A Letter to My Unborn Grandchild
Lolo Lourd wishes you all the best.
(SPOT.ph) My dear apo,
I hope that you are not reading this letter in a bomb shelter. I hope that you are not preparing to line up for food on a street covered in shattered glass.
Because I am writing this letter in troubling times. Because now, it seems the world is entering a Golden Age of Stupid, our brains carbonized by that cesspool of knowledge called Facebook.
See, stupid is not cute. Stupid is not just a big, fat, huggable oaf who goes “duuuuh” when squeezed. Stupid is dangerous. Stupid can lead to things like car collisions, beheadings, and schoolchildren shot with assault rifles bought from the nearby supermarket. “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups,” warned the comedian George Carlin. It happened in 1938 Europe and believe me, it will happen again. Some historians and archeologists have argued that human civilization goes through periodic cycles of monolithic spasms of self-extermination.
To paraphrase the saying, history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as reality show.
Because that has been the narrative of our country’s recent history.
I began writing this, my dear apo, a day after our nation’s highest court decided that it was okay to bury a thieving despot as a hero. On that day, too, the most powerful nation on Earth voted Donald Trump as president. No, as of this moment I am not surrounded by broken glass and undetonated IEDs—at least not yet.
I don’t know what your generation’s history classes teach you about Trump. Maybe by the time you read this, America will have been the greatest nation on Earth in manifold aspects. I pray that as you read this the whole world will have been proven wrong by Trump—that all that racist chest-thumping was all bluster, all part of one deceptively magnificent performance, that deep down inside he is an enlightened leader who conveniently rode on the crest of ignorance and hate. A lamb in wolves’ clothing. But right now, that does not seem to be the case: Anti-Trump protests are sweeping across America.
On November 8, 2016 in America, Trump became president. Right now, some morons are sneering at our exasperation at the thought of an ignorant bigot leading the world’s most powerful nation. “Bakit, U.S. citizen ka ba?” My greatest hope for you, my grandchild, is for you to live in a world free from such stupidity. And I hope you’ll avoid such people. People who say such things as “Wala ka rin namang magagawa.” In our time, we had a saying, “When America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold.” But I guess stupidity can sometimes be a nice anti-microbial overcoat. I leave it to your generation to figure out the flimsy connection between more genocidal typhoons and climate-change deniers.
Two days ago, my Twitter feed was flooded with reports of a number of Muslim women in the streets being dragged by their hijab and told to go back to the desert where they came from. Car windshields were smashed with the word “nigger” spray-painted on the hood.
This is not the kind of world I picture for you.
And in our part of the planet, the newspaper headlines seem to be harbingers of an unhappy future. A few days back, the president announced his willingness to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to fight drug pushers and the Abu Sayyaf. That does not fill me with optimism. (But I know that later on, he and his spokespersons would explain that the president wasn’t serious. Sometimes, I don’t know what to believe anymore).
Remember the date, November 8, 2016, also Typhoon Yolanda’s third anniversary—two disasters for this country’s history marked in a single day. A day so dreadful you remember where you were when you heard the news.
Donald Trump as U.S. president. A decision by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Two things that hit you like successive punches to the stomach.
Remember that date, but also remember these names: Lucas Bersamin, Presbiterio Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Mendoza, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Diosdado Peralta, and Jose Perez. And I hope your generation would regard them with utter revulsion.
Last week, the highest court of the land voted 9 to 5 in favor of burying the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. They chose to ignore the moral elephant in the august halls of Padre Faura and instead invoked cheap legal rodents.
I hope that by this time, you will have been taught the Marcos regime was one of the ugliest periods of our democracy.
This is the crap they’re shoving down our throats: Marcos will be buried not as a hero but as a decorated soldier, despite the claims of this country’s official historians that he had faked his war medals. A former soldier—yes, one who, when president, had used the military to torture his enemies.
That they are interring him in the Libingan not as hero but as a former president and soldier is the biggest crock of shit there is. That’s like someone forcing his penis inside a woman’s vagina and saying it’s not love-making, just plain emotionless sex. Like someone stealing your mobile phone and not calling it stealing, just a re-balancing of possession.
A Libingan burial, whatever the excuse, will pave the way for a Marcos vindication in the eyes of history sooner or later. What message does this send? Steal small, like a television set or cans of powdered milk or loaves of bread, you rot in some slimy city prison for the rest of your miserable, desperate life? Steal big, say U.S. $10 billion, and sooner or later an entire nation shall forget your sins and secure for you a sacred place of burial? “Hindi inaasahang pangyayari,” the daughter coos, calling for some vague form of forgiveness the way one says sorry for running over the neighbor’s skateboard. I’m sure, the purchase of four Manhattan buildings—as reported here by the New York Times—was an accident.
Their defenders—the very same trolls who call for death to drug suspects and anyone who believes in human rights—are now whacking out on their slimy keyboards the usual bromides about “forgiveness,” “understanding,” and “moving on.”
