Friday, August 18, 2006

Don We Now Our Hate Apparel

"A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from their own. The origin of the word in English dates back to at least 1598, via Middle French, and started with the sense of religious hypocrite, especially a woman. Bigot is often used as a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to their prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false. Forms of bigotry may have a related ideology or world views."
-wikipedia definition of a bigot

When an animal is cornered or threatened in a particular manner, three things may happen: one, it may become nervous and stay in a corner, two, it may run as fast as it could, or three, it may fight back. I understand that it is but human nature for a person to snap back at someone when he or she feels threatened. That is human nature, that is what we should expect, and that applies to all sexes or potential permutations of gender as we know it in the near future.

Before I say my piece allow me first to make it clear that I am not Justice Isagani Cruz's lapdog, nor do I worship him. What I do admire in him is his integrity, dedication and competence in his chosen profession and in his field. True he may blindly adhere to his beliefs. But those are his beliefs and his alone. He is not asking you to believe him, nor is he telling you that he is right. What I do believe in is sticking to the fundamental notion of right and wrong, not only in substantive arguments, but in the method or process of delivering those arguments as well. And well, as cheesy as it may sound, I firmly believe in the old saying that two wrongs can never make a right.

Before I go any further, check out the column of Mr. Justice Cruz, the reply of Mr. Quezon, an article by a news program host, and another one by a lawyerwho tried to defend Justice Cruz.

Some people called Justice Cruz a bigot. Do I hear the pot calling the kettle black? Or do we simply justify this by rationalizing said act as a defense mechanism or an act of self-defense? Otherwise, this might have been a case of overkill. Though Justice Cruz drew first blood, was there any chance that anyone will believe him? Worse, will his column stoke the brushfires of an anti-homosexual revolution? What was the extent of the damage done? Was the payback proportional to the potential damage or was the reaction too much?

I am not trying to provide for a simplistic perspective of the issues involved at hand, hell, the concept of sexuality has long, and deep-entrenched roots that I would not attempt to discuss for the sake of brevity. What is deplorable is the method used to prove Justice Cruz wrong. What would have been better was for the response, or the reaction of the offended parties to be decisive yet in order, firm yet in place, and for their arguments to be substantive and not personal. Attack his arguments based on their merit or lack of it. Don't simply come up with a piece-meal rebuttal and argue by examples or by historical account. Prove him wrong in the proper venue. Engage him in debate or any other proper intellectual discourse. Don't simply discredit his reputation and assume that he is the devil himself just because he had the guts to tell everyone what's on his mind. Last time I checked, freedom of speech is still given its two-cents worth in this country.

It’s funny that the gay community has reacted so harshly insofar as this opinion is concerned. When the Inquirer personnel for reader’s advocacy was interviewed she expressed horror in the fact that the letters sent to their office as a result of the said column was unprecedented, even more e-mails than the Garci controversy? You mean Mr. Cruz's actions were more horrific and objectionable compared to what our "leaders" do? There's the rub. Allow me to digress a bit. That brings me to our problem as individuals, we Filipinos only tend to focus on sensationalism and not substance, on interests of one particular group, but not that of the entire nation and future generations as well, on so-called controversial and sensitive issues per se, but not on controversial and sensitive issues that should involve the entire civic community. But hey, though we are one nation (see any recent encyclopedia), we should look after the more important interests of our own constituents and our own factions right? But that is another post. My apologies for ranting. I just have a thing for sense of priorities.

Make no mistake about it, I respect the homosexual community. I've worked with them and I know that they are some of the most brilliant and talented people in our society. What I hate is, well, hate towards somebody just because they think that the person they hate hates them back and the conclusion that this projected hate would necessarily cause other people to hate them who feel that they have been misunderstood and hated long enough throughout the entire course of time, with the lattermost group of people thinking they can do anything when they feel offended. We can't work on mere assumptions people. Journalists should know that. Intelligent, sensitive, creative and talented people should know that even more.

Bigotry cuts both ways. If you are intolerant of the opinions of others insofar as your orientation or personality is concerned, then that is fine; provided that you engage him properly. There are certain lines we don’t cross. Name-calling and personal attacks are good examples. Telling me that: "well he played dirty first, doesn't that give me the excuse to also play dirty?" just means that you are sinking to his level, and, assuming that his bone is already as black as tar, then doesn’t that also make your bones dark, or gray at the very least? Please don't attack the person who made those arguments without even considering what this guy had done or had been through. A blind attack on his credibility as a writer and his worth as a human being reeks of bigotry, albeit on a smaller level.

Remember that the only thing worth protecting is one’s honor, name and reputation, without it, you’re as good as dead. Moreso with a man the stature of Mr. Justice Cruz who, (and you can confirm this) has an untarnished reputation and track record when he served as a Justice of our Supreme Court. Assuming that his opinions were ghastly, obnoxious and crude, would you sentence this man to eternal damnation and the fiery depths of hell just because he lived in an entirely different era, his mind shaped by an entirely different set of traditions and ideas through no fault of his own? What should you do? Do you stop him from writing? Prove him wrong by engaging him in a contest of name-calling? Sink to his level and also be stubborn, commit huge leaps in our senses of logic, and come up with irrational generalizations? Or do you need to become more mature and level-headed, and begin your constructive rebuttal systematically and effectively? Does fighting fire with fire solve anything? Or is it more fun for us spectators to see who gets burned first?

