Wednesday, May 4, 2016

So I Should Be Killed for Thinking Differently?

A few days ago, I was sitting alone at a coffee shop when I spotted an old acquaintance who was, for years, a vehement opponent of the Philippine Reproductive Health Bill before it became a law. Her reason? She feared that it would become a precursor to the legalisation of abortion in the country and, to her, that was unacceptable because she said she honoured the sanctity of human life. I then noticed she was wearing a Duterte wristband. See the irony there?

I approached her with a greeting and after less than a minute of pleasantries, she said, "Duterte ta ha? (Let's go with Duterte, ok?)" I hummed a deep note and smiled. She then went on a three-minute speech about how she admires the fact that her choice for a president has "eliminated the scum off the streets of Davao City" and it would make her happy to see the same thing happen on a nation-wide scale. "Kinahanglan hinlo-an na ni'ng Pilipinas kay hugaw na kaayo. Angay na pamatyon ni'ng mga kriminal. Ang di mobotar ni Duterte, angay apilon! (The Philippines needs to be cleansed because it has become too dirty. These criminals should be killed off already. Those who don't vote for Duterte should be killed, too!)" In response, I nodded slowly and gave her a sarcastic giggle. I asked who her choice was for the vice-presidency, to which she quickly responded, "Aw, Marcos jud. Wa na'y lai'ng puede. (Marcos, of course. No one else will do.)"

Every single thing that came out of her mouth made my skin crawl in utter disgust that I had to excuse myself. I stood up, cleaned my side of the table and picked my bag up. But just before I walked away, I asked her, "Hey, weren't you against the RH Bill a few years ago because you said you honoured the sanctity of human life?" Her mouth opened, presumably to respond, but there were no words. A faint "ha" sound came out, punctuated by a glottal stop, a clearing of the throat and a gulp. She could not answer me. She clenched her jaw and furrowed her eyebrows as her breaths got audibly deeper. Still nothing but disdainful and bitter silence. I gave her another smile and left.

I am pro-choice--a staunch supporter of the recognition of a woman's right to make decisions for her own body--so that disqualifies me from carrying the label "pro-life," as it is conventionally understood. With the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill being a hot national issue some years ago, I made lots of enemies--mostly from evangelical Christian and conservative Roman Catholic circles. In 2012, I embarked on an "unfriending spree" for people who were against the RH Bill. I regarded everyone who didn't support it as stupid. I ended my spree, however, when I realised that too many people close to my heart didn't share my views. If I had chosen to continue it, I would have lost lots of friends, so I decided that these people were misinformed, at best, and left them alone. Then again, if I had gone on, that woman I bumped into at Bo's Coffee Club would have been kicked out of my social media sphere sooner. Thankfully, what was supposed to happen four years ago eventually caught up and our association has finally been severed. The evening thereafter, she unfriended me on Facebook. Good riddance!

Again, I respect people's choices, but to insinuate that I should be killed just because my opinions differ from yours? Honey, you don't deserve me in your life and I certainly don't deserve you in mine.