Photo credit (above): John Ragai | Flickr
By JASMINE CHUAH HUI LING
Merdeka is a special word. It’s more powerful than kebebasan (freedom), and comes wrapped in ribbons of red, white, blue and yellow.
Every year on Aug 31, the streets are filled with parades and people everywhere celebrate the day. Most pull out their miniature national flags or fly the big ones at home.
It is a day we all look forward to because not only did our country gain independence on that day, but it is also a day to remember our forefathers and heroes who fought relentlessly for our future.
With every passing year though, I find myself having to dig deep for the Merdeka spirit. I ask myself: are we truly “Merdeka”?
If we are “Merdeka” why are we still striving to be the best? If we are truly “Merdeka” why do so many choose to leave the country?
Popular opinion ponders if we merely jumped from the frying pan into the fire when we yelled “Merdeka” with all our hearts on that significant day. It questions the current state of our country as we wonder, “Merdeka”?
The palpable fading of the Merdeka spirit from my heart signalled a potential loss of love for Malaysia, my country. I look at our newspapers daily and wonder about the direction we seem to be heading.
I dislike that we are being ridiculed internationally. I dislike the looming possibility that to travel overseas, even for a visit, might wreck my bank account while others overflow. I am ashamed of the way we sometimes do things here.
I wonder, are you worth saving? Are you worth me slogging through lanes of rude drivers and streets of billowing trash?
Are you worth regular bouts of heartbreak and despair? Are you worth my haunting fears of looming extremism? Are you worth our young people staying to help make our country great?
I don’t feel ‘Merdeka’ but I DO love Malaysia
So we arrive at the epitome of the problem: Merdeka? No. Malaysia? Yes – a wrung-out, desperate, jaw-locking “yes”.
Simply because I can help to change things,and that, despite all the pollution in the air, I sincerely love my country.
I look around me and see mamak stalls where people from every race go for breakfast every morning. I see children who are “colour blind”, teens who have an open house to go to for every traditional festival, and adults who specialise in fare that is not of their culture.
I see Malaysia, alive, despite what has been thrown at us over the years, despite all those times we have been denied choices and, yet, we ultimately survive.
Selamat Hari Merdeka, everyone. I hope that you will continue to choose to stay, make a difference, and keep loving this proud nation that belongs to us all.