In our country, with the freedom to express ideas comes the freedom to rebut or at the very least question the ideas or values that we have held and that we are now holding on to dearly, no matter how precious, valuable, or sacred it may be. Nobody is safe from being a target. No topic is too taboo to be discussed. This is the essence of our society being a marketplace of ideas. Sure he may have published it in a newspaper, a company that has its own sets of rules and guidelines to follow, but seriously, how many columnists strictly follow the rules?

And yes, the word bigot equally applies to you who called Justice Cruz a bigot. Shame on you for being so mature and professional. The guy's column is not a call to raise arms against homosexuals. He didn’t even lump all homosexuals in one class. He just wanted to identify those whose acts displeased him, and particularly why their acts were displeasing and why it was displeasing to him. It was his opinion and that's that. Those of you who think that the people who read his column are too immature and foolish to think that facts and opinions are one and the same should think again.

And for crying out loud, be mature and civil enough not to resort to name-calling. If you take a look at Justice Cruz's life as well as his acts, you will find out that he has lived a more moral and decent life compared to most citizens who try their best to cover-up for their sins by doing seemingly charitable and humanitarian acts to appease the media and the unknowing public. At least Justice Cruz was mature enough to differentiate those whom he didn’t like from those that he respected and was decent enough to say sorry to those that he may offend. Grow-up. Be men, or gay men or a human being if you will. Don’t think that just because you were offended or injured, necessarily means that you can get away with anything that you want. In the tribunal of common sense and decency, nobody’s special. You have the same rights as he does and vice-versa. Think first before you act, or react for that matter. Playing dirty cannot be justified whichever way you look at it.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Death in the Family

For what is it to die,
But to stand in the sun and melt into the wind?
~Kahlil Gibran, from "The Prophet"

Death has never seriously bothered me, well, my own death at least. Truth be told, I never cried at any wake or funeral, nor have i placed myself in a situation where I was so depressed that I refused to get out of bed for a day or two. Until recently.

While growing up I never had the benefit of an older brother looking over my shoulder, giving me advice, or simply being there whenever I needed somebody to tell me that everything will be ok. When I was in high school, I was given the burden of being the class guidance counselor, a monkey in khakis and white polo shirt giving advice to other monkeys in the same attire if you will. It was not a fun job, knowing fully well that sure, I may be privy to their darkest secrets, and sure, I had the opportunity to fine-tune my petty god complex at that time by acting all high and mighty by dishing out unsolicited advice after advice; but after this, i knew that I was alone. Alone to sulk and to keep my problems within.

This is the reason why it always made me happy to go back to my hometown. Nevermind the four to six hour land drive over man-sized potholes, the threat of ambush, or the absence of a decent beerhouse where I can drown my sorrows away; it always felt good to come back to a place that at one time or another, I truly called "home". Nevermind all the shenanigans, for this is the place where a close relative of mine lived; a relative whom I always looked forward to seeing: My Kuya.

He was the only son of my dad's eldest brother, the latter already being deceased. Fourteen years older than me; tough, funny, kind, and religious. He was the first person I would go to upon arrival. We would talk about anything under the sun, politics, business, religion, and other topics that would come to mind. He was like a brother to me. He stood up for the family, fought for the family, and even bled for the family. He was my dad's right-hand man as I was yet too young to help out in our family business. Sadly, he also loved to binge on food and alcohol. He was already hospitalized a couple of times, diagnosed with diabetes and heart problems, yet despite these, he always remained cheerful and kind-hearted. He continued to live a normal life, until he suffered a major heart attack.

He was brought to the nearest city and was hospitalized for almost a month. The doctors found out that he had to undergo a double heart bypass operation, but that the facilities in the hospital where he was confined was not up to the job at hand. He was brought to Manila, UST hospital to be specific, where he stayed in the intensive care unit for four days. I wasn't able to visit him during the four days as the only scheduled time that visitors were allowed inside the ICU was in conflict with my class. I was suppose to visit him on the fifth day, a sunday, when he was scheduled to be transferred to a regular room. The operation was scheduled on Monday, he died Saturday night from a massive heart attack.

Fate has a cruel way of telling us how much we take things for granted. It stresses its point with much aplomb everytime it rears its ugly head. Yes I was able to make it to the hospital Saturday night; I was only minutes away from the opportunity to have talked to him one last time. Instead all I could do was weep, comfort his sister, and think about what might have been had I visited earlier.

Days passed by and I was still in shock. I refused to talk to anyone, I was too depressed to do so. It was only after a few weeks that I was able to accept what had transpired. I tried to rationalize, that if there is any justice in this world and in the next, then he should be staying in a place far better than heaven. Still, the pain lingers, though not as strong as before.

There is an old saying that he who dies never really does for his memory will live on amongst us. He was a cousin, a role model and a friend. I will always remember him for being the brother I never had, and in my deathbed, I know that I will take great comfort in the fact that we two shall meet again.