“Dear God, please spare my land these indignities . . .”
By Joe America
This article is a gift to Sir Tomas “Buddy” Gomez III, a man not of modest age, but still of great energy, wisdom and enterprise, just like other Filipinos who have served the Philippines with earnest work and hopes for a modern, well-respected nation. He visited with my family in Tacloban a few weeks ago. What a gracious, bright, passionate man, former Press Secretary for President Cory Aquino. He asked me to keep writing. “Sure, Buddy. For you . . . and for those who share your ideals and hopes.” JoeAm
Hope is found in the light, in knowledge, in the giving of compassion and care and prayer. Hope is found in dreams and a wager, a bet that I CAN win if I try hard enough, or often enough. If I am sincere.
The Philippines is a troubled land. It is poor and historically the abused orphan nation of Asia, exploited by the powerful, used and abandoned and passed to the next brutal overlord. Some of the overlords have been Filipinos. Indeed, most have been.
Today, most of the nation’s citizens are happy with the way things are going . . . or if not happy, at least satisfied. They are happy because the conventions of the past are being demolished. Boy, is President Duterte showing people a thing or two!!
They laugh at his rude jokes and the way he insults powerful people and nations. “Fuck you, Obama and the EU and the Pope is a son of a bitch!” He asks journalists about smelly vaginas and rues that he was not given first rights to a rape victim, and the people laugh because he is in the face of their demons. He is in the face of convention and entitlement, in the face of those people of power who held them back, lorded it over them, took their money, kept them poor, and killed their love ones. There is a lot of anger in the Philippines, and President Duterte is riding high on it.
The angry make up most of the nation. Perhaps 75 million of the 100 million residents, including the kids who are influenced by what the elders are saying. There has been a lot of pain in the Philippines over the years. There are a lot of stored up resentments, bitterness hidden behind smiling faces and warm fiesta greetings.
But there is a different part of the nation, too. Smaller, for sure. Perhaps 500,000 people. Perhaps 2 million. Maybe more, it is hard to say.
This part is the conscience of the nation, the knowledge, the leadership, the teachers and preachers . . . and the hope.
It is on the ropes.
This part of the nation is made up of people who have studied, who have read and traveled and taken an interest in modern values like equal rights for all races and genders and religions. They are kind of bearing and compassionate of thought and deed. They are not unlike daylight angels. Most of them are in prayer. Some are just thinking things through, and know, in their knowledge and reason, that there are better ways than this . . .
There is a third part of the nation, also made up of people who have studied, who have read and traveled and know about values. But they are the corrupt, if not of money, of generosity and deed, for they are the takers, the ambitious for power, the people who OUGHT to know better, but manipulate and use others to their advantage.
They are the abusers.
President Duterte may point fingers at the United States and Europe and the Catholic Church, but they are out of the picture today. The abusers are Filipino. They live next to us. They are educated, they are powerful, and they are serving the President in the legislature or courts or police department or army or churches or local towns. They are the loyalists, the enablers, the users.
They are the real sons of bitches.
They are ripping the soul out of the nation and giving it to Satan. They are ripping the lands and seas out of the Philippines and gifting them to China. They are ripping dignity from the thoughtful and compassionate and stomping on it in front of the world. They are killing fellow Filipinos by the thousands and justifying it as a wholesome enterprise. They scowl at dead children and say they are just collateral damage.
Oh, for sure, for sure, these are the real sons of bitches in the Philippines today.
They are running the show. They are winning. They are basking in the cheers of the needful masses.
But you know, there are fewer cheering today than there were three months ago. And there are not as many sons of bitches today as there were three months ago. Because Filipinos do have conscience. And, behind their huge storehouse of resentment, they do have kindness and reason. One at a time, they have seen the abuse, and the crude manner of their nation, and found shame. And they have found the courage to admit that the man they elected President is letting them down.
If things continue as they are going, in three months there will be many, many more who stop cheering. And a lot fewer abusers, fewer sons of bitches, because, when the cheering gets tiresome for the indignities one must face, or the nonsense . . . or the pain . . . people come to recognize they are abusing their own family and friends and their own hopes and dreams. They are raping their own sons and daughters and neighbors. And their own integrity.
Power is a bastard. The President revels in it, and he has earned that right. It is a democratic right, and he played the system well.
But that right exists only as long as the people allow it to exist.
I have no idea what President Duterte’s motivation is, what drives him to be who he is or do what he does. I don’t share speculations that others pose about his mental health. I tend to think in terms of accomplishment, of deed, and see a pattern that is leading to a division of the Philippines into Duterteland and the rest of us. I mean, an AFP defense plan for Davao? Against whom?
So I suspect there are some pragmatics that form the President’s motivation. It does not seem to be to care for the whole of the nation. A care-taker does not rip the soul from a nation, embarrass it in front of the world, or describe it as a dark, dangerous drug infested place. When it is God’s glorious green playground in the sun.
Well, those pragmatics are cards dealt and played every day. Tangible. We can take care of them, given enough time and effort.
The intangibles are dreams and hopes. They are harder to master and control. They are integrity and honor. They are power, and resistance to power. They are shame and knowledge and reason.
They are what matter, in the end. For we are only here for a time. We eat and sleep and do a few things and die. What we ARE is the intangibles, the good that we do over a lifetime, our gift back to God for the opportunity to bask in His glory. The love we share and receive, the lessons and memories we pass to our children so they are stronger and richer. The gift back to reason, for the knowledge we possess that makes us whole if we think well, and do well.
We are our integrity, and our honor, and our compassion. The car is metal. The home is walls. The money comes and goes.
We are how we live.