By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
On Monday, Jan. 28, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) opened a political can of worms in the form of the introduction of his “Cartilla Moral,” aka, “The Gospel according to Saint Andrés,” a step-by-step guidebook on how to live a moral life, at peace with nature, your family, your neighbors and humanity as a whole.
The 30-page booklet is an adaptation of a work written by the late Mexican author and diplomat Alfonso Reyes Ochoa back in 1844 that was first published by a previous administration, which, after considering the social and political implications of handing out a morality manual to the general Mexican public, decided to table its distribution.
But now, if AMLO has his dithers – and he usually does — it will be given to all the nation’s elderly (along with a bimonthly pension of 2,550 pesos), with instructions to read it to their families to help “cure” the moral fiber of the country and “heal a nation broken by corruption and crime.”
Those who heed the sacred teachings of the populist testament, AMLO promised, will find peace and tranquility in moral purity.
“Only by being good can we find happiness,” the president told a flock of devoted followers during a political sermon at the impoverished town of Chalco in the State of Mexico (EdoMex), just outside Mexico City, the day before he launched it at the National Palace.
And there seems to be no stopping the new messiah.
Determined that, with the appropriate guidance from above (in this case, politically speaking), AMLO announced that his government will be printing no less than 10 million additional copies of the little book on moral values, which he said his government “considers to be fundamental so we can move ahead both materialistically and spiritually.”
Not surprisingly, “Chairman AMLO’s Little Red Book” was not exactly received with open arms by all Mexicans, or even by all his devoted apostles.
Although López Obrador has repeatedly insisted that the “Cartilla Moral” has no religious connotations, it clearly bears a resemblance to holy doctrine, with numerous passages that seem to be lifted directly from the Christian “Good Book.”
The separation of Church and state in Mexico is a fundamental and crucial element of the country’s Magna Carta, dating back 162 years, and the concept of that division was one of the key factors behind the 1910 Revolution.
Under the Mexican Constitution, every citizen has the right to choose and practice their own brand of religion, independent from the state.
History has shown that trying to legislate – or, in this case, impose – morality is a feudal battle that never ends well for the government that attempts it.
AMLO and his cabinet have enough of legal and legislative issues on their political plates to keep them busy from here to well past the end of his six-year mandate.
The president would be well advised to focus his efforts on matters related to lawmaking and jurisprudence, and leave the business of saving souls to the clergy.