On Pride, Independence & Taking A Social Stance
No mortal being could have predicted what 2020 was going to be like regardless of the forecasts. At the start of the year, we were more hopeful than usual, each having claimed this shiny new decade as our own. We made promises and set goals, we were excited for what’s to come. The next 365 days seemed like ours for the taking.
But no one knew this year was going to be the beginning of the end—or, if you’re looking at the glass half full, the beginning of a completely different era.
As we hit the mid-year mark, we’re able to breathe a little easier knowing we’ve made it this far. With some help from technology and a little human ingenuity, we survived sheltering in place and the physical absence of a warm body to hold. Some did more than just pull through and picked up a few skills while in lockdown. Either way, we’ve earned ourselves a pat on the back. But wait, the fight isn’t over and the year is not quite done with us or anyone else for that matter. Our survival continues to be threatened by the current health crisis, moreso by the systemic problems we’ve had but shut our eyes for too long.
Key events have defined the new decade and we’ve had to pick a side. Are you left or right? Do you go down a road less traveled or more convenient? We wear our choices like a badge of honor and shout our disapproval as if each word is a bullet to the enemy’s chest.
But the choices we’ve made have made us a little righteous (whichever side of the line you stand on), a little less willing to listen, a little more impulsive. And while we have every right to express dissent and fight for what we believe in, therein lies a barrier to actual change: the narcissistic need to be right.
So once again, we ask: can we fix this? More importantly: how do we fix this?
Pride: Fighting The Exact Same Fight Fifty Years Later
June usually marks the celebration of Pride, of coming together and supporting the LGBTQIA+ community in their fight and right to equality. The first Pride march happened in 1970 in what was the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and here we are, fighting the exact same fight, some fifty years later.
Sit with that fact: fifty long years. Same fight, same demands. Same community, same enemy. We aren’t here to negate the efforts of generations past; it is after all because of them that some private companies and governments now accept—nay, embrace members of the community and recognize the validity of their unconventional relationships. There has been progress, sure, same-sex marriages in countries across the world, anti-discrimination policies set in office spaces and on the streets, parents raising kids and being proud of who they are and not of who they should be. But it’s come painfully slow and at a price too high (read: the lives we’ve lost to gender violence).
It’s a feat in itself to still be here, to not have given up despite the constant invalidation and rejection of our identities or that of our peers. It would have been easier to just let them fight their battles, whether in their lonesome or with other company out in the open. But then again, how can we sit quietly knowing our queer brothers and sisters don’t have the same opportunites or share the same legal rights because of gender identity?
We have to keep moving forward, for ourselves, for the people we love, for our future sons and daughters. And to do so, there is (and always was) an urgent need to confront our past and consider that those before us might have been wrong about “them.” That there might be a need to unlearn what we’ve been taught at home, in school and in our congregation.
But for how much longer, another fifty years?
Coronavirus: The Anger Is Not In That We’re Stuck At Home
It’s been just over three months since Enhanced Community Quarantine was first nationally announced. As of this writing, Metro Manila remains in General Community Quarantine, while Cebu, the epicenter of the virus in Visayas, is back to ECQ. And as much as we’re itching to “go back to normal” or about our lives as if COVID-19 was no longer a threat (as some seem to believe), it just doesn’t seem possible right now. Unless you’re fine with getting your hands dirty—literally and figuratively.
The anger, we hope, is not in that we’re stuck at home. But the fact that there is very little public action from the people we expect and demand it from, from the people we voted into power on the trust that they would step up when the occasion calls for it. Not enough has been done as cases continue to rise.
It’s not just them whom we hold accountable, but privileged citizens, too. Those of us who choose to stay uninformed or dismissive of community guidelines, thus putting more people at risk.
Amid unsettling headlines, however, we’ve proven that many of us can step up to the plate left empty by our supposed lead characters. We’ve seen this in the efforts of non-profit organizations, private institutions and everyday people.
But what do we make of our officials, of our countrymen, of their silence, of their dismissiveness and of their inaction? And in their absence and carelessness, what more can we do to contain this pandemic and help those beyond our reach? How can we better prepare for another crisis that may or may not be in our future?
#BlackLivesMatter: It Rumbles Heavier And Much Louder
Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless more across the decades. All colored, all injured, assaulted or killed by men in uniform. Their deaths and those before them have sparked outrage and uprisings, most recently in the case of George Floyd. The people they’ve left behind are angry, confused, exhausted, scared. Their pain, their cries of “our lives matter” rumble heavier and much louder.
These losses, the string of black death, should not and could not have happened if not for the hellscape of hate built upon white supremacy, if not for the shameless abuse of power, if not for discriminatory processes carried out by authorities. It should not and could not have happened had people taken the time to ask questions, to educate themselves about the history of a culture they borrow and consume so much from, to find out how to help—beyond the trendy hashtags.
Such events, though thousands of miles away, don’t make us strangers to their past, present or future.
We are, after all, part of one race, each with a role to carry out in the fight.
So what will you do with what you’ve seen, heard and felt?
The Anti-Terror Bill: We Are Allowed To Ask Questions, Aren’t We?
The Anti-Terror Bill, which you can learn more about here, has earned the ire of many, beginning in the far corners of Twitter and culminating in peaceful protests just in time for Independence Day. General concerns of its passing include the vagueness of definitions and the amount of power—subject to abuse and misinterpretation—it gives authorities. The people have questions; we are concerned the bill doesn’t address our current, most urgent needs and, instead, poses a threat to our fundamental rights. It is not enough to tell the public, to whom you owe your seat to, that only “terrorists” should worry about the legislation. Not when a warrantless arrest can be ordered by an anti-terror council tasked to determine what constitutes as terrorism.
Pardon our innocence, but as people who might have to live with a new reality and all its possible consequences, we are allowed to ask questions, aren’t we? As we have yet to get answers or more of it, we talk amongst ourselves; among family, friends and even strangers. Some of us have expressed fear and have had to delete posts and cancel shares on social media. Others have had to hold their tongues in some conversations because they’ve slipped at others. The rest have remained indignant to keep us all in check. Some offer what little comfort they can by promising legal aid or a safe space to run to.
But as we anxiously wait for the Anti-Terror Bill to either be junked or signed into law, there is another reality we might need to consider. Is there something we aren’t seeing? Are we missing something? Could we be more informed? Just how real is the threat of terrorism in the country? If so, is this bill the best resolve? No—scratch that, is this really the best we can do?
So you’ve picked a side: left, right, none. You stand by the choice you made. A choice determined by many factors including education, experience, opinions, religion and values that, if met with opposing views, might incite hate. The possibility of being wrong and another being right embarrasses us. So we invalidate the other’s thinking and being. Egos get in the way of judgment, emotions run high and often result in a TweetStorm filled with even more hatred and sometimes, very real threats.
But binary thinking, or the thinking that one is wrong and the other is right, that there is true and there is false, is much easier to accept and live with. The possibility that therein lies a gray area? Much harder to unpack, costs more time and energy to process and understand. But the possible outcome? A space between two sides, a space for nuances, a space for compassion and conversations that allow us to humanize others even when we disagree, a space to change our minds because we’re better informed.
Finally, a space to ask questions and find answers. So we can fix all this.
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