Mark Twain’s words echo loyalty to country not its leaders

By Julia Carreon-Lagoc

I love Mark Twain!

He was my favorite American author, delighting me early on in my elementary years, tickling my funny bone with his prodigious mind. And he still does to this octogenarian. Behind the spice of laughter are universal truths. As boldly embodied in his works, Mark Twain had the audacity to speak truth to power.

In his time, Mark Twain (1835-1910) was the loudest critic of false gods, of gilded aristocrats, and their ilk. He killed the royal blood softly with his satires as in the fascinating novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Thus, when my family bonded with my friends— the power couple, Professors Delia Aguilar and Epifanio San Juan, Jr. in their Connecticut home — the Mark Twain Museum in Hartford was not to be missed.

“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” regales with this acerbic quote directed to blind followers. Consider this TKO punch: “Any kind of royalty, howsoever modified, any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult.

“My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office holder. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become rugged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags – that is the loyalty of unreason; it is pure animal.”

Apply the above, if you wish, to the robotic followers of the Philippine president — any president for that matter — the faction who do-this do-that, no questions asked. And to citizens of all nations including us Filipinos: “Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.”

To the Yes-men/Yes-women in the current administration and in all branches of the government, mull this over: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Ponder. You are not an automaton, but a thinking human being. Yours is not a mindless consent.

It is April 1, April Fools’ Day, when I started writing this essay, and this Mark Twain quote comes at a most opportune time: “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” Hey, if I were to say so, foolish some of the days, but wise most of the time.

Twain satirizes further: “Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.” Chuckle big over this: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

My granddaughter Raisa June, a nurse working in New York, paid us a visit at the iconic Waldorf-Astoria, the hotel of choice of one Imelda Marcos and another, one Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. My granddaughter, who likes to go with the day’s fashion, was attired in the shortest shorts. No dressing-down from this grandma, just a quote from Mark Twain for her to bear in mind: “Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.”

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 1876, and its 1884 sequel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” I leave to the old folks to reminisce how they enjoyed these novels during their tender years. Not to be left out is “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County.” Replete with the fun of boyhood, the story reminded me of my brothers playing with beetles in place of frogs.

Not only in humor and profound sayings, Mark Twain was rich in compassion, too. This I single out the author as a critic of his own work: “In ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.” His compassionate heart shines in this quote that I like very much: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

julia Do you think this one is a put-down on the many accolades he has received? “I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I feel that they have not said enough.”

My dear Mark Twain, wherever you are in the cosmos, I swear I haven’t said enough.

Julia Carreon-Lagoc is a columnist of Panay News. She can be reached at

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