If only every day was July 9

By Joey Sze
July 14, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JULY 14 — Many people were surprised that I attended the rally despite all the hoo-hah and clampdowns. Someone who describes me as “soft spoken” commended me on my “courage” and “strength.”

The truth is that I am a little surprised myself. I am, by nature, non-confrontational. Street rallies are not part of my usual Saturday afternoon routine.

The first time Bersih was held in 2007, I was completely oblivious. Until I had to rush for a wedding dinner that evening … and traffic was at a standstill “due to a rally in town.” I was so annoyed at the “inconsiderate” people. How dare they inconvenience the rest of us with their little parade?

It has taken four years, but I think I have gained a deeper understanding of what Bersih stands for, why it’s so important, and why it affects every Malaysian.

Still … I didn’t really jump at the chance to participate in Bersih 2.0. Let the activists do what they’re good at. I was happy being the silent supporter, the background cheerleader.

Then they started arresting people wearing yellow T-shirts. And that pretty much changed things for me. I didn’t want to see people intimidated by force or threats. I didn’t like the idea of a peaceful rally being the source of such ugly attacks. And I sure didn’t like having someone dictate what we could or couldn’t wear.

So I started following the news more closely. And, honestly, every day brought more bad news and threats. But reading the “Why Bersih” tweets on Twitter were very inspiring. Even online, you had a sense that people were coming together for something bigger than themselves. They were putting aside their differences. They were looking toward a brighter future with a hope that I had almost forgotten existed — a fresh change from all the migration talk that is all so common nowadays.

I was still in two minds about the rally for a long time. Part of me was very afraid about what could happen. It was the type of feeling when one gets a negative medical report from a doctor or when going through an exceptionally turbulent flight. I prayed about it. I counted the cost. I wondered how long I would be willing to stay in jail. I hugged my children harder and longer.

Yet part of me, a self-confessed diehard Malaysian, knew that all my talk would amount to nothing if I didn’t walk. And maybe this was the tipping point the country needed for change. I figured, the way things were going, it would be easier to rebuild than to wait for it to self-implode. My three great loves — and the three things I would be willing to give my life for — are Jesus, family and country. And somehow on July 9 I felt it was a combination of all three.

So before I could chicken out, I made plans on Friday to go. Thank God for my family who, despite their own fears and concerns, were extremely supportive and encouraging — siblings, cousins and parents even came along, making it a family affair of sorts. Special shoutout to hubby who stayed behind to jaga anak and to be on standby to bail any of us out.

I made sure I went in early on Saturday morning instead of “waiting and seeing”, which would probably deter me. Yes, there were roadblocks and police checks (which were pretty uneventful if you weren’t clad in yellow and acting antagonistic). And yes, we were gassed. And yes, it stung like crazy. And a total stranger gave me the last few salt crystals he had so I could suck on them.

Honestly, the feeling of being surrounded by so many people of all different races, backgrounds, ages, etc is indescribable. I have never felt safer walking on KL roads. I felt so proud seeing all these people (many of whom took time off so they could come into the city a few days earlier) braving water cannons and tear gas and arrests and carrying on the march. I met old friends and chatted with fellow sojourners. And singing the national anthem right there and then with everyone just filled my heart with so much joy. I wished that we could all be as united as this every day.

Reaching home several hours later, we were all tired out. But somehow deliriously high. (I don’t think there was any laughing gas sprayed.) Reading #bersihstories on Twitter, I get the feeling I’m not the only one feeling this way. Also, knowing that globally Malaysians abroad are rising up too in a dozen other peaceful rallies in major cities was truly heartwarming.

So why Bersih? So that my kids can be proud to be Malaysians. So that they won’t have to take to the streets next time. And so that they will have the courage and strength to do so if the need arises.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Thursday, 14 July 2011 - 11:00 pm

    This is finished.
    Lets move forward.
    Thousand have sacrificed for that day.
    It’s the follow up that counts now..and Ambiga asked all t wear something yellow on every Saturday.
    Lim Kit Siang said he will do that..and so will I.

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