By Ricardo Saludo | The Manila Times
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam in your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye. A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, not does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. … A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil, produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
– Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Saint Luke, 6:42-45
IS Russia evil? Is America good? What about Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo?
The February 27 Sunday Mass Gospel reading from Saint Luke is apropos at this time not only because the penitential Lenten season begins on March 2, Ash Wednesday, centered on judgment, sin and mercy.
Even more telling as this time, Jesus Christ's admonition in the Gospel not to judge others gives a sorely needed but constantly ignored divine warning against wielding the primary weapon in political jousts, whether between candidates or countries: demonize your rival and play the holy angel.
In fact, as our Lord made clear in his above-quoted passage about the beam and the splinter, no one is immaculately faultless to judge others, but God Himself. Rather, we are all sinners who, like the crowd who fell away instead of stoning the adulterous woman in the Gospel of St. John (Jn 8:3-11), must seek divine mercy, confessing our errors as we urge others to do likewise.
In the political battle for popular or global support, however, good vs evil is the top narrative. Thus, in Western and Western-influenced media, Russia is the evil one in the Ukraine crisis, while America and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies are the good guys.
And for supporters of Vice President Robredo, including leading Catholic organizations and figures, she and her camp represent unsullied good, while her survey-leading rival Marcos is unadulterated evil.
The beam in NATO's eye
The problem with the good-against-evil narrative is that it sweeps aside the complex issues and interests at play in political and geopolitical situations and problems, making helpful solutions and compromise much harder to achieve.
Take the Ukraine crisis. Russia is widely portrayed in the West as an aggressor out to gobble up Europe. Those who try to present Moscow's side are derided as apologists, as this writer was called for explaining the security concerns Russia has about Ukraine joining NATO — the one no-no for President Vladimir Putin, for which he will go to war.
Put simply, if the alliance embraces Ukraine, NATO forces would then be at Russia's border, just hours from Moscow and minutes by missile to key government and military installations controlling the country's strategic forces, including its ability to defend and retaliate against nuclear attack.
How can any Russian leader allow that, especially after Russia was thrice invaded in the past two centuries by two powerful countries now in NATO: France under Napoleon Bonaparte in the 19th century and Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler in the 20th?
Yet Western leaders and media simply insist that Russia must allow NATO and Ukraine to do as they please on membership and military deployment, even if it puts nuclear-capable projectiles at its doorstep.
Totally forgotten are the lessons in two missile crises which nearly triggered World War 3. One was the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when Russia tried to put rockets in Cuba after the United States installed its own in Turkey. That ended after both agreed to pull out their projectiles.
Then in 1983, Washington again upset the military balance by deploying intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in Europe, able to hit Moscow in minutes, as NATO rockets would if they were put in Ukraine. Thankfully, then Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev agreed on Dec. 8, 1987, to ban IRBMs in Europe.
For sure, Russia is not blameless in the wish of both Ukraine and NATO to put the country under the defense umbrella of the alliance. After all, Russia took the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and sent incognito troops into the pro-Russian Donbas eastern region of its neighbor. Moscow has now recognized those enclaves as independent states, which its army has entered as "peacekeeping" forces.
Still, it's certainly not true or fair to denounce Russia as utterly evil in threatening invasion if Ukraine would join NATO and bring the most powerful military alliance on the planet, including no less than three nuclear-armed nations, close enough to rain massive ordnance upon its center of government with zero time to hit back.
A little reason and faith
Turning to our presidential elections, one candidate is most frequently and vehemently reviled. The overarching narrative is that he would repeat the ills and excesses of his father's two-decade rule.
A little common sense should tell any thinking person that the candidate is not his father. Nor is the Philippines the same nation cowed by martial law and fooled by muzzled media.
Filipinos today are far more aware of and assertive against misrule. Just see how Pharmally was exposed. Not to mention Jose Velarde, the fertilizer scam and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Plainly, the nation, media and key sectors would watch like hawks, especially a leader with all the baggage the survey topnotcher has.
As for the man himself, both reason and religion tell us that even people with unsavory pasts could decide to do better.
Indeed, given the chance to rule, would he repeat all the evil his family is accused of? Or would he try to cleanse his family name by governing well?
His opponents would, of course, insist that his family tree cannot bear good fruit.
But in the spirit of the coming Lenten season, our Lord would urge him to turn away from sin and follow the right path.
Let us pray that whoever wins in May shall heed heaven's call to. So help him or her God.