Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ruminations on `Aba’

This might sound petty when compared to the razor-sharp analyses and in-your-face fulmination of the countless political analysts who have sprouted like mushrooms under the political rain clouds of June. But I risk sounding petty.

I don’t know if this latest prayer spoof has the tacit ``imprimatur’’ of the Catholic bishops who either have jumped into or have been drawn into the anti- and pro-GMA fracas. One of the text messages that has been going around (I received mine from the head of a known PR agency) is a parody of the ``Aba Ginoong Maria’’ (`Hail Mary’) prayer which damns Pres. Arroyo and her family.

It starts off thus: ``Aba naman Gloria napupuno ka ng grasya…’’ I don’t want to run the whole ``prayer’’ here lest it offend the sensibilities of Marian devotees. I was surely incensed when I read the texted ``prayer’’ because I think there should be respect for what many consider sacred and profound. I texted back the PR lady to say that even Muslims would be offended by that spoof of a prayer because they also have great regard for the mother of Jesus.

Pres. Arroyo could be brought down to her knees or from her perch in whatever way for all I care if indeed she cheated in the last elections. But her detractors should leave the ``Aba…’’ alone. And if the president’s congressman son and congressman brother-in-law indeed accepted jueteng payola as their accusers have alleged--and these two presidential kin know they cannot lie to their consciences--then I say to them, gago pala kayo. If…that is. If you want to repeat history.

But if you didn’t do it and you can stand before your God and say you’re clean, I say, you’re not gago at all. The truth will prevail.

Also being spread around via text messaging is a joke about former Pres. Estrada and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo going to confession. It’s the sacrament of penance in this case.

You don’t have to be a Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Parsi or Jain or Buddhist to feel disgusted when something essential to your religious faith is made into a joke to maliciously smear someone. You can heap all the bad jokes on someone you consider obnoxious who might really deserve them, but leave the sacred alone.

This is not different from picking some racial attributes to describe something negative as is often heard in racist/religious jokes. In a lesser degree this is similar to naming certain animals to describe the worst in human beings. Fortunately for the crocodiles, snakes, crabs, wolves and vultures, they have no way of feeling offended. But the constant maligning has certainly led to the decimation of their species by ignorant humans.

And so now, even the sacred and profound are not spared.

The issue on the desecration of the Quran by US soldiers as wrongly reported by Newsweek worldwide (for which the magazine has apologized) and which sparked upheavals and caused deaths in some parts of the Muslim world demonstrated how reports about malicious disregard for what is held sacred (even if not proven true) could turn volatile. One has to be in the place of the maligned to understand their rage. But then one need not be one of them to fully understand, one need only understand the Golden Rule.

I did write a few weeks ago about the Muslims’ rage when they learned from a small erroneous Newsweek report about how their holy book was defiled (allegedly flushed into or placed on the toilet). I may not have agreed with how the resulting outrage was demonstrated and how things turned bloody in some places, but I cannot disagree with the how the Muslims felt. (One reader with an Arabic-sounding name wrote me to calmly point out that extreme reaction was demonstrated only in some parts of the Muslim world and that it was not correct to picture the entire Muslim world as having overreacted violently. I wrote back to agree.)

I read somewhere that one cannot just say that the Quran is simply words on paper and that nothing in this universe is altered when the holy book is left lying—either carelessly or deliberately--on the wrong places. That it’s just a book and what matters is the message it carries. It’s not as simple as that.

The same holds true with the Holy Eucharist for the Christians who are Catholics. The consecrated host is not just wafer made from wheat flour consisting of carbohydrates amounting to two calories. The moment the host is consecrated it becomes the body of Jesus Christ in substance and essence. That is dogma. Believe or not believe.

It is the embodiment of their faith, the sacrament Christ himself instituted at the Last Supper. The Eucharist is not a mere symbol, like the national flag is. But even flags are supposed to be handled a certain way. As Girl Scouts we were taught how to raise, lower and fold the national flag. The flag must never touch the ground.

Speaking of another, as Pinoys are wont to say, I caught former Pres. Ramos’ National Security Adviser Jose Almonte on ANC being interviewed by David Celdran and Karmina Constantino regarding the wire tapping of the alleged damning conversation between Pres. Arroyo and Comelec commissioner Garcillano. I thought Almonte explained it plainly: military intelligence gathering is supposed to be used for national security and not for personal or partisan gain. The president may not use it for her own self interest. Her opponents may not use it for that purpose either.

But as they say, and this applies to those who figure prominently in the unfolding political drama, it’s okay to steal, to bribe and be bribed, to cheat, to lie, to do something illegal as long as you don’t get caught in the act. You could always play victim or victor later.

It’s a toxic season.