Rantings and ravings

Tonight, while I lined up to buy bread at the grocery store, there was a small, barefooted boy holding a handful of garlands ahead of me. He was lining up to buy a pack of noodles. Must be dinner for him, I thought: it was past 9 p.m. Later, outside the grocery store, I saw him with a thin woman and three other boys, each with a plastic glass. That would contain the hot water, I thought.

Three steps away from them was a thin, dirty boy who slept on the road while his mother sold rags. She has 12 children, she said. The one sleeping beside her is in grade 3. Once I saw her teaching her boy, by the light of the grocery store.

This morning, I heard two radio commentators talking about the poor, and how they sell their votes. One was trying to make excuses for them: the poor sell their votes because they’re poor. While that may be — and is — true, I wanted to remind them that in the last presidential elections, many of the poor voted not for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but for Fernando Poe Jr. Some of those who cheated in the elections were not poor, and some of the ways in which the cheating was done was not through vote-buying. Joseph Estrada — and in a way, FPJ — proved to us that the poor do not always sell their vote.
Yet whenever cheating is discussed, it is the poor we remember. We do not talk about the rich and the powerful who allowed cheating to happen because they did not like the other candidate; or those who cheated for the candidate they believed should win.

We think of the poor as a mass of people — not as one person, living in the same world with us, but faced with different challenges. We do not talk to them — and when we do it is fleeting, and often only to confirm what we think of the poor. Maybe that is why we find it so easy to judge and condemn them.

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