I remember again Tolstoy’s story of the freezing coachman. That story tells of an aristocrat who goes to the theater one wintry night to watch a play. The tragedy unfolding before her moves her to tears and makes her grieve over the plight of humanity. Meanwhile, outside, barely kept warm by his ragged clothes, her faithful coachman freezes to death while waiting for her.
It’s what I see every time the anti-RH faithful come out to lament the plight of the unborn children and vow to defend them to death, or what passes for death. The issue is now before the Supreme Court, forcing the justices to debate with supreme hilarity the question of when life begins. Happily, some of them have acknowleged the fact that they’re not the most qualified people to untangle this knot, though it remains a tossup who is—theologians or scientists. But they’ve been forced to, the people protesting contraception having brought the baby, so to speak, to their not-very-Solomonic doorstep.
I myself have always thought the matter a simple one, which pretty much every country in the world, except Vatican City and us, has resolved. Abortion is one thing, contraception another. Contraception in fact is there to prevent abortion. You may debate abortion to your heart’s content, but not so contraception. RH is not abortion, it is contraception.
Abortion is, as the word says, aborting a fetus, and truly you may argue furiously whether a fetus already constitutes human life or not. Contraception is preventing a sperm from saying hello to an egg by various means. Now unless you believe that a sperm is naturally intended, or divinely ordained, to meet an egg and ne’er may you interfere with their meeting on pain of eternal damnation, or of being presumed a murderer, then there’s no conundrum. Unless you believe that you may not experience the joys of lovemaking without the sense of duty, or express intention, of producing a baby, or bahala na si Batman, then there’s no dilemma.
Least of all a moral one. Only those who have not experienced lovemaking, or are forced to grin and bear it, cannot know how wondrously uplifting it is, in more ways than one.
All this is debatable, however it often seems like debating how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. You can always debate when human life begins, what you cannot is how human life fares. Especially so in this country, especially so the overwhelming majority of human lives in this country, especially so the life that is produced in this reckless, heedless, murderous way. Yes, murderous—for both the less-than-human life that is produced and the lives of others that it threatens.
That is the mind-boggling thing about this, one that the world at least, if not we ourselves, cannot fail to notice and be aghast at. How a people, who are so careless or dismissive of human life they allow their children to live under the bridges of a fretful and squalid city and to be swept away by the waters when the creeks overflow their banks, can be so bothered and outraged by the life that is not there, that is nonexistent, that has no shape or form or substance because a seed was spat into a condom instead of a womb. How a people, who are so callous and indifferent toward human life they allow their children to sleep dreamless sleeps in deserted streets and beg for their lives when those streets spring to life, can be so finely attuned to the cries of the agonized souls of their imaginings.
How a Church that is holier than thou—or holier even than the Pope, the latter being only too acutely aware of those real children, those flesh-and-blood children, those children of the poor who are poor in flesh and spirit, who are warped in mind and body, and who bid his flock see them—can beat its breast in anguish, crying, “Lord, Lord, why has thou forsaken the unborn child, the unreal child, the child that is not there?”
But that’s not all. The even more mind-boggling thing is that the ones who lead this charge are the same ones who have distinguished themselves for being utterly blind, deaf and insensate to human life, to real life, to living life in this country.
I don’t know how many admirers Kit Tatad will draw to his side, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, heathen and devout alike, proposing that by UN strictures the current President (Aquino) will have committed genocide by his policy of distributing contraceptives. There’s still a generation out there that remembers, or that can make their children know, that Kit, like Johnny, was a sidekick of Ferdinand. The most visible in fact, being the information secretary. Contraception is genocidal while martial law, which sent many of this country’s best and brightest in the first flush of their youth to the great beyond, lived up to the ideals of the UN? To this day, not quite incidentally, the real children are still paying for the billions of dollars in debt that Marcos stole.
That’s an aristocratic lady weeping before the tragedy of a play while her coachman freezes to death. Except that a play is more real than an unborn child, except that a coachman freezing to death is less chilling than a dissenter water-boarded to death.
Just as well, I don’t know how many adherents Archbishop Socrates Villegas and his company of crimson-robed colleagues will gather to their side, faithful or faithless, religious or secular, proposing that contraception is corruption—as Villegas said not so long ago. Today’s generation at least will remember that they were the bishops who abided the previous, well, she wasn’t really a president, they just abided her cheating too, who made lying, cheating and stealing the motto of the presidential seal. Behold, the new Pharisees.
Dante was right to put a great many of them in the fiery place.