Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama-Biden

It will be a matter of time before the Republicans begin highlighting the obvious wordplay that can convert the Democratic ticket to Osama Bin Laden. I hope not too many fall for this. I am not surprised that a recent poll among white voters revealed that a full 16% believed Obama was a Muslim. Not that it should make any difference but these percentages are scary because even in a thoroughly modern USA, where access to information is universally available, it is very hard to think that people essentially continue to believe what they want to believe. As they say, the hardest to wake up is the person who is awake.

Biden brings a lot of experience and Washington savvy to the ticket. While I personally would have wanted to see Hillary as the running mate, it was solely Obama’s choice and deserves our complete support.

21 years ago, Biden made an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency, brought about in part when the Dukakis campaign circulated a video of Biden delivering a stump speech which he did not properly attribute to Neil Kinnock, a Welsh politician. While it is beyond dispute that Biden did not acknowledge Kinnock in the tape, it was established that he had properly recognized Kinnock in previous renditions of his speech that he must have repeated more than 50 times. What follows is the comparison of the 2 speeches:

Kinnock: "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? ... Was it because our predecessors were thick? ... Was it because they were weak, those people who could work eight hours underground [as coal miners] and come up and play football, weak? ... It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand."

Biden: "Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? ... Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in ... generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest? ... Was it that they didn't work hard, my ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? ... It's because they didn't have a platform upon which to stand."

This will also come up during the next 9 weeks, I just hope that everyone realizes how badly we need change in the country. How we must leave Iraq as soon as possible, how we must have a sensible energy policy, how we must return to the values that made this nation great: industry, patriotism, making sure nobody is left behind. We’ve had enough of irresponsible tax cuts and unfair policies that favor the wealthy and powerful which has the effect of promoting unbridled greed and selfishness.

We need Obama-Biden to win.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

25 Years

I am not going to begin with “has it been 25 years?” Benigno Aquino was murdered that long ago, his valiant widow Cory has long served her term of office and the Marcos dictatorship has been totally dismantled. Aquino’s only son and namesake is a Senator, 2 of his siblings have served in the Senate. An entire generation of Aquino political allies have controlled the political agenda of the Philippines for the last 20 years.

Yet Senator Benigno Aquino III complains that the country appears to be headed in a reverse course and Cory is exhorting the youth to snap out of their malaise. We still don’t know who shot Ninoy and our economy continues its inexorable descent. The middle class grows smaller every day with Filipinos immigrating to even pretty inhospitable places just to provide a better future for their families.

I don’t want to blame the Aquino family and I will never stop supporting Cory but what are we to do? Proof of the hopelessness is the faith and trust the public reliably bestows upon Joseph Estrada, convicted plunderer and admitted polygamist. We gave Estrada a chance and he royally blew it. He gamed the stock market and didn’t care if it ruined the economy just so he could make money. He accepted bribes that originated from the combined savings of an impoverished people hoping to win any amount in small town lotteries. And yet Estrada was there today, attending the memorial Mass and acting every inch like the Kingmaker that he actually is.

25 years and 1 day ago, could Ninoy have foreseen that his wife who unfailingly entertained his political guests in Boston, his erstwhile jailer, Fidel Ramos who was then the chief of the constabulary and this mayor of a small town in Metro Manila, an ex-actor who was never ashamed of his alliance with Marcos would attain his lifelong dream? And he had to die so that they could each become President?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pervez Learns His Lesson, too late

After an hour, I was beginning to wonder whether Pervez Musharraf was going to hunker down and fight his political opponents to the death. He was making all these long-winded accounts of his accomplishments for Pakistan and was non-stop declaring his willingness to sacrifice for the country. In the end, he did what any elementary chess player facing a checkmate would do, he resigned.

Coincidentally, the bible reading for today comes from Ezekiel who describes what happens to the King of Tyre who is acknowledged as someone who is very intelligent and highly knowledgeable with finances and affairs of state and who predictably becomes “haughty”. The King meets a gruesome end.

