Little man

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Is it really what President Duterte is saying or is it something else? Just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so is the spoken word to the ear. Let us quit Duterte for a while and find an example that should be familiar to where it matters most - Donald Trump of good old America. Trump has said some things that many find outrageous, all the more because he is an American.

But where is Trump right now? In the race for the White House, he is in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton. This despite almost the entire American media throwing out all pretenses at objectivity and neutrality out the window and ganging up on Trump. This despite attacks and withdrawal of support from within his own party. This despite every conceivable brickbats from anyone who considers himself an analyst or pundit.

Trump need not actually win the presidency to prove his point - that Americans have grown tired of political promises and rhetoric, have grown tired of American weakness and political correctness. The fact that Trump is way up there, not giving Clinton any quarter, proves that many Americans, just like other people everywhere, Filipinos included, want their leaders to tell it like it is.

So back to Duterte. Many are uncomfortable with his language. Many say it is inappropriate for a man who is president. But that is precisely the point, the same point that is making Trump so unpopular in media and yet so strong in what does not appear in the news that he is giving Clinton the creeps. What is so unpresidential about telling it like it is? Or would people rather that their leaders talk only of roses and rainbows as they lie to their faces.

If we can get uncomfortable with words, does that mean we would rather live with the reality that they describe so long as the words never get spoken? If that is the case, then the time will come when we will not even know what hit us. I would rather have the strong words prepare me for the harsh eventualities of life than get caught napping because I preferred to hear sweet nothings.

The bad thing about it, in the case of Duterte, is that his reputation is proceeding way ahead of him that everything he says is almost always taken out of context. The latest incident about Hitler and the Jews can be reviewed and reviewed until doomsday, and those inclined to be offended by it will be offended while those inclined otherwise will not.

In the end, none will be the wiser because Duterte is not the listener and the listener is not Duterte. In other words, no matter how the listener splits hair over what he heard, he will never be more correct and precise than the speaker and what he says he meant. I would rather have Duterte speak his mind for that is the mark of a strong leader, unlike, say, Barack Obama, who has clay feet and is a master of double-speak.

As an interesting aside, it might be well worth noting that it is only America and its Western allies who seem to feel greatly offended by Duterte and his style. It is as if they cannot accept the fact that a little man from Asia would have the temerity to stand up to them and curse them to their faces. No one among the Asians have raised a peep against Duterte and it would not come as a surprise if they are not silently cheering him on.

Another interesting aside happened at the funeral of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres, which was attended by several world leaders. Obama shook the hand of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as he greeted him warmly. Then he virtually cold-shouldered Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu right in his own country. Israel, America's longtime and strongest ally in the Middle East has apparently not forgiven Obama for entering into a nuclear deal with Iran, Israel's worst enemy.

What Netanyahu must have felt is precisely the same feeling that must have seized Duterte. As leader of the country that is America's longest and strongest friend in Asia, Duterte did not expect to be publicly humiliated by Obama. If Obama did not like the way Duterte ran his own country, he could have chosen to call him privately. To be lectured before the whole world by a supposed friend is something even a little man from Asia cannot take.


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