts tens of kilometres apart while helping to support a family. they had one car, they taught in different sessions and they had to find some way to make it all work out. it was as difficult to manage as it was.
then, may 13 happened.
suddenly, there were helicopters overhead with loudspeakers instructing people to remain indoors. when my mother left the house at 5am in the morning to give my dad a lift to his school, they had to explain to armed guards that they were teachers who were on their way to work. when my uncle fell ill during the emergency, they had to go from place to place seeking treatment while fearing for not just his life, but their own.
they read the news, heard the radio broadcasts, saw the photographs. they were there. they felt the fear and fire. they knew, they know, exactly what racial unrest is.
from the stories they told me, there is no one single party, factor, person to blame. just like any error, it was a culmination of pride, hasty reactions and bad bad judgments that brought about the entire mess.
the aftermath of the march 8 elections was fertile ground for the same culmination of actions to take place. it is worth noting that there wasn’t any pork-throwing or machete-wielding last year, which showed considerable maturing among malaysian citizens. of course, the less-than-ideal manner (to put it mildly) in which the perak crisis has been handled has dispelled some, if not all, of that optimism.
still, the fact remains that it is now may 13, 2009. it’s the 40th anniversary of what is possibly the darkest period of malaysian history to date. we are in the midst of yet another dark period in history – a pale shade of grey in comparison to 1969 but dark all the same – and yet the day has almost passed by uneventfully.
surely that is something to celebrate?
there’s still 3 hours of the day left. lim kit siang is still delivering an address to goodness knows how many people at the pj civic centre.
but i can already hear my parents heave a huge sigh of relief.