#ElectionDay2016: No Such Thing As The Right Hands

Soul + Spirit
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Source: MiCDaily

White supremacy, or white feminism? I left my local polling place thinking about this, even after turning my ballot in.

In an interview with the Boston Review, Junot Díaz spoke about global and critical dystopias and the future of literature. The past few months have been riddled with political discourse so disheartening that for the first time in recent years, 81% of Americans wished for this election to be over.

Still, I can’t tear myself away from it all, in spite of the hypocrisy, the deception, the bigotry, for reasons that Díaz points out in the interview.

“This is of extraordinary importance, because what we bring—our critique of the present, our understanding of the present—is absolutely essential to produce a future. Our lack of presence in these areas, or our small numbers in these areas, problematically guarantee that in the future the toxic present may continue itself. We have got to chase these regimes everywhere they go, whether they imagine and re-imagine and re-create themselves in a past, whether they imagine, re-imagine, or re-create themselves in a fantastic other-space, or whether they are attempting to colonize the future. We need to go there and defend humanity, defend our humanity.”

Defending our humanity comes in the form of different things, whether it’s showing up to the Republican National Convention wearing a “Make America Read Again” hat the same way this librarian did, writing letters to the future president, or by standing with other writers to unequivocally oppose, as a matter of conscience, the presidency of one candidate.

The soul can become weary, and I have a stack of books at my disposal, with other worlds to explore. There are also lists like this, recommendations of books to read after the election.

In the end, we’re still stuck with the same system, no matter who wins. Teju Cole got it right, in this interview with poet Adam Fitzgerald:

“Not talking about Trump now…I thought the Snowden revelations were very deeply consequential, and people were like ‘Eh… you know. It’s Obama. He’s not gonna do anything bad with it.’ This fundamental undermining of what it’s fair to call a sacred principle: it would be easy to say that in the wrong hands, the effect could be devastating. But what I actually want to say is that there’s no such thing as the right hands.”

No such thing as the right hands because no matter who wins, we’re still caught in the same system where we have to continuously defend our humanity.

Still here, still breathing, still struggling.

Self-Deception in the Age of Trump and Clinton, with R.K. Narayan

Book Reviews

Dismayed by the current political climate? Finding yourself saying #IGuessImWithHer as opposed to a candidate who seems to be trolling all of us? I guess it was timely that I started reading R.K. Narayan’s book The Guide this way, so I can reflect on the concepts of deception and self-deception.

I mean, I struggled with this book to be honest, just as I am struggling to accept Hillary. I will never vote for a Republican, so Trump is out of the question. What I want to delve into are actually the stories we tell ourselves about which candidate deserves our vote. The book was a timely tool, a way to see things behind the scenes.

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Narayan’s The Guide follows the story of a Raju from the fictional town of Malgudi in India. Fresh out of prison with nowhere to go and no one to come home to, he set up camp at an old temple by the river. Slowly, locals started coming to seek his guidance as though he was a monk or a swami sent from the heavens. His disposition, his clothes and even his appearance started earning him the trust of the closest village folks who came bearing gifts and food. His thoughts became teachings, and he continued to keep this up for the purpose of survival.

He spoke to them on godliness, cleanliness, spoke on Ramayana, the characters in the epics; he addressed them on all kinds of things. He was hypnotized by his own voice; he felt himself growing in stature as he the upturned faces of the children shining in the half-light when he spoke. No one was more impressed with the grandeur of the whole thing than Raju himself.

But Raju was no monk, nor was he a yogi. Having brought up by the railways of Malgudi where his father’s business once was, he sought to make a name for himself by delving into different kinds of businesses. His father had a small convenience store and after his death, Raju took over. But he was smart, observant and knew when opportunities came up. He discovered that: 1) he could diversify his business by responding to the needs of travelers (he started selling books and other printed materials) and 2) he could capitalize on tourism (he became known as “Railway Raju” to many).

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I read stuff that interested me, bored me, baffled me, and dozed off in my seat. I read stuff that pricked up a noble thought, a philosophy that appealed, I gazed on pictures of old temples and ruins and new buildings and battleships, and soldiers and pretty girls around whom my thoughts lingered. I learned much from scrap.

The rhetoric of politics can be draining: it is a roller-coaster ride of hope, repudiation, alarm, back to hope, at times inspiration, and then it’s back to more repudiation, more alarm, until your realize your mind becomes a pestle, your heart an unduly mortar.

