Monday, June 17, 2019

Abellanosa: Digong and the saints

Fringes and frontiers

THERE is no point spending so much time and energy arguing as to whether President Duterte was blasphemous in his remarks about Catholic saints. I am sure heaven knows what to do with him after his death. No matter what biblical or theological basis we would cite, Tatay Digong’s loyalists and blind followers would also find a scholarly justification for his foul language. His diehard fans draw their hermeneutic powers from vast sources of reasons why a foul mouth cannot but, in the end, be the symbolism of a blessed and a pure hearted leader.

I overheard, for example, in a restaurant a college student say that there is so much truth in his beloved Tatay’s statement that saints are drunkards. She made use of St. Augustine as an example of one who lived a sinful life before his conversion. I even know of a priest (who happens to be my friend) who defends the president saying: “Jesus ridiculed the scribes and the Pharisees.”

Perspectives and interpretations like this make me feel uncomfortable. For me it isn’t just about blasphemy. What is more irritating is the fact that the president of the republic is making unnecessary remarks about religion instead of sensibly talking about political or economic reforms.

As the highest political leader of this country, it is none of his business to waste time talking about religion. Religion, unless it affects public lives, should not be the concern of the government. It would be quite understandable if Digong were a Born Again pastor criticizing the veneration of the Virgin Mary. But as the Chief Executive of the republic who is facing a lot of problems, it would be best for him to spend more effort ridiculing the drug lords he hasn’t killed yet rather than quarrel with saints who have long gone to eternity.

The issue for me, therefore, is not just about the soundness of Digong’s criticisms of religion especially Catholicism. More seriously, he has gone beyond his job description. I hope his advisers would tell him that, additionally, his spare time could be used for more practices on how to deliver his speech more flawlessly in a manner that would make him sound more presidential.

Digong’s frequent tirade against Catholic beliefs and practices may not be uncommon among politicians who are antagonistic of the Catholic Church. The late DOH Secretary Juan Flavier, for example, would trade verbal punches with the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. However, Flavier had a reason for what he did as then Health Secretary. He also did not go as far as making fun out of Catholic beliefs.

Jokes serve the purpose of expressing things which we cannot express formally. Coming from the psychologist Sigmund Freud, jokes are verbalizations or sublimations of our unconscious. Sometimes we make fun out of someone we would like to destroy or rebel but we cannot.

By making fun out of Catholic practices and beliefs, Digong is making himself a more interesting figure for behavioral and social scientists to investigate. His jokes must come from somewhere. He must have hated something and someone so much. The saints perhaps remind him of something or someone so significant that he would like to, perhaps in the past, rebel but he cannot.


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