I woke up at dawn on Monday to the news that former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) has filed for a divorce. It was around 3 a.m. in the morning and not many media were covering the news yet. I was desperately looking for more information, hoping that the news was merely another hoax just, like the many that had been spread to discredit Ahok and his family.
As I had gone to bed early, I could not go back to sleep, so I kept on trying to look for more news before giving up and starting to write vocabulary list for my high school students. The next day, while teaching at work, the news started to fade away from my mind. When I finished the day, somehow, the way I perceived the news has changed.
During the day, a Whatsapp group consisting of my ex-coworkers who are all Christians were reverberated with the news too, a friend was asking whether or not the information was credible. Another friend answered that it was a hoax. I replied that more credible online news platforms confirmed that the report was true. Another friend quoted a news platform that was famous for exaggerating information, arguing that it means it wasn’t true. I could sense that everyone in the group was hoping that it was another fake news made by people who want Ahok to suffer even more.
An interesting remark was made by one of the group members, “This makes me believe that we cannot trust anyone but God.”
Someone else replied, “Isn’t it none of our business that Ahok and Vero get divorced.” I replied to his statement by saying that I could not agree more.
Like many others, I, too, demanded perfection in the people whom I adore. Although life experience has taught me it is ok if your hero does not meet your expectation, in practice, especially in this case, I still felt hurt. Just like everyone else who were brokenhearted because of the news, I also asked “why”.
It took me a while to realize that it is not fair to ask “why” to both Ahok and Vero and moreover their children. It is not fair to judge them or to tell them what to do. It is not right to send him bible verses related to marriage, something that apparently a lot of Indonesian Christians has done. I believe that Ahok knows all those verses well. Moreover, it is far from right to use this piece of news to spread hatred, to speculate about Ahok’s career in politics, to pray that he would receive hidayah and would convert to Islam.
The news about Ahok and Vero’s divorce case and people’s reactions have made me realize that this society does not allow people to “pick nose” in public let alone sinning. If you aspire to do big things for this country, you are not allowed to have even the tiniest dirt on you. If you do have one, you have to cover it, make it unseen. You should not let people see it. A hero should be a pure, holy, and clean god or goddess.
To be honest, it is a very scary idea. Perhaps, because we all grow up with that idea, it is easy for people to fake their achievement, to make up their happiness. Even though there are many inspiring stories about those who failed and bounced back, it seems that it should only be stories. We are not allowed to fail, to stain ourselves, to sin.
I would like to apologize to Ahok and his family for questioning them, even if I had only done it initially. I should’ve done what people around me did when I was studying abroad and having problems. They said, “Is there anything that we can do for you?”
In an episode of Sofia the First, the queen said, “If you see something from afar, they might not look like they really are.”
For this case as well as others, instead of making our own stories, we need to get closer and start checking those in trouble. Ask those people whether or not we can do anything to help, instead of asking them to explain themselves or judging them.
Antonina Suryantari is an English language instructor who loves writing. Writing is her medium to reflect. It is also her expression of gratitude and one way to learn.