It’s the Other Right Side, Stupid

Mr. Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, November 23, 2005 edition, p. A11.

Gloria Arroyo looked like the cat that swallowed the canary when she announced the capture of Abu Sayyaf’s, Radulan Shahiron.  I’m afraid to ask what she looked like after she heard Philippine National Police chief Arturo Lomibao say that the captive was “only a look-alike.”

How could a man missing his left arm look like someone whose right arm is missing? Lomibao never told us why, but an imaginary conversation between Lomibao and Arrest Team Leader Boogie Mendoza might provide a clue.

“You told me the fugitive’s right arm was missing,” said Boogie. “Yes, that’s what I said, you idiot!” replied Lomibao.  Boogie retorted, “But you didn’t tell me you meant the other right arm.”

The first step towards winning the war on terror is learning how to distinguish between right and left. Being a good citizen, I prepared a seminar on right-left distinction for Chief Lomibao and his men.

I started by searching the dictionary for a definition of right in terms of location. Unfortunately, the closest thing it had was: “designating that side of one’s body which is towards the east when one faces north.”

I found the definition useless because it presumed anyone can tell the points of the compass without using a guide. Now, if someone can’t even tell right from left, how the heck is he going to figure out north, south, east and west without a compass?

Maybe right and left can be taught in terms of something familiar like traffic flow, a subject near and dear to the heart of every policeman.

“The right side of the road is the side that goes with traffic. The left side goes against traffic. Consequently, if one stands in the middle of the road one can easily tell which is right and which is left.”

Pretty straightforward, right? Except that you can’t teach this lesson while facing your student because when you lift your right arm and he lifts his….well, your left side becomes his right side or, as Chief Lomibao might say to Boogie, “the other right side.”

I wracked my brain for other examples that policemen can relate to and found handshake!  “The hand you use for shaking hands is your right hand. The hand you use to pick the pocket of the person you are shaking hands with is your left hand.”

Among muslims, the right hand is for eating, and the left hand is for personal hygiene. That’s why muslims consider the left hand as the dirty hand. The idea behind cutting-off a thief’s right hand is to make him eat s**t for the rest of his life.

The saying, “I can’t feed my family with dirty money” is related to this concept of using only the left hand for dirty things. Thus, one cannot help but wonder why a jueteng family has so many fat members. Do they actually enjoy eating with their dirty hand?

Anyway, from the above example, we can see why right is associated with good things while left is identified with the opposite.

The notion of right and wrong instead of right and the other right escaped those who were mentioned in the Hello Garci tapes and those involved in the cover-up that followed. It is our duty to help all of them see things correctly.

In an election, the right side is the one farthest from the unlawful orders of your patroness. The left side is where you stood.

In a democracy, the right side makes your patroness frown; the left side makes her smile.

In a budding dictatorship, the right side is noisy; the left side is quiet; its silence broken only by “Yes, ma’am” and the sound of clicking heels.

There is no such thing as ‘the other right side’ anywhere in God’s creation.

And last but not least, the first step towards winning the war on terror is learning to distinguish between right and wrong.

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