I hope you will read your history, because our ignorance has always been their power. Your history will teach you that this nation has so many things to be proud of—the Supreme Court decision certainly isn’t one of them. Also, the fact that the dictator’s son almost became vice president of the very same country they had plundered. In Martial Law, we lost an entire generation of young Filipinos who would have been today’s brave, capable leaders.
That he was not found guilty in any court of law? Just about the stupidest thing you’ll ever hear. Nagtanga-tangahan, ika nga. The president who plundered the country dry will be buried in a cemetery meant for heroes and public servants worthy of emulation. The same president—the exact same reason why the Philippines had to create a new constitution to prevent the abuses he had committed.
No amount of legal balderdash can erase the fact that Marcos was a crook, a thief, a tyrant, and I hope your generation would not forget that. And please do not lose faith in symbols. We bury Marcos at Libingan, we might as well bury our self-respect.
There is a wealth of literature written about the excesses of the Marcoses. Please do not commit the mistake of not reading them.
And please do not normalize the Marcoses. Like we did, especially in the media. Do not regard them as “actually fun guys,” “just like you and me.” Stop saying crap like, “Say what you want about Martial Law, Imelda is a fashion icon” because the only person I know who dressed like Imelda is Imelda herself and occasionally Jon Santos—unless in your time butterfly sleeves become co-opted by street fashion.
It’s trivialities like this that enabled them to slither back into power. This amity contains the same putrid methane in that unbelievably jejune rationale of Diosdado Peralta, one of the justices who voted to bury Marcos: “While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly just a human who erred like us.” Yeah. And Hitler wasn’t pure evil, either, because he loved puppies and taking long strolls in the park.
“Human just like us.” Last time I checked, my last mistake did not lead to billions in Swiss bank accounts nor did it cause the torture of thousands. Your own people, the same ones you’ve ruled for two decades, forcing you out of Malacañang—what else could it possibly mean?
This is what happened: We gave them cookies and now they asked for milk—and they got it. Pretty soon, we will be serving them milk with a whole moist cake with rainbow sprinkles. I hope that in your time, they will not have commandeered the entire kitchen. And not a single official gesture of remorse or contrition from this family. These people should be grateful at the very least. For the immensity of Marcos’ crimes, they should be thankful that they did not suffer the fate of the Ceausescus of Romania. Or Saddam or Qaddafi.
But they should be even more grateful for our national amnesia.
Consider the fate of tyrants in other parts of the planet, my dear grandchild: Idi Amin was not buried in Uganda but in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. After he was hanged in 1945, the Italian fascist Mussolini was buried in his hometown of Predappio. In Spain, there is a debate on whether the remains of Franco should be exhumed and transferred as part of an “effort under the 2007 Law of Historic Memory to remove symbols of Franco’s regime,” says an article in Foreign Policy. Pinochet of Chile was denied state funeral but was given military honors. His remains are now in a vacation home outside the capital, his family fearing that a grave in Santiago would become the target of vandalism.
“Vandalism.” Now here, my child, is a fascinating word. What the Supreme Court had denied us, why not exercise in your powers of, say, creative desecration? In Serbia in 2007, someone drove a three-foot wooden stake into the grave of Slobodan Milosevic, like what they do to vampires and other evil forces in Balkan folklore. In our time, we thought of possibilities: drones carrying sackfuls of manure and other malodorous refuse. Or perhaps in the middle of the night, the occasional projectile of garbage bags filled with Bocaue’s finest firecrackers. Or outside the walls of the LNMB, spray-painting the names of desaparecidos. A day after the SC decision, some naughty hackers added the phrase “At magnanakaw” to the Libingan ng mga Bayani name on Google maps.
Or perhaps by the time you read this, we can only pray that his grave would suffer the fate of many of this country’s monuments: covered in the grime of neglect.
But I hope that we are simply overreacting. I hope that we are all just drama queens with hyperventilating social media accounts. Maybe we have become hateful ourselves, self-righteous. Maybe we have turned into the very same people we despise.
But I hope yours will be a braver generation. Unlike ours, an entire nation that had lost its balls, including the mainstream media, especially print—once upon a time, it stood up to tyrants. Once upon a time, they braved detention, arrests, closure, sequestrations, water cannons, bullets. Now? They’re afraid of toxic comments by pro-government trolls.
Courage will be your weapon against despots. I pray that your generation and the succeeding ones will no longer have to endure dictatorships in any form. Please swear—as the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once counseled—to never be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.
Lastly, I don’t know who your president is—maybe it’s Bimby Aquino, Sandro Marcos, or any one of Manny Pacquiao’s children—but listen to me: Trump said it in 2016: Make America great again. Marcos had said it in December 1965: This nation can be great again.
Beware of leaders who promise greatness.
Wishing you all the best (including a Finnish visa),