So I’ve been crying today. No milk has been spilled, and I have not been cutting onions.
I’m overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed at the thought that Lee Kuan Yew is no longer with us.
This might seem odd to you. I hear you saying, “Jen, you are an American. You have only lived in Singapore for a year. Why are you crying?”
I am crying because he is my hero. He is someone who took a tiny island with no resources of its own and gave it an immense amount of economic power. He took his people out of the kampongs (villages) and into HDB housing. Eighty percent of Singaporeans live in HDB public housing, and over 95% own their flats. Amazing.
He served as prime minister from 1959-1990, making him the longest serving prime minister in history. He lived, ate, and breathed Singapore. He famously said, “Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong [with Singapore], I will get up.” Well, his funeral just ended, and it is time to say goodbye for good. Singapore will continue on without him, with one of his sons at the helm for the time being, but LKY will be in their hearts forever.
There has been much written in the wake of his death about Singapore’s strict laws and the future of Singapore without his hard-driving persona at the helm. He was such an enormous figure in the history of Singapore, this little city-state that seems to straddle east and west. There is MUCH to know about this man, who managed to unify an extremely multicultural society, desalinate and potify the local water (still undrinkable in most parts of Asia), and achieve a literacy rate of 96% of adults as of 2012. Though some argue that his success was at the expense of those who opposed him, no one can argue that he did not do everything he could to bring Singapore from 3rd world to 1st and give it a prosperous future.
The reason for my tears? I am a true idealist. Everything that is painful in this world brings me gut-wrenching pain. I want to change the world, and champion those who try to accomplish this. Despite faults others may see, I see a safe and largely clean Singapore, with a vibrant cultural scene, varied and proud neighbourhoods, beautiful landscapes, and interesting people. There is nothing sanitised or charm-lacking in Singapore for me. As one police officer said on the Humans Of Singapore Facebook page, “Eh you see ah, they keep saying in western news Singaporean people unhappy, got no empathy, got no emotion. Then all these hundreds of people come to see one man for one week straight! Some 80-year old man wait 8 hours in the heat! Then what you say to him, we got no emotion? Of course we got! Perhaps we bleed on inside, but we still bleed.” At today’s funeral procession that went all over the streets of Singapore for hours, people lined the street and stood in the hammering rain to thank this leader, this public servant of the highest order.
I’m utterly inspired. I want live as he wanted people to live–enjoying family and friends, working hard, and treating other people well. I want my daughter to live this way as well. I want to serve the place I live, wherever that may be, and serve my fellow man. As a Christian, these ideals are in my soul. I cry because I have had the opportunity to live in a place shaped by a great man. I am thankful to live in this safe city where I don’t have to worry about my daughter. He may not have been a perfect man, but he’s the first leader of a nation (during my lifetime) that I could truly admire. That kind of role model is rare and indescribably necessary. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of this incredible country with its marvelous story. So bear with me friends, as I post link after link about this place. I just want you to experience a bit of the magic of this place if you can.
Thank you, Singapore. Thank you, Lee Kuan Yew.