Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Letter to Nicole

Just a short note, by way of reminding all that at the center of all the legal, diplomatic and political verbiage on the Subic rape case, is a young woman, not only sexually assaulted and humiliated, but betrayed so thoroughly by those with the power and the responsibility to protect her and lend her justice.

I read about all the issues swirling around you, Nicole, in the various newspapers and Internet news services, and wish we could know you in all your fortitude. I wish we could say "we feel your pain" but we can't really, only imagine it.

I am tempted to say you have already made history; that at least, you got one convicted, at least you got a trial, at least you precipitated a crisis, at least… But that is a cop-out. Filipinos have been trained to live on the “at-least” level. I hear it all the time, from exported Filipinas: at least, you have a job; at least, you’re in the US; at least, you can send money home; at least, your amo (master) is kind; at least… It’s become our prime and only virtue: survival by whatever means, under whatever conditions. I hear it often from women who work 18/7 to enable parents, siblings and various relations to continue to exist in an archipelago so wealthy it’s globalization’s paradise.

There are no words of comfort to make up for this travesty, to you and to millions of Filipinas living lives of quiet desperation. The Philippines ranks fifth in the world in the number of women working. The first four are all Western developed nations, like Sweden, Denmark, etc. It is a painful irony that a country dependent on women’s labor does not have the political will to defend, protect and assert one woman’s right to redress of grievance.

What the US and the Philippine government have connived to teach you is imperialism’s most insidious lesson: that whatever you do is an exercise in futility, because you are a citizen of a client state, because your country is a claptrap Third World country without power, because your government is a failed government, because your country is not independent, because you are part of a “colored” race, and because there are among you people who prefer survival to dignity and honor.

This is the first lesson of slavery, of course: that sense of futility and helplessness, of powerlessness; of being always in the wrong and the master always in the right. Hence, the contemptible spectacle of some Filipinas lighting candles for a convicted rapist and the equally contemptible spectacle of a priest who had lived parasitically almost his entire life on the Church contributions of the poor of the Philippines denying the veracity of a court trial to defend a member of the master race. What makes this race a master is the equally contemptible willingness of the country’s so-called rulers to be enslaved, thereby dragging the whole nation into enslavement.

Do not accept this. Do not abide by this lesson in powerlessness. Do not internalize powerlessness. That is the first step to slavery.

The only thing we can offer, those of us who also work 18/7 scampering to correct each sliver of injustice, each instance of exploitation, each whiplash of racism in this country, are the words we live by: to the degree that you struggle against suppression, to that degree are you already free; to the degree that you resist imperialism, to that degree are you already liberated.

And if it’s any comfort, know that you were done in, not by the US marines whom you bested, but by a cabal of four-letter men and one five-letter woman masquerading as Filipinos.

So, go for it, girl, ignore the “at-leasts” and keep on truckin’ to victory, if not by way of the courts, then some other way.

Surrender is not an option.