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Good fences and good neighbors

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any name would smell as sweet”. That is one very famous line that has been quoted over the years, not only by poets themselves, but high school students as well, especially of my time, when English literature was on the menu of English classes. Of course many did not agree, saying that sometimes the name makes the man, or woman, because they have to live with it even if they did not choose it.

***

Maybe a lot of Americans also thought of that after the decision was announced to remove the names of Washington and Lincoln from schools in San Francisco, California. Why, what had Abraham Lincoln and George Washington done to be exorcised from those states? All along, I thought that Americans, especially students, idolized those two of their earliest presidents. In my own schooldays, we were regaled with anecdotes about George Washington as a little boy who chopped down the cherry tree at their garden, and admitted the “crime” when confronted. The moral lesson drummed into us was never tell a lie.

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Now, Abraham Lincoln, better known as “Abe”, had a “once upon a time” biography as a poor little boy who rose above his status in life to become president of his country, too. Many were the anecdotes we read about him in our Readers Book I and Book II. So why are they being “disenfranchised”, in a manner of speaking? Will their names also be taken from history books? Maybe somebody had passed a law prohibiting the naming of schools after people, no matter how great they were and how much they had contributed to the growth of their country?

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Well, some composer even made a song about such name-changing a long time ago. There even used to be a song lamenting such changes, but this was in the ‘60s or earlier, but I think many of my contemporaries remember that hit with a very catchy tune  saying  “Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople…and Even old New York, was once New Amsterdam …” As far as I can remember, we were also called the Philippine Islands, until we were granted independence by the United States, when we quietly adopted the title of Republic of the Philippines!

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Try as we might, we still cannot avoid focusing on this COVID plague that continues to hound humanity worldwide. Just imagine how it has spread even to European countries and the United States, from its origins in Wuhan, China. Note, however, that while the other countries are freely releasing the casualties to it for the media to report to the world, China has been mum about its own figures. At least CNN has not reported much from there, or has it, and I just do not have the source?

***

A more interesting news, though is the one about a proposal to surround the American Capitol in Washington D.C. with a fence. This was most probably triggered by that riot when protestors barged into it and even took away or destroyed some items there. How can that song be about “The land of the free/ And the home of the brave now”. But “Once bitten twice shy”, they say, so the people there do not want a repeat of that incident. I hope I can remember on time for this column to go to press, the name of the poet who said that “Good fences make good neighbors”. But wasn’t there also another song hit titled “Don’t fence me in”?

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But alas! It is not their neighbors they are protecting  themselves against, but their own people who now have a tendency to stage riots or marches to air their gripes. But such methods of airing complaints against governments or leaders are no longer rare, many countries have tried it and some have succeeded, while others failed. We in the Philippines will always be proud to remind them all that we started it, and called it “People Power”. We drove a dictator and his entire family away, with not a single drop of blood shed!

***

In the United States, meanwhile, their new president, Joe Biden, has his job cut out very finely for him. But one thing that must have earned the approval of his people is his concentration on finding the means to deal with the COVID that it seems his predecessor, Donald Trump, had ignored. I am sure all his people wish him luck and success in dealing with what Trump neglected. It’s a gigantic task, and he needs a lot of prayers and grit to hurdle it, but I feel he can do it. For that matter, anybody else could have, but alas! Trump was not the one.*

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