Blowing in the wind

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

“Yes, How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.”

I’m going nostalgic, remembering this excerpt of a famous song from Bob Dylan, a song he wrote himself. Before he first sang it in 1962 or 55 years ago, the singer-songwriter said, “This here ain’t no protest song or anything like that, ‘cause I don’t write no protest songs”

I’m not protesting either, I’m just nostalgic. Christmas does that to me and maybe to billions more. It is a season where love and family jump to the front and center of our lives. We know that there are a lot of negative people and events around our lives but we want them to stay there – just around but not in us, not front and center. Let joy and good cheer enter our front doors and let’s keep them there for as long as we can.

And even as we try to savor the air of festivity from the bright lights and the Christmas songs, I know we cannot be blind to the tears of others, or deaf to the cry of the poor and the innocent. That is why Christmas to me is not a fiesta even if it is festive; I carry the Christmas spirit of caring, to the ones I love the most, and to the ones I weep for the most. Because Christmas makes us love and care, not forget that many are not loved and cared for.

It is forgetting that has been very deadly for human societies. We forget the mistakes we have done, the lessons we thought we learned, and that life is not a moment anchored on an incident. Rather, life is a continuum, a moment-to-moment living that has a context longer and bigger than we realize, and creates a thread that will live beyond our individual lives. We are human beings, individuals. We are also part of a while, individuals relating to one another, a community, a society, a humanity. When we are gone, humanity stays. The continuum endures, humanity endures, and what we have done in our lifetime is a foundation for that continuum that possibly will live forever.

Even as I write, even as you read, there are many who insist on pushing division and confrontation in our midst. To them, Christmas has little meaning except maybe as non-working holidays that even politicians can enjoy is they so choose. Let us not so easily allow them to dominate our thoughts and feelings or else Christmas will sour badly for us. It is not as though we are not already challenged by our obligations, by the lack of funds to give family and friends what we really want to give them, by the lack of time and proximity to be with the many who give our lives not just good cheer but deeper meaning as well. We have enough challenges and we do not need the nay-sayers and haters and fake news to keep us down and low.

If we have to think political at all, if we have to be drawn into issues that do affect our individual and collective lives, then let us be more reflective than partisan. Reviewing what has happened in 2017 as it prepares to say goodbye is a worthy effort if what we can learn from it will make 2018 a brighter year for us all.

We are now aware that illegal drugs are a real scourge, and that it is a social illness that threatens to be a pandemic. Illegal drugs kill, illegal drugs corrupt, and illegal drugs destroy individuals, families, and communities. Illegal drugs are bad news and we must find brave and innovative ways to confront and contain the scourge. To not do so is to give the government license to deal with it in any way it knows how – even if that way is deadly. Those who have no viable option will do what they believe they are forced to do.

We have long been aware that poverty cripples our nations and kills the poor in brutal ways. When a Filipino can live for 70 years but the poor can live shorter lives because poverty severely limits their health and well-being, is that not killing them, too? Yes, softly, maybe, but killing them nonetheless. It seems we recognize abortion and condemn it, but aborting lives can also happen outside of the womb. Can we use this season to care for the poor we have not cared for at all – and to never stop caring for them hereafter?

We have been in the midst of conflict, the armed kind, for many decades. We have had the Left and the Muslim separatists battling with government forces. Just because these conflicts have been with us most of our lives doesn’t mean we should get used to them. Do Filipinos really have to kill one another? Can Christmas make us stop for a while and make us think of better ways to resolve our differences?

We are victims of corruption, that is clear to most of us. What is not so clear is our how many of us unwittingly perpetuate corruption by participation or by resignation. In corruption, there is the extortionist, the bribe giver, and the onlooker. We have played one role or the other if not two or more. Now is a good time to review and rethink our habits. If we just point to the government to do even our obligations, then we must give up on democracy because democracy is demanding of good citizenship. In a dictatorship or revolutionary government, we can let the government make all the decisions and we just follow.

What can we do? The answer, my friend, as the song goes, is blowing in the wind.

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