PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

 

When wrong is right and right is wrong


It always upsets me out of my wits - this abominable situation where I end up being looked (down) upon as the culprit when I was the one being victimized. Really. If right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right, what kind of planet am I living in? I might as well be a Martian.

I had my baptism of fire in this regard during high school. I was in an English class and the teacher was otherwise a brilliant one. The fateful lesson was about root words and gender-related words. In the middle of lecture, the teacher asked the class, "What is the root word of 'bilingual'?" The class answered 'lingual' with the confidence of a linguist. I said 'lingo' with equal confidence.

But nobody, it seemed, not the least our brilliant teacher, knew about the existence of my word. Still, I insisted because I knew I was right. Not a few of my classmates laughed about it in my face.

This was not enough. Later the teacher asked, "What's the female counterpart of 'emperor'?" The class answered 'emperess', to which my teacher conceded like a fool. I said it's empress, it's empress, because I happened to have had met the word. Yet again, not a few laughed about it in my face, giving the kind of laughter that you would like to kill an entire high school studentry for.

I was sure I was right but that laughter crushed me so much that I began to doubt. When I got home, I opened the Webster's dictionary like it was the most important thing in the world to do after panting like a dog from school. True enough, Webster proved me right on both counts so was I fuming mad. "Empress!" I gnashed my teeth, "Lingo!"

But as oppressed protagonists in movies say, ""I'll have the last laugh." A few years later, what would occupy primetime TV on Sundays but the popular show 'Showbiz Lingo.' Then, of course, there was the Empress bathroom tissue commercial on TV featuring a Chinese or Japanese empress, in full kabuki regalia to boot.

If I can remember every detail of these harrowing moments in my young life (to the point of being persnickety), it's because, as I've said, I almost believed the mistakes myself. It's a dangerous world, I realized. When a vast majority believe a mistake or an outright lie, it has a danger of becoming a fact. How's that again, Hitler? "A lie that's been heard a thousand times is easier to believe than a truth that's been said only once." Up to now, I find it hard to forgive myself for failing to show the right Webster's page to my teacher and classmates. My anger is warranted because I guess it speaks of a greater truth: calling truth untruth and vice-versa is a sin of the gravest order! For instance, blasphemy of the Spirit, according to the Bible, is unforgivable!

Later in life, I would time and again meet with such misfortunes. If I fumed at something, people would immediately say, "Snob! Grouchy! Grumpy!," never mindthe reason why I flared up at all. I thought I deserved a little benefit of the doubt, but apparently I didn't. Yet if I explained my case, I always ended up being defensive. As always, I would end up getting a bad press like a senator who's been quoted out of context. It's no dice both ways.

Thank God, truth has its own way of avenging itself. Like they say, truth is its own defense, truth is its own reward. For usually, I find my own eyes witnessing the same wrong done to others and, lo and behold, my personal stand which others see as flippant self-defense suddenly becomes a physical law without me ever lifting a finger!

As they always say in the movies, "I'll have the last laugh!"

The Nobel Price-winning Elie Wiesel had to go through the Holocaust to learn this invaluable lesson. We shouldn't be silent in the face of untruth, oppression and injustice. We shouldn't be timid if it's our dignity as a person that's at stake. We shouldn't be too pusillanimous about correcting linguistic atrocities because it is our (mis)education that's at stake.

7.7.2000


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