Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh Yes! Great Men Do Shed Tears !


MM Lee, at a TV Press Conference at Caldecott Hill

Oh Yes! Great men do shed tears!

Proudly singing the National Anthem during our 45th National Day celebration.
Our precious youths and leaders of tomorrow !

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From young, I had been hearing or reading, "Men only shed blood, not tears." I remember once I witnessed my neighbour, yelling at her son, a teenager, "You dare to cry! Don't be a sissy....shed blood, but not tears!"

Hence, I grew up, believing that it was only the privilege of the fairer sex to shed tears, and if men were to shed tears, they were probably cowardly and effeminate!

However, my whole concept changed when I saw papa cry when I was in Primary Four. Earlier in the day, he had whacked me for I was extremely noisy. I was playing hide-and-seek with my neighbours and in my excitement, I had forgotten that papa was taking his much needed nap. Papa was a teacher in the morning and at night he was a bandmaster in a nightclub. Hence, the afternoon rest was very crucial to him. It was the very first time that he had whacked me, and after he threw away the belt, he broke down and cried. Later he hugged me, promising that he would never lay hands on anyone again. I secretly vowed never to upset my wonderful and beloved papa ever again. This incident had also turned me into a bookworm, for I would spend all my weekends reading so as to be quiet and not disturb papa's nap.

Papa was someone who preferred to use reasoning to brute strength. A well read man, he was always eloquent, and often shared stories with his children. Best of all, he walked his talk, and his words of wisdom have been forever etched in our memory.

Papa cried on another occasion when I was in Form Five. It was just the day after my best friend's birthday on 14th of June 1972. I had woken up very early in the morning, and was surprised to find papa sitting at the coffee table and weeping! "Papa, why are you crying?", I asked my beloved father. It was the second time I had seen him cry.

Papa pointed me to a magazine on the table. On the front page of the magazine was a picture of a little girl, running stark naked, and with a painful expression on her face. Her skin appeared to have been burnt. "I hate war!", declared papa. "Why must there be so much greed, pride and wickedness in this world?"

I read that the little girl was Phan Thi Kim Phuc, 9 years old. Papa read in Chinese and a friend must have given him the copy of Newsweek magazine. The photo was captured by Nick Ut, and since then the image of Kim Phuc, running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back by a South Vietnamese napalm attack, had been edged in the memory of people around the world. Papa was a kind and compassionate man who could feel the pain of others.

If papa had been still alive, he would rejoice to know that today, Kim Phuc is a successful lady. She has embraced Christianity and has touched millions by her testimonies of faith, love, gratitude and forgiveness.

However, sadly, till today, there is still the prevalent notion in our society that crying is only for girls, and that it is not macho for men to shed tears. I am not a researcher or socialist, but I think perhaps this could be one of the reasons why women tend to live longer than men.? Women have the freedom to let their tear ducts rain down torrents of salty solution. We all know that tears give emotional relief and therefore, enhance our health.

I also remember the late Prime Minister of Malaysia, the much beloved Tunku Abdul Rahman, shedding tears on television just after the May 13th Riot in 1969 when he pleaded for Malaysians to be united.

Only two days ago, I was watching the television before our National Day telecast, and took photos of our great MM Lee, wiping his tears on television. He cried when he had to announce that Singapore was going to be separated from Malaysia at a TV press conference in the black and white television studio at Caldecott Hill. MM Lee, fighting his tears, said, "For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole
adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories." It was a pivotal point of Singapore's history, the day Singapore entered the brave new world. Today we remember with gratitude the perseverance and commitment of all our great leaders in Singapore as we celebrate our 45th National birthday!

I hope that my illustration of three great men who shed tears will convince my readers that yes, great men also shed tears, not only blood. Being courageous does not imply looking macho and stoical, but being courageous means moving on, in spite of the fear and grief! Great men do shed tears because they have compassion, love, selflessness, vision, wisdom, zeal and courage to help make the world a better place to live in!

Gan Cao

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