By Alex P. Vidal
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”—Soren Kierkegaard
IN my opinion, Senator Riza Hontiveros, et al are wrong to overreact and demand for expulsion of Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian supposedly for making “disgraceful statements” when the envoy addressed the 8th Manila Forum of the Association for Philippine-China Understanding on April 14.
Hontiveros released a statement April 16 saying the country should push for Huang to return to China, along with its ships, and artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.
She boomed: “The Palace should tell Beijing to recall their representative in Manila as soon as possible. He has no business being a diplomat if he is unable to engage with us in a respectful and dignified manner,” the senator said. “He, along with his country’s ships and artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, should pack up and leave.”
Wait a minute. Why pack up and leave?
What did Ambassador Huang declare in his speech that supposedly broke the back of the camel?
Huang said, “The Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ rather than stoking the fire by offering the [United States] access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) [in Taiwan].”
The ambassador also cited Manila’s “announcement of the four additional EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) sites, [in line with that 2014 agreement with Washington], has caused widespread and grave concern among Chinese people.”
He added: “Obviously, the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan Strait to serve its geopolitical goals, and advance its anti-China agenda at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large.”
I don’t see any urgency and justification why Hontiveros, and those who sharply reacted to Huang’s speech, should demand for the guillotine when the ambassador was merely expressing his views.
Aren’t we a country that adheres to the freedom of the press and expression?
What happened to the free speech being loudly espoused by the country’s freedom-loving advocates, including some bill of rights-conscious lawmakers like Hontiveros?
Isn’t it the right opportunity for us to show Huang that in the Philippines, we value and respect the individual’s right to freedom of expression without being stifled or muzzled?
We love to promote our democratic ideals vis-a-vis the non-democratic ethos of communist and autocratic governments that don’t adhere to what we champion, but look how some of us react to “hostile” speeches like the one made by the Chinese diplomat.
Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you said, but I will defend to death your right to say it.”
Of course, we don’t agree with Huang on the OFW part, but in our democratic system we welcome opposite and contradicting opinions and views no matter how uncanny and fanciful they may be.
The problem here is when politicians speak, they tend to always overreact and over attack verbally without trying to expand the horizon of our logical thoughts and reason.
If Hontiveros, et al criticized Huang’s speech and expressed a high-minded disagreement for purposes of debate and discussion in the free market of ideas, it would have been classic.
But to demand for more than that would be tragic and embarrassing especially coming from a highly regarded legislator.
Americans turn to poems in April, according to ShareAmerica. Poetry is sprouting everywhere in April.
It’s National Poetry Month in the United States, a time set aside to celebrate an art form that is not only one of humankind’s oldest but also more relevant than ever, according to Ydalmi Noriega of the Poetry Foundation, a Chicago-based group that promotes poetry.
During the pandemic, she says, people had the time and the need to find meaning in what they were experiencing, and poems provided them insights and connections across languages, cultures and eras.
Poetry, once seen as elitist in the United States, is more popular than ever, particularly among young people. Supporting the trend is the fact that more state and local governments recently created poet laureate positions to popularize poems.
Spoken word poetry—that performed in “poetry slams,” for one example—has grown more prevalent. Presidential inaugural ceremonies have publicized particular poets’ work.
And social media users employ platforms like Instagram to share their favorite poems. (The Poetry Foundation sends anyone interested a poem a day, as does the Academy of American Poets, with the choices this month curated by the poet laureate of the United States, Ada Limon.)
Poetry month, called by the academy “the largest literary celebration in the world”—is when many U.S. schools teach about poetry, public libraries offer readings, and communities engage residents in reading and writing poems:
The O, Miami Poetry Festival hopes to ensure that every single person in the county where Miami ls located encounters a poem. “Poetry parking tickets” will be slapped onto windshields, offering drivers verse instead of charging them fines.
In the nearby neighborhood of Surfside, an art therapist will work with people to write poems about loss and hope, and then the poems will be posted in large formats on buildings for others to read. The New York Public Library will invite the public to create poems and write them on leaves that will become a tree display. Dozens of events are scheduled for various ages to write and hear poetry in the library, online and even in the park.
On April 27, the academy celebrates Poem in Your Pocket Day, inviting people to share poems in person, by email, on social media or in other ways.
American poet T.S. Eliot may have called April “the cruelest month” in his poem The Waste Land, but readers in America will beg to differ.
Limon, the poet laureate, says she thinks of April “as an alive month, when we come back to life in some ways. And so I wanted (the poems I share) to perform a little resurrection.”
(The author, who is now bases in New York City, used to be the editor of two local daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)