Sad but true. I almost didn’t go. Why? Because I was afraid. I was afraid of the nasty controversy in the weeks leading up to the Pink Dot event. Being a non-confrontational type, I tend to avoid anything which would result in a face-to-face. What would happen if the ones in whites decide to come down and stir sxxt at the event? What if there is a confrontation – placards and all like the story of the Jews encircling the city of Jericho and all Christians know what followed: the walls came tumbling down….? What if….? I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
I guess providence would have it – I had agreed to help to chauffeur things for one of the community booths and to help out there. This happened before the nastiness began so I had no way of knowing that it was going to come. Can’t back out now…I told myself. Maybe I’ll just drive the things over and then vanish surreptitiously.
Then the controversy started….and nastiness followed. First, it was the call for Muslims to wear white and then the preacher-magician got into the act and for once, all his biblical teachings of not being “unequally yoked with unbelievers” was forgotten as he saw the common enemy – the LGBT community. I guess, the community must be thanked for bringing new meaning to religious harmony – the key is to find them a common enemy.
What then made me decide not only to go but to stay for the whole Pink Dot event? Well, maybe it was a mounting sense of indignation about how the community was being maligned. Yes, I remember feeling angrier and angrier each time some rant and accusation came from the right wing.
Or perhaps I was feeling like Woon Tien Wei who was quoted in Coconut Singapore* as saying, “My friends and I were talking about what was happening online, and that made us want to attend more so this year, if anything to show that having an open dialogue is more important than online discussions alone.” http://singapore.coconuts.co/2014/06/29/photo-essay-diverse-record-breaking-attendance-sixth-pink-dot
I’m sure the wear whiters would have been pleased if the turnout for Pink Dot had dipped significantly. They would have lifted their hands in praise for having defeated the Evil One at his game.
The thought on everyone’s mind that afternoon must have been whether there will there be a significant fall in numbers from the 2013 record of 21,000. I know I was waiting all afternoon for the announcement of the figure. And when the figure finally came up towards the end of the event just before the climatic blue heart and humongous red dot, the roar of sheer delight must have been mixed with relief.
In retrospect, the way the whole thing played out should not have come as a surprise. While the wear whites found their common enemy, their nasty and aggressive rhetoric must have put many people off. When you scream too loudly, you lose your credibility and incur the skepticism and maybe even the annoyance of an otherwise silent non-partisan by-stander. So there you have it – the organizers didn’t have to do very much – just act gentlemanly in the face of a screaming raging opponent. Do even more, in a gentlemanly way ask for calm dialogue, which Pastor Miak Siew from Free Community Church did, which the opposition at the height of the frenzy would not have been able to do because calmness is hardly the natural by-product of hysteria and fanaticism. I think it is Psychology 101.
My hope is that after emotions have cooled,
given some downtime after Pink Dot,
that sincere dialogue can take place.
I apologize for sounding very divisive. But the situation really is. I do not for a moment think that this ‘culture war’ is good for Singaporean society. It has potential to tear us apart especially if no calm dialogue is possible because there is refusal to do so. The battle for the moderate middle, who is minding its own business because it is more concerned about other bread and butter issues, would surely see some casualties.
My hope is that after emotions have cooled, given some downtime after Pink Dot, that sincere dialogue can take place. There may not be agreement but for the sake of societal harmony, is it possible for acceptance of differences?
Perhaps Pastor Miak should renew his invitation to a dialogue – in calmer times.
*Coconuts is a network of local news and lifestyle city websites that harnesses user-generated content and social media to enhance coverage of an urban area.