I used to find Beppe Grillo rather entertaining, at least in my youth. The Genoese ‘comedian’, who predicted Parmalat’s collapse during a theatre show, was as aggressive as he was precise in his missives at the powers-that-be, often employing an enviable turn of phrase.

“Those who slither can’t fall on their faces,” he once said in reference to Bruno Vespa, RAI’s veteran Christian Democrat propagandist who does his bidding for the likes of Silvio Berlusconi. As much as I detest what Grillo and his political movement stand for nowadays, I jealously revere that aphorism, as if it were mine.

I was reminded of it by Jason Azzopardi, who this week reached the zenith of his pathetic existence by selectively quoting the Gospel according to Matthew, asking his anti-choice brethren to “be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves”.

This came as the tail end of a maliciously unproven allegation aimed at unnamed pro-choice activists who, he feverishly claimed, went through the motions to ship a pregnant American woman for an abortion and cause a commotion in the otherwise holy state of Malta.

This “objective factual truth” had been widely derided a few months ago, when woman haters cloistered in right-wing cocoons were uttering it without much conviction. Despite the ‘friendships’, Repubblika ought to ditch their lawyer after his slanderous attack on colleagues in civil society.

Azzopardi, the self-appointed crusader for rule of law, would see his tin-foil conspiracy validated by his ‘enemy’, the Mullah Bernard Grech whose ‘fatwa’ expelled him from the pit of snakes that is the PN.

Grech’s mockery of Andrea Prudente’s miscarriage in parliament is a textbook case of misogyny, shielded by privilege. The former anti-divorce campaigner is but another product of the staunchly conservative establishment which invariably veers to the far right whenever civil liberties are on the agenda. There was no condemnation from female ranks on Nationalist benches, a reverberating silence symptomatic of the rampant anti-women narrative in the party.

The anti-choice lobby mobilised the masses and wheeled out its howitzers; a show of force which is less about the semantics of the law and more about its own elbow power.

Prominent in Sunday’s Catholic carnival – a parade of prejudice and misplaced pride – was Gordon-John Manchè, the flashy pastor of a sect whose members were frequented by Abner Aquilina, who is charged with raping and murdering Paulina Dembska.

President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca addressed protestors carrying effigies of babies, calling for a “mature debate”. Sadly, she was nowhere to condemn the assault on Isabel Stabile by an anti-choice activist and equally absent when pro-choice students were harassed out of a debate in the Youth Parliament.

And the Curia butted in with its usual mix of misinformation and scaremongering:  in its efforts to forbid the termination of pregnancies which result in complications, the bishops bluntly declared they’d rather sacrifice the mother (jail being the other option). Pro-life, or rather pro-afterlife.

The irony of Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Coleiro Preca supporting migrant remembrances should mushroom in the context of the bishops’ pastoral letter: the value of human life isn’t dictated by the causes they choose to support.

Unsurprisingly, the current President of the Republic let slip that he’s willing to resign should he be presented with this legal amendment. Not that Labour are known for writing foolproof laws but Vella only has issues when civil liberties are proposed.

The amendment doesn’t provide for the famed-and-feared abortion à la carte, so here we have a doctor who prefers to see fellow practitioners and women in jail should they choose to save a life over one that has yet to be born.

The president has failed spectacularly at being a unifying figure with his obstinacy in stifling discussion at all costs, preferring regular meetings with anti-choicers harbouring manifest fascist sympathies.

The Curia butted in with its usual mix of misinformation and scaremongering

He doesn’t have the mandate to refuse women their protection because of his moral convictions. Maybe he should spend a few days in Qatar, where civil rights are optional, let his second-in-command do the paperwork until the end of his term and occasionally accept L-Istrina donations from developers: people who badly need to recycle their blatant disregard for the value of life.

The whole abortion brouhaha kicked off before Bernice Cassar was even laid to rest. Her grisly murder didn’t deter the sickening conservative vitriol, as if the hypothetical rights of the unborn are worth more than a woman’s life.

Hypocrisy about women is a bipartisan phenomenon.

“Society has failed her,” said those in government, elected to prevent this kind of heinous crime. Among others, they had the responsibility to follow up on the GREVIO report on Domestic Violence, published exactly two years before Cassar’s femicide.

No, you have failed; society’s ills are also a reflection of your inaction. The great part of society, especially her family, but also the social workers and demonised activists, have the right to be angry, disappointed, disillusioned, fearful even.

But not “failure”: that should be felt by you at the very top who refuse to see, hear and do while misogyny and hatred were left to fester into violence and death.

Your “disgust” is not enough.

Had the police responded to Cassar’s repeated calls and knocked on her alleged murderer’s door with half the zeal with which they knocked down migrants’ doors in Marsa, her life could have been saved. Tellingly, civil liberties are under the same portfolio of the minister who controls law enforcement.

Labour has gags of its own, too. Nobody had words for Sigmund Mifsud’s alleged suppression of reports about sustained sexual harassment at the MPO. The party didn’t fire a councillor convicted for harassing his former partner; recently, he appeared in a photo op with Alison Zerafa Civelli.

Il-Futur Sabiħ is a far cry from the grim present faced by thousands of women in Malta.

Let not the wild statements like Azzopardi’s and Grech’s distract the attention: their hatred, wrapped in sanctimonious posturing and self-reverential religiosity is part of a wider strategy against any civil right.

Serpents bearing venom have been trodden and stamped upon in much of Catholic imagery. But this isn’t the time for symbolisms, nor sloganeering.

It’s time for anger, and resistance, at the guileful wisdom of they who slither.

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