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Playing at patriot games

The Straits Times | John Lui | Tuesday, Jun 3, 2014

SINGAPORE - A planned celebration of Philippines Independence Day at Ngee Ann City is now called off, after the event was blasted and its organisers hounded by an online group who consider themselves Singapore patriots.

It marks a stunning victory for the protesters, who feel that we need to be protected from the sight of foreigners loving their own countries, in case Singaporeans catch a glimpse of it then - pow! - suddenly turn bi-loyal.

Imagine our innocent children watching this shameless display of unnatural national love. They'll ask parents all sorts of awkward questions, such as "Daddy, why is that man looking at that flag like that? Is it because he was born that way - in that country? Mummy, does it mean that if I was born in another country, I would love it as much as I love Singapore?"

Why are we forcing kids to grow up so quickly? They can find out about yucky things like that without these foreigners flaunting their "alternative citizenships" in our faces.

In fairness, these anti-celebrations crusaders do make it a point in their postings to say that it is fine to show you love the Philippines here, but not on our streets. That kind of showing off is offensive, they feel.

So what they are really saying is that displaying patriotism is like being a nudist. It's an activity best enjoyed in your own home. But if you have to do it in someone else's house, find an empty place and close the door. Or to put it in even simpler terms: "Get a room, people."

The crusaders fear that letting people of another nationality hold a public celebration of their nationalism will in some way threaten ours, as if our affection for Singapore were a terribly fragile thing, easily shattered by a dangerously delicious pot of chicken adobo being waved about wantonly.

On second thought, I think they might be right. Once, after watching a Rambo movie, something came over me. I ran out and got a red, white and blue tattoo on my forehead and started punching every Russian I saw, screaming "Murica!!!" It took two episodes of Growing Up and a plate of chilli crab to get my head straight.

The Pilipino Independence Day Council, using creepy mind-control weapons such as "pictures" and "text", say the crusaders on their Facebook page, is "undermining the significance of Singapore's own independence as a sovereign state".

There is also "dubious usage" of the Singapore skyline on a poster and the whole affair has "political undertones, if not overtones" followed by a demand to remove "disparaging innuendos".

Speaking of mind-warping tones, whether they be under-, over-, or somewhere in between, I'm reminded of the time in school when teachers told us that listening to Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven would turn us into long-haired, blood-drinking, Satan-worshipping freaks.

That is of course untrue. I've never had long hair.

Reading the demands of the anti-celebration group, I'm struck by a Uniquely Singapore trait that most list-makers miss - the love of awesome lawyerly words like "insinuate" and "innuendo" to appear smart and intimidating. There is a class of people here who think they can force others to bend to their will by e-mailing in fake legalese. I call them writ-ards.

I'm also in awe of how in its official statement, after several paragraphs of griping, scolding and demands to stop the event, some of it printed IN ALL CAPS, the group concludes with a cheerful "We wish all Filipinos a wonderful time celebrating your country's independence in June." Did someone forget their mood-swing medication again?

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