I want to apologise to Dr. Chee Soon Juan. I remember walking past him selling his books in Raffles Place in 2006. I remember not even acknowledging his presence, just walking past him, like he didn’t exist.

That memory burns now. For years, I’ve believed CSJ to be nuts based on everything I’ve read and heard growing up.

He was the subject of hushed whispers around me at home and in school, what minimal political discussion that occurred, if any, made him out to be a national joke and laughing stock worthy of only ridicule. Constant newspaper headlines and reports created this image of a political cartoon untethered from reality and rationality.

And then, I watched his first rally speech in these elections expecting comedy central. It wasn’t. I watched his second speech. His third. His fourth. This didn’t make sense. Because he made sense. Here was a rational, calm, passionate, fiery and intelligent human being. But the one quality that sets him apart – compassion – seems to be pouring out of his every pore. A quality that’s new in the political theatre that’s our general elections.

I don’t know whether CSJ and the SDP will win an election. Or the next one. What I do know is this. CSJ isn’t the monster lunatic pyschopath that the mainstream media made him out to be.

It’s obvious to me now that the PAP did such an amazing hatchet job on him back then that even the current generation of PAP leaders seem to have completely believed their own propaganda. Which is probably why they’re reacting now with a very palpable sense of panic as they never imagined that they’d have to contend with the SDP as a credible opposition force.

I think back to that day I walked past him like he didn’t exist. And I listen to his speeches and watch that documentary of his family and home-life and I realise that it wasn’t just the PAP who did all that to him. It was also us. When we kept quiet.

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