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Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori

Photo credit here

The 22nd of August was day of mourning for the whole nation. Malaysians from every walk of life gave a minute of silence for the dead as their earthly remains were transported from the coldness of foreign shores to the warmth of the embrace of their Ibu Pertiwi, their Earth Mother. 

And yet, hardly a day had gone by when a headline rudely splashed across my Facebook newsfeed: 
“PKR leader calls National Mourning Day an excessive affair”, which immediately raised my ire out of the sheer audacity and disrespect toward the dead, and toward a nation in mourning. How dare this upstart politician use this tragedy as a grounds to bash the government? Has he no decency? Has he no respect? I straight away clicked on the link to find out more about this person. 

And I was surprised.

This was no ordinary politician. He was a retired Admiral of the Malaysian Armed Forces, someone who had dedicated his life to the preservation of our nation’s well-being, our way of life. And here he was questioning the Government’s excessiveness in mourning, and called the armed personnel involved as ‘mindless slaves’. Something did not quite add up.
I read the article again.
Imran Abdul Hamid, the retired admiral-turned-politician, was quoted to have said:

“It’s not that we do not sympathise with the victims of MH17, but the national mourning day did seem excessive given the fact that the 10 soldiers who died in Lahad Datu did not receive the same amount of honours.”

And this made me think very hard. For those unaware of what he was talking about, last year, Malaysia was invaded by an armed group of Filipino rebels. Ten brave servicemen lost their lives upholding their oaths to defend their country. They were given military burials with the customary gun salutes. The PM visited the families of the fallen, and there was media coverage for a day or two.
But there was no declaration for a national day of mourning. There was no honor guard motorcade from the airport to their burial sites. No roads were closed off.

And this made me think again.

It was not that the admiral did not feel pain, or did not mourn, over the Malaysian lives lost in the skies of Ukraine. It was that the sacrifice of the nation’s heroes, who had paid the ultimate sacrifice, seemed to be worth less. And this was what was unfair. He was not speaking as a politician of the Opposition. He was speaking as a leader of men, of heroes, who laid down their lives every day so that we could preserve our freedom, our way of life, our identity.

This was the newspapers doing what they are good at – putting a political spin on news to make it sell better. This seemed to work as most of the comments that I saw in response to the story were those of hate toward the man, and the political ideals he was seen to represent.
They did not see that this was a man who had lived, and still lives by the creed:
 Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori – It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

Only is it?


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