A hoax, of dubious Philippine provenance, recently trended briefly during the wild and woolly Republican presidential primaries.
It all began when Donald Trump regaled his South Carolina audience with the historical chismis that US general John “Black Jack” Pershing used bullets dipped in pig’s blood to “pacify” intrepid Filipino Moros when he commanded a fortress in Zamboanga in the early 1900s.
Here’s The Donald:
“[Pershing] took 50 bullets and dipped them in pig’s blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people, and the 50th person—he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”
This, of course, never happened but it did not prevent this rajah of hyperbole from retelling it as gospel.
This anecdote about Pershing is clearly fictitious, in the realm of myths. No scholarly research backs it up.
Even American historians were unanimous in dismissing Trump’s tale as a legend. One called it “a fabrication which has long been discredited.”
Thankfully, in this country where folkloric tales are dinner and drinking table conversation topics, it has remained unforgotten.
It is so because for Filipinos, it borders on hate speech. Even as a joke it is grossly politically incorrect And retelling it, even in impolite company, constitutes bad manners.
We have long purged such unkind stereotyping of our Muslim brothers from our speech, culture and literature—so much so that no Filipino politico would ever dare tell that joke even in private unless he wants history to make his name synonymous with “crass” or “gutter.”
And if I recall it right, it’s been ages since a Filipino personality has made a tactless remark about Filipino Muslims. The reason is obvious: A careless quote would make juramentados out of all Filipinos.
This is not to say that Filipino Muslims can’t take or even dish a joke or two. I have a Muslim friend from high school who, for four decades now, has the same answer when I ask him what food I should prepare the next time he visits: “Crispy lechon” he would say, always with a hearty laugh.
Despite this conviviality, I am always aware of the lines which must never be crossed.
On a larger view, I am glad that election polemics about the unsettled peac in Muslim Mindanao has consistently taken a positive and optimistic tone.
No shrill saber-rattling has been heard out there in the campaign trail. If any, it has all been sensible solutions on how peace must dawn on strife-torn lands.
Take note too that during the Cagayan de Oro debates, not one prescribed war as the fix to the centuries-old imbroglio.
This proves one thing: whoever take the reins of power next June, the Mindanao problem will be solved peacefully. The peace, no matter how fragile, will hold. There will be no caudillo barking “at my signal, unleash hell” order.
One candidate has even walked his talk, bivouacking to what papers would call the lion’s den, or right into the HQ of a still belligerent rebel force
More than words, this is the gesture we would like to see from all those applying to be the next president of our country. To engage rebels face-to-face, and not merely read platitudes on peace from teleprompters.
But we need not be in power to advance the cause of peace. There are many simple things each one of us can do which, taken collectively, enlarges the peace constituency.
One is the outright rejection of violence as the solution to the strife. Second is to foment religious tolerance and be open to ecumenical partnerships that will advance the peace agenda.
We can also nurture inclusive communities where different faiths erect no walls, in one village with no religious borders and blockades exist.
In our school in Davao, the Jose Maria College, we offer scholarships to many Muslim children, and encourage them to devoutly practice their faith.
Because of all weapons against bigotry, none remains more effective than education. Sometimes peace can be won, not by armies laying down their arms en masse, but one child at a time.