Knights of the ballot
And so we have come to this: Easter Wednesday, three days after the Christian world celebrated the Risen Lord after a week of penitence and frolic (or both). It is also three days since the world woke up to news of terrible bombings in Sri Lanka targeting Easter churchgoers and guests at the country’s poshest hotels. And for us Filipinos, two days after an earthquake, a “fairly big one” that hit mostly Central Luzon but also shook up Metro Manila.
We are simultaneously “shook” and “shocked.” After basking in days of leisure and reflection, our world of serenity and sense of equanimity has been shattered by terrorists across the seas and by nature’s random visitation.
Adding to the free-floating anxiety that hovers above our heads is that the May 13 elections are just around the corner. In less than two weeks, we shall be visiting our polling precincts and shading our ballots. There is so much at stake in May’s voting, not the least of which is the survival of democracy which is now hanging by a thread given the iron hand wielded by the President and his minions. Indeed, an independent, outspoken, vigilant Senate (are the House and the judiciary lost causes?) seems to be the last holdout for a real working democracy in our benighted islands!
Last words on the mission we voters must embark on in a few weeks.
Given the odds that candidates outside the administration orbit—and I’m talking here mainly about the Otso Diretso opposition slate—will face in these last days leading to the voting, we could say their quest is no less than noble, indeed, quixotic. Their struggle is imbued with the same spirit that Don Quixote, in “Man of La Mancha,” sings about—chasing the “impossible dream,” fighting the unbeatable foe, and running where the brave dare not go.
The quest seems foolish, given the resources that this administration has poured into its candidates’ campaign, not to mention the incredible wealth that the candidates themselves seem to have at their disposal. In contrast, Otso Diretso have had to launch a fund-raising campaign for their own efforts, and the results have resulted in what could be considered a pittance in contrast to the deep pockets of the ruling coalition.
Some sweet comfort, though, are photos shared on Facebook of homemade, even handmade, “posters” that humble supporters of Otso Diretso have fashioned from cardboard and marker pens, hung on their own fences and gates. Another sort of comfort: the victories of mostly Otso candidates in campus mock polls, showing a growing awareness and commitment among the country’s dynamic student population.
This is the spirit we must foster, if we desire to defeat the bloated party machinery of the Duterte forces. We must use our “smallness” to advantage, carving out niches of influence among our population, translating Otso’s messages into language ordinary folk can understand and appreciate. The “underdog” battling the pack.
To inspire us further, but especially the huge number of “Game of Thrones” fans here, is the scene in Episode 2 of Season 8, the last of this groundbreaking series. This is the scene in which Brienne of Tarth, one of the noblest, most courageous characters who have pledged their loyalty to the “good” side, is “knighted.” Queried why, despite her acts of courage and loyalty, she is still not a knight, Brienne says it’s because “women aren’t knighted” in the Seven Kingdoms. To which Jaime Lannister says that a knight has the right and power to proclaim another knight, inviting Brienne to take the knee and accept the honor.
“In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave,” Jaime says, while placing his sword upon her shoulder. “In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just. In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the innocent. Arise, Brienne of Tarth, a knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
And so, arise, Filipino voters, knights of the ballot. Use your power well. Be brave, be just and defend the innocent. You’re voting for our future.
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