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‘Free and brave’ vs. the COVID?

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

A bit of good news I heard recently was that Boracay is open again to tourists and vacationists. But is that really good news? Is there any assurance, not only from its government officials, but the Health Department that all is well there, and no COVID virus could be lurking in the air? I will surely admire those who decide to spend their holidays there they must be very sure that they are fully immune to this vicious new virus with the exotic name of “coronavirus”, which could be worse than a crown of thorns to its victims.

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But we cannot say that those who bravely exposed themselves in places where the disease is raging will have no one to blame if they get it. Not that they have no knowledge of how contagious and vicious it could be. If they flaunt warnings and expose themselves to contagion, risking the health and even lives of their families, they will have no one to blame. Sometimes I have such inane thoughts, such as having both government authorities declare COVID victims exposing themselves carelessly in public and infecting others guilty of a crime, the name of which has to be determined yet!

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Whenever I see news items about what is happening in Afghanistan, I wonder if that might have, or could have, happened to our country when the Japanese military overran our own Philippines, with some of their members committing atrocities and crimes against our people. Because that was the time when Japan also had dreams of conquering Asia, until the American military brought them to heel. That is why, whenever I hear people criticize the Americans, I often intervene and remind them what their situation would be now, had General Douglas MacArthur, not honored his promise, as they pacled up, “I SHALL RETURN”.

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And he kept his word, and did land in Leyte to start the task of bringing the invaders to their knees. To the Filipino people then, MacArthur’s promise seemed impossible to achieve, but he kept it. Which is also why, when people in our country criticize the Americans for one thing or another, I hold my peace, knowing how much we owe their military, especially the leadership of General MacArthur. I was still a child when that happened, but I do remember the joy and hope of our countrymen when American planes suddenly appeared in our skies and shortly after drove the invaders to their knees with some of them facing charges for war crimes.

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Those are thoughts that came to me when I first heard what had happened in Afghanistan. Remember how its people had to be evacuated out of their own country because an avaricious neighbor wanted to take over their government and its assets? Some of their natives were lucky, American airlines, chartered by the U.S. government came to pick them up in several planeloads and brought them to the United States! I doubt if the American people themselves were delighted by the plan, but now thousands of Afghans are starting a new life and enjoy peace and opportunities for the skilled ones.

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Did the American government ever think of doing that when we had been invaded by Japan that sent over some of their fiercest warriors who mercilessly committed not only indignities, but also crime against our people? But for the sincerity of General MacArthur, who worked very hard so his government would allow him to “return” as he had pledged, we might be teaching and making our students study and speak Japanese to this day. That is a debt we will owe the U.S.A. even if the later generations are not very convinced about that.

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I wonder how the Afghan citizens feel about being transported to the U.S.A. No doubt, some may be delighted, but there must also be others who would rather stick it out and cosy to the invading Taliban. As for the hundreds – maybe even thousands – who have been airlifted out and transplanted to the U.S., how could they be feeling? I feel quite sure that if that happened to Pinoys, they would be very willing and happy to be taken there. Except of course, for the wealthy and powerful ones who would lose their advantages there.

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I was puzzled to hear the news that 47 percent of Americans – living in the U.S. – that is, have not yet been vaccinated as of this week. Why is that so? Has the COVID guru, Dr. Anthony Fauci not been convincing enough? Now school is starting there, and they even have a problem of whether or not to make the wearing of face masks obligatory. But perhaps that will depend on the states that have their own leaders to decide for them. I don’t know, I admit, if their mild mannered (or so it seems) president can issue an order to make it mandatory. But perhaps those who disagree will quote their National Anthem and declare that theirs is “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and let us see if that works on pandemics like COVID.*

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