No wonder so many people are apathetic about politics, even if their own lives and their interests are at stake. What does it take to keep engaging?

This is even more compounded for folks like me, a wild-eyed child of the (queer) Filipino diaspora, perpetually straddling two worlds. The flourishing of one requires the sacrifice of the other. If it isn’t taken, it is forced out. One is oil, the other, water.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been a witness to three major speeches: two American presidential nominees in their respective party conventions and the first State of the Nation Address of the Philippines’s president.

From “I alone can fix it” to “We’ll fix it together,” coverage of both the Democratic and Republican conventions was nonstop. My inbox reeks of “Breaking News” alerts every time someone says something to counter the other. I’ve never been more dismayed, disillusioned with the state of party politics.

I was never for Hillary Clinton, in spite of the fact that I am a fervent women’s rights activist. What matters to me, more than her gender identity, are her political views, accomplishments and perspectives. And while her stance on social issues like abortion, immigration and access to healthcare are liberal, it’s her economic agenda that rattles, unsettles me. What do you call someone who would rather free the money, not the people?

A neoliberal.

Celebration of income inequality? Lower corporate taxes? Labor deregulation? Weakening of trade unions? Privatization of public goods and services?

And it’s no secret that whatever economic agenda the U.S. sets, it reaches the farthest corners of the world. If Hillary wins, the Trans Pacific Agreement might survive Obama’s lame duck moment of crisis.

Voting for Trump is a no-brainer, although I’m convinced he’s really just trolling all of us (h/t to Katchingles for this one) but what choice do I have?

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Back in the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his first State of the Nation Address which elicited high hopes for a better government, the resumption of peace talks in the country (finally!), reforms in taxation and social services, with a few chuckles here and there. He also reiterated his crusade against the drug trade, the most recurring theme of his presidency so far.

He made me tear up when he talked of a permanent and lasting peace before his term ends as his goal, as his dream. I laughed when he called out members of the Congress, when he commented on the inefficiencies of public agencies. While #SONA2016 was charming, rousing at times, with a this-is-your-good-ol-uncle-giving-you-a-talk feel to it, it was also exasperating as this article points out.

 

He announced a unilateral ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, of which he rescinded a week later after Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit. Go figure.

I was skeptical of Duterte while he was campaigning, but upon his election and subsequent appointment of progressive forces in his Cabinet I started to pay more attention.

After #SONA2016, the Center for Women’s Resources came out with a 100-Day Challenge to his administration. Filipinos like me in the diaspora are watching his administration closely, in support of his pro-people policies. He must be accountable to his promises, he must serve his people genuinely.

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My nose is usually buried in books, and I know that my Sunday Spotlight usually features literary musings. I can’t help but focus on political discourse for today’s post, specially at this time, when folks teeter on extremism or worse, political apathy.

In the end, while we are at the mercy of the media, while we are lambasted with senseless political prose, while we are offered promises that at times ring hollow, we should not be deterred.

Indignation must always be the answer to indignity. Reality is not destiny.

– Eduardo Galeano

Sunday Spotlight: State of the Nation

Sunday Spotlight

A Queer and Brown Reading of Virginia Woolf

Book Reviews

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A friend once chided me that for the amount of time I spend reading, it’s a shame that I didn’t know much about classics. So there I was, struggling with Virginia Woolf, trying hard to connect to the text.

And then I got to this portion:

A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips, in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.

I was halfway through reading A Room of One’s Own, past details of elaborate lunches and other minutiae I didn’t bother remembering, when I felt like Woolf was actually onto something.

The “queer, composite being” she writes about is of the utmost interest to me, as a woman myself. And a queer one at that. While I agree with her thoughts on women, on their relegation as inferior to men, there’s a lot that’s still missing for me. This ain’t my feminist canon.

To be clear, what she points out as women’s inability to write (specifically fiction) stems from lack of money and space. Had women inherited lump sums of money from their ancestors (500 pounds to be exact), they would’ve been able to acquire a writing room all their own, with enough money to get by and sustain themselves.

I suddenly had flashbacks: of times when I wrote at a laundromat off of Alum Rock in San Jose while waiting for loads of laundry, of writing in anger inside a friend’s old car when I ran away from home, by the stairs of an old apartment in Brisbane that I unofficially shared with what seems like ten other people.