American reality

So the Todds, the parents of Dr Shane Todd who died nearly a year ago in a conservation house near Chinatown, have flounced off in a huff from our courts, threatening to take their allegations against Singapore, our police, China, Huawei and goodness knows what and who else to the “court of public opinion”.

Should anyone be at all surprised by these developments?

No one should be if we only reflect on what the typical behaviour of the United States has been — and still is — when dealing with foreign counterparts.

If the US says your country is a rogue state, your government is a dictatorship and whatever weapons you have for legitimate self-defence are really weapons of mass destruction (WMD), what chances do you have of gainsaying any of her allegations, unsubstantiated — and probably mad– though all of them might be?

Probably nil. And before long, what may be conjectures or just something that came out of smoking too much grass becomes facts in the court of public opinion.

With devastating consequences as shown by those countries so fingered by the US continue — they continue to bleed and bleed years, if not decades, afterwards, a fact that continues to hog media headlines day in and out, 24/7.

So we shouldn’t blame the Todds for choosing to play this card. It’s after all in their cultural and political DNA.

I also wholly empathise with the sort of reality that has enveloped them since their beloved son died in such horribly unnatural circumstances, far away from home and all alone.

Any death is a death too many for those left behind.

I empathise because for some insane 30 minutes or so, I went into a parallel universe much like the Todds when my father passed away quite suddenly nearly 12 years ago.

Oh sure, he was pushing 90. He had several small age-related illnesses but nothing enough to send him into eternity.

Hence there was no anticipation or mental preparation.

Hence one night when one of my brothers rushed him to hospital for an apparent, sudden and unexpected collapse and me and his other children and other family members followed there immediately, the worst didn’t feature in anyone’s mind. At least not mine!.

This was especially when the hospital managed to revive dad and warded him in ICU, giving hope — entirely misplaced as it turned out — that it was a temporary health hiccup.

Imagine my stunned disbelief when the sibling who volunteered to remain in the hospital called as we were preparing to eat early lunch to say that father “has gone”.

“Gone where?” I asked. Stupidly.

The whole extended family descended on the hospital again and took our turn –singly or in small groups — to sit with dad’s body in a room the hospital had thoughfully set aside for such situations.

When my turn came, I stared at my shrouded father and thought I saw s small twitch in the white cloth that he was wrapped in. I looked harder. There, the twitch again. Was it the overhead aircon? No! No downward or sideways breeze.

My hopes soared. There must have been a mistake. I threw open the door.

“Call the nurse! No, call the doctor!” I called out loudly to surprised family members outside.

A nurse came running. When I blurted out my observation to her, she said she would get the doctor. A matronly woman soon arrived. Introduced herself as the head nurse (matron?). The doctor in charge of your dad’s case had already gone off duty and she would help me instead.

She listened to my by then many times recounted observation. The shroud moved. There must have been a mistake. Dad was Ok??

She was soft spoken and soothing. She didn’t contradict me; didn’t pooh pooh what I said.

“Let’s check,” she said.

She gently unwrapped the top part of the shroud. Dad looked stiff and cold. I stared. I didn’t dare touch the body to confirm.

“I’ll come back later,” she said, ever so gently and left — sort of glided out of the room.

Meanwhile, those family members who joined us in the room looked embarrassed. Still, no one said anything to contradict or comfort me.

I pondered. I didn’t know what to think but decided that I was most probably mistaken. Years later, I’m convinced that I was mistaken.

Grief can do strange things to the mind. Especially grief that comes like an unpredicted tsunami.

I got out of my temporary insanity almost as soon as I fell into it. I could. I’m Singaporean.

Can the Todds? It could be more difficult in their environment where individuals are ingrained to think that freedom means the right to believe whatever they want, even when it’s patently a reality that no sane person shares! 😥



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