How many of us take our greenery for granted? I had never seen the true beauty of the lushness of our HDB estates and public urban spaces until I started traveling to other cities. I wished I knew about the deliberate intention behind our tree-planting, the desire of our late founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew: that our commons should be beautiful and enjoyable no matter one's socio-economic class. Ever since I read about the legacy behind our green city, I have never looked at a tree in Singapore the same way again.
I have never been naturally patriotic. I didn't believe I owe my loyalty by virtue of my birth a thought that could only be borne out of political ignorance. But in exchange for this late gratitude, I have gotten a gift far more precious: falling in love with my country through truly knowing her. I wasn't satisfied with the narrative I was told, I loved her enough to seek my own truth, to own that truth as a citizen.
Love, must be whole. It must be able to contain all the brightness and darkness that comes along with any complex living organism. It is having the courage to discover the whole truth, to truly understand the shadows, in order to fully appreciate the light.
A nation is made up of people. Her destiny is shaped by her people's willingness to participate in it. Yet, how do we know what we are shaping and why should we be active citizens, if we do not know what is at stake? Without knowing her trials, tribulations, courage, determination would we know what we stand to lose from our ambivalence and apathy? We have to resist temptation to simplify the narrative, to let her survival be misunderstood as a singular, linear line of progress. It is more of a complex web of interconnected lines, representative of the active participation of many individuals and organizations. We have to be able to see ourselves as part of it, to create the stories of our future.
To love a country, know her story actively remembering the stories that had been forgotten. The question is, how? How can we go beyond the simple narrative of from a fishing village to an economic miracle? Do we put more intention into shaping the national education curriculum, or perhaps consider the more difficult, yet more rewarding, question: how do we raise a citizenry who will take it upon themselves to seek, remember, love, retell and live these stories?
How far have I come along this journey to know my country and by extension, love her? I guess the answer lies in the tearful wonder I had felt each time I uncover a story of hers, coupled with this deep-rooted desire to contemplate the difficult questions of her future. But 1 thing I do know ¦ as long as we Singaporeans stand united as #OneSG, we will overcome all obstacles!