DE CE SI DE CE NU DE Nelson A. Navarro (Steaua Filipinei) | Actualizat 2 decembrie 2012 – 12:00 am
Carlos Bulosan este un urias in studiile etnice americane.
Ce te face sa crezi ca filipinezii din America ar iesi paraguni de virtute politice ca nu s-au mai intors in vechea tara?
Sunt un sceptic nascut si acest gand nu este niciodata departe de minte cand discut despre politica cu prietenii mei filipino-americani.
Asa cum arata recentele alegeri prezidentiale din SUA, Fil-Ams se incadreaza in paradigma republicano-democratica, care aminteste cu strictete de diviziunea Nacionalista-Liberala inainte de a intra in pragul dictaturii Marcos. Nu este nimic in afara de politica familiara a tweedledum-ului si tweedle-dee sau, in termeni filipinezi, „sa pula, sa puti” (rosu sau alb).
Filipinezii au tendinta de a sari garduri si, in conformitate cu un avocat neapologetic, presedintele Joseph Estrada, totul este o chestiune de „ Weder-Weder lang “ -se depinde de sezon si care castiga. Exista un alt termen, balimbing, care da fructelor ametitoare un nume rau doar pentru a fi cu mai multe fete ca politicienii care merg acolo unde bate vantul fierbinte.
In America, democratii filipinezi au avut mana superioara inca din anii Clinton. Au fost microscopice inainte de aceasta, o parte si un pachet din blocul abia vizibil asiatico-american (aproximativ doua procente din electorat). Exilii anilor Marcos si ai batranilor de dinainte de 1968 numesc impuscaturile, simtindu-se imputerniciti de democratii Kennedy si Clinton (cu siguranta nu republicanii) care au campionat drepturile imigrantilor si nu i-au placut niciodata lui Marcos.
Alti filipinezi erau prea jenati pentru a-si face simpatia republicana in anii ’70 -’80. O parte din motiv a fost ca Reagans erau prieteni fideli ai Imelda si Ferdinand Marcos care dateaza din 1968, cand primul a venit pentru inaugurarea Centrului Cultural din Manila. Sa fii pentru presedintele Reagan insemna invariabil ca esti si pentru regimul legii martiale.
Tufele, tatal si fiul, au pus capat tabuului Marcosian. Luandu-si tacerea de la cubanezi anti-comunisti, extremistii de dreapta filipinezi au fost incurajati, mai ales dupa 11 septembrie, cand Legea Patriot a obligat pro-americanismul care flutura steag obligatoriu si un mod usor de a fi scutit de prejudecatile anti-imigranti. Ambasii din Filipine nu au avut niciodata atat de bine. Republicanii, intotdeauna prietenosi cu dictatorii si tipurile de ordine si lege, le-au oferit o casa pe care nu au gasit-o niciodata si nu au cautat-o cu democratii mai corecti din punct de vedere politic.
Mai mult, tanarul Bush a oferit cai de cetatenie pentru minoritati doritoare si capabile sa lupte in Afganistan si Irak. Acesta este secretul cererii republicane la votul latin; acesta a fost, de asemenea, un punct de intrare pentru filipinezii nerabdatori sa sara inaintea indelungatului proces de imigratie din Manila. O familie avea nevoie doar de un miel de sacrificiu, un voluntar gung-ho la Kabul sau Bagdad; chiar daca talibanii sau siitii l-au obtinut si s-au intors intr-o cutie, dependentii sai au fost asigurati de cetatenie si de alte drepturi prevazute in pachetul de inscriere (unii spun, mercenari).
In ultimii 30 de ani sau pana cand recesiunea actuala a incetinit exodul, comunitatea Fil-Am s-a extins rapid si nu a mai fost incadrata in cele doua mari state costiere din California si New York.
From fewer than 200,000 or so in the late 1960s, their numbers rose beyond the two million mark by 2000, with significant and fast-growing outposts in Virginia, Texas, Las Vegas, Florida and even Arkansas and Alabama, where huge military installations and industries flourished and often dictated the tone and direction of electoral politics.
A growing number of Fil-Ams imbibed the primarily Republican, rightwing, redneck culture of the Deep South and the Southwest. Unlike in California where the earlier progressive tradition and alliances of the Filipino farmworkers of the 1930s remained strong, the new arrivals came across as ready-made recruits for the conservative surge of the Nixon, Reagan and Bush years.
Not that only the Filipinos veered to the right; other minorities, particularly Latinos and Taiwanese, were preferred token ethnics of the almost all-white Grand Old Party (GOP), another name for the Republicans. But these ethnic defectors seemed few in number and were often reviled as traitors to the progressive cause.
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The Filipinos on the Republican side had few qualms. They were loudly contemptuous of so-called welfare cheats, “lazy people who steal my tax dollars,” illegal immigrants—their code-words for ethnic minorities they wanted to be differentiated from. They were the “good” ethnics the whites would rather employ in their businesses or invite to dinner.
Having come after the Kennedy immigration reforms of the late 1960s, the new arrivals assume that they owed their jobs and comforts solely to professional status and personal merit; they feel no affinity with the less-skilled pioneer generation, who fought against all odds against racial discrimination and for basic rights.
In the 2010 GOP convention in Tampa, the few colored people present could be picked out of the lily-white crowd; there seemed to be more Filipinos than Afro-Americans and very vocal, too, especially some women with phony American accents, about abolishing Obamacare and subsidies to the poor.
