Preamble: I’ve been finding it very hard to articulate my views on the NLB book withdrawal/destruction. I’m not a fantastic storyteller, so this has to do for now.
Both sides of this war have to understand each other’s pain. That’s the starting point. Then we can talk about democracy and how we want to move forward as a civilization. But attacking each other out of anger and hate isn’t going to change anything. Hate only begets hate.
The arguments have been made from both sides, but what I’m not seeing is an increase in understanding on either side. The anger keeps on building. What is that going to change?
Story 1 (a loving couple’s grief):
They met as students in university, back when televisions were made out of wood and glass, a time when youth and abandon ruled their lives. Slowly, but surely, they aged. They couldn’t have children, so they adopted a number of dogs.
There was Fifi, their first mongrel who invited herself into their home with her irresistible charm and good looks.
There was Tiny, an unwanted German Shepherd who tested the limits of their cheap wooden bedframe.
There was Sir Jackie Stewart, who, unlike his namesake, spent more time banging into things than actually racing.
There finally there was Juliet, who saw them through their final years as a couple. A remarkably calm and affectionate terrier, Juliet watched as her masters grew feeble, and learned to be satisfied with walks that never extended too far beyond her home. It was clear that they weren’t as healthy as before.
Then came a time when the house was suddenly empty. Only one of her masters arrived home late at night, clearly too tired to play with her, but who kept on walking around the house as if he had lost something. He kept on crying, no matter how much Juliet licked his tears off his face.
“Juliet,” he sobbed. “They won’t let me keep him company at night because we’re not relatives! How am I supposed to be his relative when they wouldn’t let us get married? And he’s dying! He’s dying!”
Story 2 (a parent’s grief):
Johnny walked up the stage and received his award for topping his school in the A-levels. Johnny beamed at his father a megawatt smile, who was so proud that tears were threatening to spill over.
Johnny’s mother died when he was in primary school. It almost broke his father, who took to drinking his grief away. His wife, before she passed away, made him promise to always take care of Johnny, to always remind Johnny that she was with God now. Johnny’s father tried to keep his promise, but failed. He ended up descending into an alcohol- and gambling-fuelled pit so deep, that when he got out, he could only thank God for it.
It was when he fell on Johnny’s science project, during his nightly alcohol binge, that he realised he needed help. Johnny had been working on it for almost three months, and the little town with its little people, with its little red mountain poised to erupt all over the town, all were smashed to smithereens in one night.
It was church and God who dragged him out of that hole. Johnny’s father never drank or gambled again, after he gave his life to God. Johnny’s father started studying the Bible, volunteering at church activities especially for addicts.
When Johnny finished his National Service, he came back home with a troubled expression on his face. Without any warning, he turned to his father and mumbled, “Daddy, I’m gay.”
Johnny’s father thought he was going crazy.
“I said, I’m gay.”
Never had the pair argued since the death of Johnny’s mother, not with this intensity. Johnny’s father raged at his son with such ferocity that Johnny fled the house, never to return.
“He’s going to hell! He’s going to hell.. fire..” Johnny’s father sobbed well into the night, well into the decades of estrangement. Johnny’s father died believing that his son would never know the glories of heaven and the wonder of God’s love.
Story 3 (a good dog):
Juliet ran away from home. She didn’t mean to, but she knew that she had a mission to accomplish. When she got to the mission target, she knew it immediately, even though she didn’t have an address. The house smelled of grief. She knew the smell well. Her tail wagged, as she squeezed through the gate into the property.
Johnny’s father blinked his tears away. Was he seeing things? A small brown dog stared up at him, wagged her tail, and barked. Johnny’s father couldn’t help smiling.
“Hi, how did you get in? Umm.. are you lost? Well you can’t be, you look so happy. You look thirsty, do you want some water?”
Juliet barked. She didn’t understand these big apes, but she knew that looking happy and barking every now and then (especially when the apes made their noises) made good things happen.
“Ah, you must be that lost dog I’ve seen on those posters. Gotta get you back. One less lost child.” Johnny’s father sighed, picking the little dog up.
Johnny’s father knocked on his neighbour’s door, dog in hand. The moment the door opened, Juliet (the little brown dog) shot out of his arms. His neighbour picked the dog up, and started tearfully babbling at her, such was his relief at getting his beloved dog back.
“Ah, this dog must surely be yours then,” Johnny’s father awkwardly said as dog and owner were reunited.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, thank you, thank you, thank you! Can I give you the reward money? Hey!”
Johnny’s father turned around as he walked away, smiling at his neighbour and waving his hand in the universal sign for refusal. This wasn’t about the money, it was about doing the right thing.