Should there be a limit?

September 11, 2008 9:15pm CST
I read this article written by Joel P. Palacios "The way of the frog Demonstrators anywhere in the world burn presidents and prime ministers in effigies. And we see in newspapers and television almost everyday spoofs and caricatures of politicians and prominent personalities. It is clear that anybody, who is in the public eye, is an open target for harsh criticisms. They depict politicians as demons, vultures, or wolves in sheep’s clothing, among other things. They chant such nasty language as murderers, thieves and traitors. They call their actions freedom of expression. Demonstrators seem to tread with care on religion, but privately not even the gods are spared when they exercise freedom of speech. In fact, to some people it has become a nasty habit. Somebody tells someone a surprise and he blurts out, “Jesus Christ.” Another drops something and he says, “Susmaryosep.” You are angry with someone and you shout, “Anak ni Putin [If you’re a Russian and you don’t like President Putin].” If you’re a Filipino you usually say “Anak ng Pating [as a way of getting back at loan sharks].” You can also say “Anak ng Puto,” but it would be stretching it too far. If you have not noticed it yet, Putin, Pating and Puto really skirt whose “anak” you are. The answer to that has slipped my mind. The freedom of expression seems to have no limits. But it poses some dangers. Make sure, for example, to say nice things about your mother-in-law when the wife is listening. And never talk ill about your boss when you don’t know too well the people around you. You accidentally commit suicide by your irresponsible exercise of the freedom of expression. People value free speech and religion and they go to great lengths to preserve this right. Not even the Pope can dissuade them from giving it up. In Italy, the Roman Catholic Church complained against the display of a four-feet high sculpture in a local museum, which the Vatican described as blasphemous. Pope Benedict asked officials of the Museion museum in Balzano to remove the sculpture, but the museum board voted to keep it on display. Claudio Strinati, superintendent for Rome’s museums, defended their decision. “Art must always be free and the artist should not have any restrictions on freedom of expression,” he said. The sculpture called Zuerst die Fusse, meaning Feet First, depicts a giant frog nailed to a brown cross. The frog wears a green loincloth and is nailed through the hands and feet in the manner of Christ while its tongue hangs out of its mouth. Museum staff said the artist, who died in 1997, considered the sculpture a self-portrait that represent human anguish. The Pope did not agree and Vatican wrote a letter to the regional government, whose president, Franz Pahl, went on hunger strike in opposition to the frog and was taken to the hospital. The Vatican’s letter said the frog “wounded the religious sentiments of so many people who see in the cross the symbol of God’s love.” It is unlikely that Filipino activists here would cross the line that divides politics and religion and parody religious icons to expose perceived abuses by church leaders. Filipinos would never brook any attempt by anybody to trifle with their religious beliefs. But, like the weather, situations change. Religious beliefs, like the unexpected melting of the ice caps in frigid zones, can be shaken by unforeseen events. In fact, the line that divides politics and religion is getting blurred. Roman Catholic priests and Protestant ministers and other religious leaders are running for public office. With their large followers they are pushing traditional politicians out of the limelight. Bishops and pastors are among the most vocal critics of the government. They are articulate and forceful. Because of their revered status, they could easily clobber politicians who question their motives. Are politicians, like the various fish and trees and flora and fauna, endangered species in the Philippines? It would be wrong to count them out. They survived the onslaught of popular movie stars and sportsmen, who entered politics backed by thousands of screaming fans. They will overcome the challenge from the clerics. Many people believe politicians can neutralize the advantage of religious leaders by showing the public that they have suddenly turned into saints. Or, they can fight them squarely using their right to free expression. We nail one of them to the cross with the tongue hanging out like the frog. " Should there be a limit in expressing our feelings? Should we limit Freedom of Speech?
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