Saving All My Feels for You
Southeast Asian Coffee & Confession on Pearl Harbor Day
I’m just really, really tired, dear Medium readers. And you who are about to live life under the authoritarian Mr. Trump will be too, six months into his rule. Many have already succumbed to crisis fatigue. Some, no doubt, holding their tongues under the influence of “give him a chance” syndrome; others silenced by conservative voices around them muttering “sore loser,” while everyone is entitled to the dizziness provoked by the daily tornado of top-level chaos blared out in media. Well, from six months down the road under the Duterte administration in the Philippines, I can assure you that you shouldn’t worry too much about what’s happening with Trump — because it’ll get worse — whether you worry or not.
This is exactly what makes me tired. Exactly what will continue making you tired too, as you watch policies and programs that took years of work and political struggle to construct being disassembled before your horrified gaze and the very institutions of government that implemented them come under attack. Don’t worry about that — because there’s nothing you can do about it.
President Trump’s lies, flip-flops and transgressions will now dominate media for the next four years just as President Duterte’s even more vulgar versions of the same will continue another five and a half. Don’t worry. There’s nothing you can do about that, any more than you can hope to physically reach out and yank the levers of power out of his small, delicate hands.
As I write this, Duterte’s been giving a speech, ironically, to the 4th State Conference of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Implementation Review, a situation that manages to raise my ire and break my heart at the same time. The man who has done everything within his considerable power to secure the place of patronage politics giving a speech in Malacañang Palace where a skimpy handful of honest public servants (fixed term commissioners from the previous administration) are forced to sit cheek-by-jowl with the most corrupt of the Duterte administration, while the president delivers variation #3 of his “willingness to face martyrdom for the country” speech. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
Oh, pro forma, I did enter a couple of snarky comments on the live-stream, but of course, they were immediately met by professional troll refutation along with the equally pro forma personal attack. This is how the troll factory works. No anti-Duterte comment is allowed to pass unchallenged. I lost interest, ultimately…it makes me tired.
As I wrote the two previous paragraphs, I received a Facebook “marked himself safe” notice that my friend and fellow writer was ok in an apparent bombing in Iligan City down south in Mindanao. This comes in the wake of another warning earlier this week in which the president said we should be “ready for more terrorist attacks.” I did a quick internet search for news of the bombing, but it’s not yet being reported on internet — what I got instead was a search page filled with previous Iligan City bombings, grenade attacks and ambushes — most having to do with Duterte’s blood-soaked war on drugs, or on people who questioned the efficacy of the killing. The searching made me weary.
If, as I presume, the Iligan City explosion really happened, it did so for rights and purposes while the president was speaking.
This, on a day in which Duterte also declared that, though the police commander who personally shot the city mayor in his jail cell has been formally charged with murder, he — the president — would see to it that none of his police would go to jail. (The cop involved is currently restricted to his base headquarters in Manila now, free to roam about at will.)
This, during a week that started with the country’s vice-president resigning her cabinet position because she got a weekend text message (!) informing her that the president had barred her from cabinet meetings. It goes on and on, but I’m tired of writing about it all. Just as I’m tired of writing about the daily Trump show. And still I write.
I have no choice, I must write, because not writing and disseminating information would enable the authoritarianism. Because silencing myself before I get silenced is the actual path to getting silenced. All self-censorship accomplishes is less being said while it can still be said — hastening the day in which nothing can be said.
I generally save my “feels” for my fiction, but I’m sharing my weariness and frustration with six months of Duterte authoritarianism so that some of you who are just getting started with the equally horrendous — and far more dangerous — travails of the coming Trump administration can be warned. You think the campaign and transition have been a trial and a test? Don’t worry. It’ll get worse. Tired or not, there’s much to do.