We leave for the US in a few short hours. Am hoping the babe will behave herself on the long flight back (she did pretty OK flying here, only from Taipei onwards did she fuss). Not sure when we'll next travel back since long journeys with an infant is more challenging.
I am reminded again this trip, as previous, though deep in my heart I'll probably always call Malaysia 'home', every visit I make, things seem more and more foreign. That I find more and more issues that only make me more certain that my decision to immigrate was the right one.
At the heart of my concerns, is the evolving and progressing racial issues. 15-20 years ago, perhaps I was blinded or shielded from all this, I never saw race being as big an issue as it seems to be today. The Lat cartoons of Ah Kow, Ali and Raju of yore captured those sentiments well. We played alongside each other, made good friends and never wondered why our names, skin color were different. No one ever question the others' patriotism, or belonging in this country. No one ever accused the other of being an 'immigrant'. No one ever told me to 'Balik China' until college.
These days, the tone seems completely different, in large part methinks is the fault of hot-headed or ambitious politicians who play up the racial card to win support, and the system itself. The major political parties are racially drawn. Schools (and indeed some universities) are racially divided. Certain jobs. Housing areas. Affirmative action policies that clearly have failed (it doesn't take a genius to see that if a program hasn't achieved its targets in 40 years, it's never going to. Also, it's a simple Darwinian concept; providing a crutch simply makes a group depend on the crutch and selects against the stronger).
Time and time again, the Chinese and Indian put up with subtle threats if they question too much. Threats like "Don't test our patience", or "Remember May 13th?" or waving a keris.
This seems ironic, as we have been independent for over 50 years. 50 years that one would think would give a country, its people and its leaders some maturity of how a progressive and modern society works. Instead, we seem to be going backwards, with the younger generations becoming more and more suspicious, entitled and perhaps bitter, of the other races. Younger generations using the term 'pendatang' (immigrant) on the others, when the truth is we all were born in the same country and are citizens (and this particularly stung when I had a KID, no more than 16, direct that statement at my parents a couple of years ago at a nearby park! A kid, who has not been around for even a third of the time my parents have).
People often ask me if I've encountered racism in the United States. The truth is, I've experienced more of that here, in my native country of Malaysia, than being a foreigner there. There, you are respected as a person, based on your contributions to society, not on your skin color or religion.
And right alongside all the policies that clearly remind us that we are different, and are not seen as equals, the politicians are spending taxpayer money promoting the concept of 1Malaysia. That seems contradictory, don't you think? In addition, if you can't see each other as equals in your own country, how do you expect to perform in a global setting?
And so, as we prepare to leave 'home' again, I do leave with this hope for my Malaysia. I do hope that her people will tire of the retarded rhetorics of the politicians with their own agendas. That Malaysians truly will see that we're all really not that different after all, and that what defines us is really our actions, rather than the amount of melanin in your skin, or what term you use to call God. I hope that we will again learn to respect and admire and take advantage of our differences, rather than use them to drive us further apart. I hope that her people will learn to ignore or even punish the leaders who play the race card, rather than flock toward them seeing them as their saviours. I hope that leaders will be chosen based on their abilities, not skin color (and for that matter, get rid of corrupt and greedy leaders in a speedy fashion). I hope that we will strive to better Malaysia for the good of Malaysians, not just for the Chinese, or Indians, or Malays, or whatever else race.
Perhaps you may say these are ambitious dreams that will never happen. But you know, I believe that humans, society, evolve for the better. And so, while I'm not holding my breath that things will change soon, I am cautiously optimistic that Malaysians will eventually succeed in seeing each other as simply that: Malaysians. Nothing more. Certainly nothing less.
Till the next trip, farewell.