As a powerless nobody, do I see a lesson that all these Presidents and Prime Ministers are unable to see? Nobody is indispensable. In a country of a hundred million, there must be at least 100, 000 others qualified to lead. In the case of Musharraf, 9 years is way too long. There has to be some moment in the lives of these people when they convince themselves that they have become too important, the same moment that transforms a fairy tale into both a personal and national tragedy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day After

Back in Guymon after the extraordinary 5 day pilgrimage to Guadalupe, I put in a full day at the clinic. My camera was bursting with photographs and I knew I needed to compose a post for each day I was in Mexico. But it was getting dark and the soft warm wind outside made the hot tub even more inviting. A jigger of Tanqueray, olive juice and a couple of onion balls-- I was set.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mexico Pilgrimage: Day 3

On our way to the Church of St James where Juan Diego was baptized in 1529, I was told about an incident that was covered up until fairly recently. Mexico City hosted the 1968 Olympics and the day before international media descended upon the city, on October 2, there was a demonstration by students seeking social justice. The government brutally clamped down and as many as 5000 people disappeared. Newspaper headlines the following day described the wonderful weather that was going to greet the opening of the Olympics. The monument at the Plaza of the Three Cultures that was unveiled in 1993, 25 years after the massacre, commemorates a few of the missing and cries out against the conspiratorial silence that quashed any meaningful inquiry concerning the terrible carnage.





The church of the fifth apparition in Tulpetlac marks the appearance of the Lady to the ailing uncle of Juan Diego. The 18th century paintings looked faded and dark with grime and dirt. The priest in his homily spoke out against the “cult of the holy death”. Many youths believe that by placing a religious object in a self-inflicted laceration in their arms would protect them from death. He spoke about 3 young men dealing in drugs who died in a shootout with the police the night before.




Teotihuacan is an impressive archaeological center that features a museum which describes the advanced civilization of pre-Hispanic America. There are 2 massive pyramids that provide an amazing view of the city that flourished 1500 years earlier.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mexico Pilgrimage: Day 2

After breakfast, we saw a procession right outside the hotel composed of indigenous people, in full native regalia from Chiapas who were walking toward the Basilica, today, July 31 being the anniversary of Juan Diego’s canonization.

We drove to the shrine of Our Lady of Ocotlan in Tlaxcala. There was a funeral going on and over here, they continue to carry the coffin as a sign of respect towards the deceased. There was a well close to the church where water issued from a cleft that the Lady had shown to Juan Diego Bernardino that healed countless natives from a plague that was decimating them in 1541.

We were shown the ornate area where the statue of the Lady was dressed. This 450 year old statue was found inside the cavity of a tree that was spared from a forest fire.

Next stop was Puebla, at the Temple of Saint Francis with an inordinate quantity of Talavera ceramic tiles, where the 400 year old uncorrupted remains of the beatified Sebastian of Apparitious was on display. Born in Spain, he settled in the newly established town of Puebla at about the time Magellan landed in the Philippines in 1521. Sebastian is credited with building 600 miles of roads and teaching the natives farming techniques. He accumulated a great amount of wealth only to give it all away at the age of 73 when he became a Franciscan monk and for the next 25 years, practiced poverty to the levels of heroism.

After a sumptuous meal of mole, we hiked to the Dominican church that had a thoroughly unprepossessing fa├žade. The altar reminded me of the Santo Tomas church in Manila. What was most impressive was the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. There was a tremendous amount of gold and it was apparent that in constructing this house of worship, no expense was spared. Apparently, most of the gold mined in Mexico were shipped to Spain until a rule that made it acceptable to pour unlimited amounts of precious metals to religious shrines.

We passed through mountainous areas of great beauty. Mexico is so much larger than the Philippines with far more natural resources. Possessing a much older culture, this country has a rich history.