The Orlando shooting that took the lives of 49 innocent people and injured more than 50 in a bar brought a sense of deep sunken-ness in my heart; I was grieving inside. Disagreement over one’s lifestyle choice should not lead one to take the lives of others. Only a bad religion would urge such a diabolical jihad. Grief brought me to my childhood memories and into my teen years at a high school I fondly call Bauxite High in Kuantan, Pahang in Malaysia.
My thought was: how could one commit mass murder - just like that? As if I have not understood well the complexity of psychosis and mental illness emblematic of this society called America - a society, as I have always spoken about in my lectures on Globalisation and Human Consequences, always a work in progress and in experimentation mode as a republic that chose, wisely, to keep Religion and the State separate.
A society that continues to struggle with definitions such as of equality, democracy, and justice.
God and King were buried with the installation of General Washington as the first president of the republic called America. Yes, America was named after the mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci who prepared explorers in the 15th century court of King Ferdinand of Spain to seek for newer worlds and to colonise them and subjugate the less powerful human beings.
With ships such as Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo or Christopher Columbus was sent to search for ‘India’.
A complex story of America emerged ever since - a story of globalisation in ancient times - globalisation of 500 years ago. In the story of America lies episodes of happiness, victory, madness, sickness, death, and mental derangement leading to a hundred over wars from the arrival of Columbus to the last few months to the departure of America’s first black president well-versed in the principles of democracy as well as demagoguery.
More stories are emerging of the shooter, including a report that Omar Matten was a ‘closet gay’ and could not come to terms with the complexity of the difficult evolutionary stages of his life. His life was as complex as the story of America.
As with anything I see, hear, and think, my mind would been in this globalisation-analytical-critical-complexity mode allowing it to feel what the issue was all about and to let me come to its natural conclusion as how my heart would feel as it dictates my mind to compute.
In contemplating the Orlando mayhem, memories of growing up encountering ‘gay-ness’ visited me. In my village I saw what ‘gayness’ looked like although I did not have a name for it. It was a story of my response to it as well as a brush with it and how the episode shaped my view of what this ‘thing’ is about. My narratives will consist of some observations - and confessions.
“Kita tarok Colgate kat mulut lah... he he he...” we giggled.
Before we go to sleep, we must put Colgate toothpaste on our lips, everybody in my team advised. I could not make sense of the advice until years later. As a young boy of ten or eleven, my soccer team would have ‘sleepovers’ to celebrate our victories or even losses in our kampong and inter-kampong matches.
Though one of the youngest, I was the captain of my team Garuda, a name I gave and a captainship I ‘appointed myself’, I prepared the team’s jerseys and using the shoe polish Kiwi-brand and a cut-out of the symbol of the Javanese mythical bird Garuda (I created) I ‘printed’ the logo on all the white T-shirts my team would wear at every game - home or away.
Home would mean the field right in front of my house - a balding field. Away would mean in some village outside of my ’hood Majidee. We’d walk for miles at times to go for our away games.
But for the ‘Colgate-on-the-lips-for-personal-safety-and-chastity’ advice, I was not the captain, I listened attentively to the older members of my team. It was a giggly advice but I did not realise how serious it actually was, coming from those who knew what has happened before and what would happen that night.
“Pretty boy like you will need the thickest Colgate,” I was told. They giggled at me in their batik sarong, in their Burmese-national-costume-looking Malay pajamas. We would be taking turns telling ghost stories. At the back of our minds, going to sleep became an anxiety bigger than waiting for another story of pontianak to be told.
On the field he was a towering figure. I supposed he was more than six feet tall and he has a look of Rock Hudson, a Javanese actor, and what looked like a model from a tribe in Papua New Guinea, nicely combined. He was a dark-skinned Muhammad Ali-complexioned soccer player. I did not remember how he came to volunteer to coach Garuda, my team.
He would show us all the new moves in football and make us feel as if we were the Under-12 Youth of the Brazilian team.
Soccer or football was my life. A huge part of my life as a child. You take away soccer and you take away my legs. I live, breathe, dream, and think soccer. I’d even kick an imaginary ball everywhere in my house - in the living room on the wooden floor, in the wooden kitchen when grandma was cooking her gangsta chicken curry, and even in the bathroom when I was bathing naked with the huge earthenware pot (tempayan) in front of me.
I’d kick an imaginary ball and imagine myself the captain of Brazil - naked! Eleven-year-old naked captain. My mind was totally soccerised.
That beautiful sports of the underclass, like that of the Brazilians, was my other religion, And Pele was my prophet. Yet, Mr Edson Arantes do Nascimento was a prophet - of soccer. As a kampong boy I met many prophets and angels. And ghosts, too. And madmen as well. Orang gila-ism. Mat Gian as well. Drug addicts - definitely. Stoned and smoking hot kampong I grew up in. Gangsta ganja high many of the young people were.
But soccer made me a full human being, made me a real boy.
He would always be there in his light-coloured sports-shirt and his short pants. He'd be there as early as an hour before evening practice starts and would run around the field tagging along some of us who were there early.
We would be like two sets of seven dwarfs and he'd be like a Malay ‘Andre the Giant’. We’d be huffing and puffing and he’d be smiling while running two laps. His voice was commanding yet gentle. He was well-respected by his peers in the field although I once heard a villager refer to him as “Abraham the (Female Private Part)”, “Yem P...” in Malay.
Yes, I heard that and was trying to figure out what that meant and what kind of person he was. It was not a nice word I knew, especially when translated and used as a man’s family name - “Yem P...” in Malay. Not honourable at all. That designation of a man our team respected was a subject of my curiosity and my deep contemplation, leading to the incident of smearing our lips with thick, white Colgate-brand toothpaste.
Next week: Orlando shooting and Malay-Muslim gays, Part II
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