Christendom celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents today, Dec 28. The feast remembers young boys in Bethlehem massacred by King Herod, the Jewish puppet of Rome.
According to Church teachings, Herod ordered the mass murder after learning that three visiting Magi or wise men were in town to pay homage to a babe foretold to become new king of the Jews.
Fear. Hatred. Power. These fueled Herod’s massacre.
He could not find one babe. So in a grotesque attempt at insurance, the king ordered troops to kill every boy two years old and younger.
A still non-existent “crime”, absolute zero “intelligence” — every child “guilty” and put to the sword.
In the 20th century, another tyrant would commit genocide.
In Adolf Hitler’s mind, the smoke from his crematoriums twisted and curled must have spelled “For The Motherland”. That flashed in the mind as Fr. Felix Pasquin talked of Herod and Hitler in a suburban Bacolod church.
Kill for love
He said a fortune teller had told Hitler that he would die during a Jewish holiday. Details of what holiday and what year were left unsaid.
That may be a legend, incorporated into the homily for drama. Or it may be true. Hitler was in thrall to the charlatan and clairvoyant Erik Jan Hanussen, strangely enough a Jew, said to be an apostate.
Hitler’s confidants would later claim Hanussen had predicted the Reichstag fire that then Chancellor Hitler exploited as a reason to grab absolute power.
Pasquin’s soft, slow Ilonggo drawl subtly shifted to a staccato as he paraphrased Hitler’s oft-repeated rants.
I love my nation! Do not touch my people!
I will kill you.
I love my people! Do not harm them!
I will kill you.
On the day Hitler committed suicide, his Nazi regime had killed six million Jews, according to the Smithsonian.
Herod and Hitler had enough practice before they came to their most infamous deeds.
The Jewish King was easy to slight and capricious and promiscuous in his choice of targets and punishments. He was also said to have killed three sons, a daughter, a wife and a mother-in-law. At any sign of restiveness among a people kept in poverty while he spent days in madcap revelry, the swords and spears and ropes came out.
Hitler didn’t just kill the Jews. His Nazi party’s euthanasia program that took the lives of 70,000 handicapped Germans of all races and faiths. He also murdered communists (believing in a Red Zionist conspiracy), gypsies, sexual deviants, criminals of all stripes.
Hitler killed for the Motherland, laid the murders at the altar of race, invoked the interest of future generations in pushing his final solution.
Philipp Bouhler, a Nazi official, said he “loved so much that he saw everyone who didn’t goose march to his beat as the enemy. That “love” allowed him to dream and act to the “furthest extremes.”
If talk of his death foretold is true, then Hitler, like Herod, probably indulged in ultimate fatalism: If I’m going down, I’m going to bring all you SOBs with me.
Pasquin said modern psychologists have a term for what ruled the minds of these men.
“Sick,” he called them.
Herod paranoia prompted his kill order on Jewish children. As a cruel despot, he had reason to see conspiracy at every turn.
The historian Josephus said Herod knew the whole of Judea would rejoice at his death so he rounded up prominent individuals, brought them to Jericho, his seat of power, and ordered that they be killed at the time of his death – so the whole of Judea would mourn.
Herod had suffered for years before his death. His atrocities often kept pace with critical episodes in his “painful, putrefying ailment” – known as “Herod’s Evil” though there has been no clear diagnosis.
The priest did not mention any other name. He did not have to.
The Philippines, Asia’s majority Catholic country, has had its share of tyranny.
“Never forget” we say of the thousands killed in Ferdinand Marcos two-decade rule. In the future, we will be commemorating this generation’s innocents.
Human rights groups place the murdered in the name of President Rodrigo Duterte’s love for the motherland at more than 20,000. Official police statistics show that state agents have killed more than 5,000 – with the improbable claim that all, including scores of children – had fought back.
Duterte has also killed more than a hundred activists – five more in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental;, on the eve of the Feast of Innocents.
Like Herod and Hitler, Duterte has locked up foes, among them Sen. Leila de Lima and activists, farmers, human rights advocates and church people, on the flimsiest of pretext.
In Guihulngan, police fanned out with a hundred arrest warrants – these are often laughable, fantastic, though the brutal consequences to people are real.
Hitler and Herod – and Marcos -- liked to manufacture events to justify their crimes.
The Guihulngan killings and arrests followed the killing of a local deputy police chief – disavowed by the New People’s Army amid rumblings that this cop was too upright for the stomach of the land’s rulers.
Tyrants have patterns of behavior, no matter if they claim to be brilliant, theatrical tacticians.
The Philippine National Police chief, Oscar Albayalde, insists over the statements of the family of slain Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, that the New People’s Army could be behind the killing.
Albayalde charges that guerrillas may be acting as hit men for local officials. The NPA has had excesses but no track record on that claim.
Police officials, on the other hand, were recently found to have been regularly receiving payola way beyond their salaries from a Rizal province pig farm owner arrested for plotting murder.
You don’t need an over-active imagination to see what could happen in Bicol in the coming weeks. Bicol is also where the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA staged a grand show for journalists in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of its founding.
Duterte fanatics will sneer that the dead and imprisoned are addicts – people, their lord and master claims, are not fit to be called humans -- or communists, for whom their lord and master has fantasies of mutilation. Or “dilawan” – a catchall phrase for anyone and everyone who dissents against the politics of tyranny.
All of them are innocent in the era of Duterte, him of the rants that cull charges from thin air, him of the doctrine that enemies and perceived pests do not deserve due process and human rights.
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