December 24, 2008

The politics of sorry and the apologetics of forgiveness

A former Vice President and current Malacanang occupant once said, "I am sorry", but she obviously didn't mean it.

A current Senator and Malacanang hopeful more recently said, "I am NOT sorry" and he obviously meant it.

A former President and icon of confused democracy more recently said, "I am sorry" or words to that effect, but no one knows for sure whether she meant it.

Another former President and convicted felon has never said "I am sorry" and he obviously means it.

I am not sure whether Gloria meant it when she said, "I am sorry" for cheating in the 2004 elections, for tainting the electoral process almost beyond repair, for foisting and inflicting Garci on us; but her subsequent actions clearly showed that she didn't mean it. She certainly wasn't sorry, she just said she was.

I am not sure if Mar meant it when he said he WASN'T sorry for lacing his diatribe against charter change with an expletive; at least, it showed me that Mar could show some spine and, forgive the sexist language, get some balls and stand up against those who were telling him to say "I am sorry." Like Gloria, however, his subsequent actions must show that he really meant that he wasn't sorry and that if it came down to getting a spine again, he would.

I am not sure what Cory meant when she apologized to Erap for her participation in EDSA Dos. Despite Dee Dee Siytangco's best spin and the loyalista coristas most fervent slants, it was clearly an apology. The spin now is that Cory was joking. Humor and Cory Aquino are not only strange bedfellows, they are practically enemies. Remember this was the Cory Aquino who took offense at Louie Beltran's mischievous turn of phrase "hiding under her bed" by even bringing reporters to Malacanang and her bed room to show that there was no place under her bed for her to hide. No, Cory is not about to embark on a Tina Fey routine and start becoming funny. It would be easier to pass a genuine land reform bill or kick Gloria out before Cory could even start becoming funny. So, like Gloria and Mar, her subsequent actions must show what she meant.

As for Erap, one thing you can say for him, when he believes in something, nothing sways him. He believes he was innocent despite the conviction for plunder, and he has continued the same refrain, so that it has almost become mantra-like. His subsequent actions have shown that he is unrepentant and that he continues and will continue to be the same Erap that got him convicted in the first place.

The apologies of Gloria and Cory and the non-apologies of Mar and Erap call to mind, to some extent, Matthew 21:28-32, or the "parable of the two sons" where the Father asks his two sons to go into the vineyard and work; the first says he will but doesn't and the second says he won't but does. Thus, Jesus asks, "which one did the father's will?" It is a fascinating meditation on change and the capacity to change; it is also a good reflection on integrity or meaning what one says or doing what one promises. At bottom, Jesus's question asks us to examine ourselves by asking, "which brother am I?"

Indeed, which brother am I? Will I do what I say or do what I actually meant to say?

The one thing that plagues this country, aside from Gloria and her cronies, is a lack of institutional integrity--when people do not do what they say or do not say what they mean. The problem with Gloria, apart from being Gloria, is that no one believes her anymore. The problem with Erap is that no one believes him anymore as well. The problem with Mar is that no one knows what to believe when it comes to him. The problem apparently now with Cory is that we also do not know what to believe.

As Christmas approaches in a few hours, I recall the one person who meant what He said and did what He said He would do--"I did not come to the world to condemn it but to save it." (John 3:17) And even as He hung from the cross, dying for our sins, the words that came out of His mouth were not words of apology but words of forgiveness--"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) They did not remain mere words but were actually deeds lived out.

Gloria, Cory, Mar and Erap and every trapo in the country should learn from the one whose birth we celebrate and whose name a great number of us claim as our own--Jesus, The Christ.

Merry Christmas!