Closer to home, two of my Ivy League Filipinos friends, products of the best Philippine and American schools, openly support the education-healthcare cuts and harsh immigration crackdowns of the McCains and Romneys. As late as a decade ago, they were fighting against racial discrimination and hailing the noble sacrifices of our now-forgotten Filipino farmworkers.
“We have to join the mainstream,” the more blatantly Darwinist of the two tells me. “If you’re still poor, it’s your fault. Don’t count on government and raise our taxes.”
I am not suggesting that Fil-Ams have switched en masse to the Republican side. Far from it. A sizeable majority, studies show, remain quietly in the Democratic fold or count themselves as non-partisan. Except that Filipino Republicans tend to hog the spotlight and are more “popish than the pope,” so to speak, in pushing the anti-welfare, anti-immigrant, pro-tax cut for the rich agenda of their party.
What happened? Why this callous repudiation of the progressive line that had once put the Filipinos in the frontlines of the struggle for equality and racial justice in America? Why are these Filipinos embracing the enemy with such contempt for their own heritage of struggle?
Perhaps it’s all about political fatigue or cynicism. Some get tired of fighting for causes that never seem to win or always fall short of victory. Also, people do climb up the social ladder and from up there, it’s another view: you reap the benefits of the system and look at those stuck or still striving down below as born losers or, worse, lowly countrymen to be embarrassed about in your bid to be accepted in mainstream white society.
Years ago, I recall being shaken by a Hollywood film, Imitation of Life, about ambitious Afro-Americans breaking away from the painful memory of slavery to “make it in the real world.”
In my exile years in the 1970s, these disturbing images led me to the Filipino-American movement that still flourished after its baptism by fire in California in the 1930s.
Carlos Bulosan, Phillip Vera Cruz, and Larry Itliong were respected names among ethnic minority activists. Bulosan was by far the best non-white writer who was held in the same high esteem reserved for his good friend John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath and a pillar of American literature.
I dare say that there are few novels of the Depression era that have been as celebrated as Bulosan’sAmerica is in the Heart. In Ethnic American Studies, Bulosan, who died young some 50 years ago, is a giant and cannot be easily ignored.
Philip Vera Cruz, now also gone but whom I personally met in his retirement, was mentioned n the same breath as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, famous Chicano activists whom Robert Kennedy put in the same heroic level as Martin Luther King. In fact, the great California farmworkers’ strike of the 1960s was said to have been initiated by the Filipinos and only joined in by the Mexican-Americans or Chicanos. The corporations and growers had always pitted the two groups against each other; it was sweet justice to see Philip and Cesar working together, a great inspiration for the crusaders of the day.
Never afflicted by pride or vanity, Philip did not mind playing second fiddle or vice president to Cesar in the United Farm Workers movement. The struggle was far more important.
This is the reason I cringe when some Filipinos today get carried away and think of Mexicans in derisive terms (I suppose the feelings might be mutual), mainly because they’re for our Pacquiao and Marquez is Mexican. We once bravely united for racial justice but have fallen foolishly apart over the false pride of which boxer deserves the million-dollar payolas of Las Vegas syndicates and high-stakes gamblers.
I am hardly consoled but still glad that Jessica Sanchez, a Filipino-Mexican of California, won the hearts of millions with her triumph on American Idol. It may be showbiz, but still a big recognition of Filipino and Mexican talent, now regarded at long last as second to none in America and the world.
It also saddens me to see some Filipinos express outright racist slurs against Afro-Americans. “Are you white?” I would always shoot back when I heard catty remarks. This was most disturbing in 2008 when Barack Obama ran for president and even more virulently so when he sought a second term this year.
I cannot understand this patronizing attitude. As for white racists, I can see where they’re coming from and I have nothing but the strongest words for them. But for Filipinos to feel offended by black victory? That’s pathetic and beneath contempt.
I have never been attracted to the Tea Party, to put it mildly. I was mortified by Sarah Palin, more so when one Filipino East Coast resident I knew toasted her as the best thing to happen to the Republicans in 2008.
“Palin will rally the base,” he proudly boasted about the Alaska governor McCain had picked as his vice-presidential running mate. “She will give Obama hell!”
And she did. She taunted Obama to engage her in a verbal slugfest that he loftily avoided. The actress Julianne Moore later played Palin in an HBO film that showed how McCain and the GOP cynically played the “race card” through this sharp-tongued woman in Armani who was out of her depth in seeking high office.
But there is justice in this world and Obama handily won the presidency. He repeated this feat in last November’s equally bruising bout with Romney. Palin has since receded into disrepute and ridicule, although she and her admirers — like my Filipino right winger friend — are in deepest denial.
I am not a US citizen and not a Democratic party member, but I am only too aware of the code-words Republicans use to put down minorities without actually using the hateful terms of the old days. Romney recently lashed at “the 47 percent” who he claims feel entitled and are always free-loading on government.
In the Philippines, we used to talk of colonial mentality, the Capitan Tiagos and Dona Victorinas who ape the colonizers, the “coconuts” among us — brown outside, white inside. We have seen our worst enemies and they are some of us.
The fight continues in America. Nobody is saying let’s coddle all the poor, spoil them rotten and bankrupt the government. Recent studies, in fact, show that most immigrants work hard for so little because they want better lives for their children. What could be more American in spirit and action? In fact, the “blue” or Democratic states get less federal aid than the “red” or Republican states. So who’s talking?
Our attitude towards the poor and the immigrants cannot be too legalistic, too unfeeling and so mean-spirited as to ignore what is at the heart of the problem — human beings who just need a better chance in life. If we cannot extend a helping hand or feel stingy about compassion, the least we can do is not to mock the unfortunate and grandly call ourselves Christian.
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