Fighting the New Normal

What does the Philippines have in common with other parts of the world in this moment in history?

We, just as many other countries, are at the cusp of either unveiling a masked mindset, or turning into a new leaf altogether—a “new leaf” that promotes extreme intolerance, sees killings as a necessity, and deems sexual degradation of women as acceptable.

In the US, a video of Richard Spencer hailing Trump and white America amidst applause and Nazi salutes has been making the rounds in social media recently. While the comments section gave a little comfort with people reacting violently against it, the fact that many people in the video were applauding his otherwise-controversial statements like, “Many wonder if they (non-Whites) are people at all” were enough to send chills down my spine. In reality, this presents more than just rhetoric. This represents an angry working-class America that has finally made its voice heard—we feel we have been shortchanged, robbed of what’s rightfully ours and we want change right now. President-elect Trump is the embodiment of that entitled voice.

In France, they are also preparing for their National Elections and a Nationalist, Marine Le Pen has been increasingly gaining ground. She promotes an “updated politics” that supports ideas of protectionism, xenophobia and authoritarianism.

Here on the homefront, the nation has been shaken to division by the new administration’s campaign against drugs. While it sounds a noble cause to get behind, the problem has been the intolerant view that has propelled it, not to mention the recent contradictory events that cast a dark shadow on this government’s self-proclaimed crackdown on drugs. Suddenly, people are seen in either black or white—drug pusher/user or not. And those who belong to the latter are quick to justify that killing them is considerable, and sometimes, very necessary. After all, the President has named these lost souls “subhuman”.

The President’s tough stance has earned him loyal fans, and harsh critics. So it’s either you’re on one side or the other. And each side is quick to offer rebuttals, and arguments and insults on the other for each one’s opinions. It’s brutal, and it’s ugly.

Our family has been very vocal about standing against this administration’s ways. We don’t believe in extrajudicial killings, classifying people as subhumans as based on their actions, and giving different names for what is clearly wrong as stated in the Bible.

It’s earned us more than angry friends. It’s also gotten us death threats and a continuous heartbreak that I cannot explain.

My husband’s family were political activists during the Martial Law regime , and I completely understand where they stand on any threat to human rights, and human life.

I, on the other hand, can’t say I’m the most politically involved citizen. Yet, I’ve felt a relentless burden since the campaign period last year. I thought I was just heavily pregnant and the stress was getting to me. But, now, even after-birth, I couldn’t help but feel a gnawing sorrow for our nation, and for people whom I thought we shared common values with, but now openly supports this administration, and by extension, its crusade against crime and drugs even at the expense of human life.

Yes, it hurts because it’s personal to me, to us. But, what really, truly breaks my heart is that people in the country are quick to defend what’s wrong. In fact, to them, people fighting for human rights are the ones in the wrong. They say we’re making noise out of sheer pride or self-righteousness. This is not about us! This is about the truth that our God taught us all!

His truth is clear: Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

And yes, that includes the drug users and pushers. Jesus died for them too.

Make no mistake. We believe in justice (which is why we cry out against the burial of Marcos in LNMB), and whatever drug-related crimes there are must be put to trial, and put to justice. We also put a lot of weight on our leaders’ transparency, which is why we want to find out the truth on De Lima’s case, too, as much as we want to find out about drug lord Peter Lim. The energy of the administration must be put towards there, and to the rebuilding and strengthening of the family unit (more on that on another blog post). But the drug dependents are NOT subhumans, and who are we to say that they don’t deserve to live?

If God dealt with us the same way, we would have been all dead. Yet, His compassion and mercy reign everyday.

But what’s most disturbing, and why I’ve been pushed to write this with the hopes that I can somehow warn a brother or sister, is because of the insidious campaign based on (Oxford dictionary’s international word of the year) “post-truth“. Defined as, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, post-truth rides on a public personality’s rhetoric and campaign that is not hinged on facts or truth, rather taps on the more powerful emotions such as hate, anger, entitlement. That got Trump in the White House. That got Duterte in Malacañang.

It all began in the campaign period—pushing Duterte’s macho, unconventional, no-holds-barred, unapologetic persona as stark contrast to TRAPOs, starting off with that expletive-laden remark towards the Pope. It shocked the people, but it also showed the powers that be that the people can take it. They pushed some more, and let the rape joke roll out to the masses. More expletives, more crass jokes, as the body count continues to rise. Until finally, not even the last one shocks us anymore. In fact, it became acceptable. It is now normal, and we can expect it, and we can take it. The conditioning worked.

Truth, suddenly, is relative.

It starts out simple—renaming an already-established evil practice such as murder (“collateral damage”) or white supremacy (“alt-right”), then reintroducing it over and over through media until it becomes “normal”, until its manifestations become acceptable.

From a seed rooted in a strong desire for change that suddenly reignites feelings of discontent, of anger at being unpacified by our government, and of rage that all our needs are not being met. Suddenly, we lash out at the establishment for not giving all that we think we deserve. And in our nation’s case, one candidate has pinpointed just the perfect culprit—the drug users and pushers in this country. And not only has he given the perfect scapegoat, he also promised to do the cleaning up for us. He will eradicate and he will instill change by ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

Who doesn’t love a quick fix, right?

And who can deny the appeal of someone who gives us license to act out our innermost impulses. Almost like that bad boy who lives on the edge, and who’s not afraid to be different and to live dangerously. Who can resist that?

Well, sure the appeal may be explainable, but when we’re talking about lives being taken away without so much as batting an eyelash, and people agreeing that it’s really necessary, and justifying it’s for the greater good, everyone will come to a crossroads. Either you do a double-take and re-examine, or you inhale deeply and decide you can accept this. For any of the two, it’s certain that one will never be the same again after making a decision.

The most dangerous part about this line of thinking is that it’s a slippery slope. From indulging the feeling of entitlement, to self-righteous anger, and tolerating an underlying culture that excuses, even encourages killing, pretty soon, we can just get pissed at anyone on the street and go on an all-out rampage.

As our feelings of entitlement gets bigger and bigger, we see the line of morality blurring, and is instead replaced with personal boundaries that when crossed, must be avenged with blood. If the anger in social media is any indication, the scenario in real life is hardly comforting. We are all subject to this kind of temptation, all of us. That is why we must guard against it, NOT embrace it.

Why? Because we have children, and they are Filipinos. Fight for the values that we MUST cultivate–not with lies, or “necessary evil”. God is bigger than that, and He has promised victory.

What I can do is this: Show compassion. Propagate truth. Never bend it, never twist it, never cover it, even if it is inconvenient, even if it is painful. It is a light that must not be covered.

And what is that truth? And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

Change starts, and ends, there.