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Opinion

Presidency and prejudice

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Back in 1985 while living in Westport, Connecticut, I remember watching a campaign on TV that went like this: “Prejudice is a legacy we should never leave to our children.” If I remember correctly the message was largely about race or color but I never really gave it much thought until I started seeing real-life situations of racial prejudice, such as a black person not getting a job even though he was highly qualified because he did not represent the company “image” for a predominantly white neighborhood. When I visited museums in the Washington, DC area I remember a message etched on the glass door of one of the museums that said: “The immigrants immediately discovered that they were expected to be more American than Americans.” I myself was subjected to hate calls and once provoked to show my karate skills. That’s when being friends with all the bouncers really helped.

All that may have been 35 years ago, but recent history has shown that “prejudice” of various forms still exists, in America, in Europe as well as here in the Philippines. Yes, people in the Philippines would like to say that prejudice in the country is not as loud or violent as in other countries, but we do have prejudice – against gender orientation, religion, even color – which is why laws have been pushed through Congress to deal with them and put things under control.

Unfortunately, there is a more common and nastier form of discrimination and prejudice that many Filipinos in the A-B-C economic cluster have regularly practiced for generations that they now confuse it as their opinion instead of prejudice. It is our prejudice against people who rise out of poverty, obscurity or anonymity and who aspire for things, positions or titles that the A-B-C folks presume is their entitlement and privilege for having money, power, jobs or education. In spite of their achievements, some people will never be good enough in the eyes of the ABC cluster. It is not just a bias, it is real prejudice.

A classic example and victim of this prejudice or discrimination would be Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao “The Boxer.” In the eyes of the well off, Pacman will never be good enough because of his roots, his mistakes and his simple background. Now people are growing cataracts raising their eyelids in disbelief that he could even imagine becoming President of the Philippines.

Manny Pacquiao literally fought his way out of poverty with blood, sweat and tears. He took the punches, low pay and bruises not for titles but to put food on the table at an age when he should have been in school and having a childhood. Some of us may have been working students or supported ourselves through school etc., but how many of us fought and punched our way out? How many of today’s political personalities and public figures are known to have stolen both their fame and fortune through politics or embezzlement and are given preferential treatment?

We cheered Pacquiao through every victory because he was often a sure win and a “Filipino” but when he lost he would be judged or criticized. When he strayed from the path of discipline he was labeled a gambler, a womanizer, someone throwing it all away, someone who was wasting it all. No one recognized his determination to rise from his mistakes, his humility and very public repentance and all-out effort to restore his marriage. When he surrendered his life to Christ, he was called a Jesus freak or a minister in the making! When he decided to manage his own business affairs, people reacted in disbelief and presumed it would be the end of him, no one recognized how he managed his wealth, investments and even strategized his rise beyond boxing into politics and public service. People who had nothing to do with his life or made no contribution to his career always had something nasty or derogatory to say about Pacquiao, even when he was giving away money and not stealing it.

When he ran for senator many criticized his decision and said he was not qualified for higher office, ignoring his preparations by going to school, even enrolling at the DAP, and yet when he participated in a number of Senate investigations where he asked simple but direct questions, many were wowed by his directness and fearless conduct. Now that many people are talking about potential candidates, it may be the right time to ask: What qualified past presidents and vice presidents? What virtues and achievements do the current wannabe’s have that make them far better than a Pacquiao or another person who grew up on the poor side of the tracks?

This article is not meant to be a pro-Pacquiao piece. It is intended to make people aware of the bias or prejudice or non-acceptance of people who are not from the same economic circle, educational level, religious or political community or party. Half of my life, I carried false burdens, mistaken notions and, worst of all, bias and prejudice against people I never bothered to learn about, spend time with or make an effort to be fair or balanced towards. In the later half of my life, I was forced to change all of that because of the faith I embraced, my decision to follow Jesus Christ to the best of my abilities and in order to observe the tenets of journalism to be fair and balanced. Pride is the seed of prejudice and bias, against that the most powerful weapon is “to love others as you love yourself” (Matt 22: 39) because…

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13: 13)

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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