I thought we had come so far

SLOW DOWN, DILETTANTE - Jam Pascual (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2016 - 12:00am

1. What is grief? It is common practice to compare the state and trajectory of progress in the Philippines with that of the West. This is a laborious and misguided way of viewing national development, but in light of what has been confirmed as the deadliest mass shooting in US history, one can’t help but recall other brutalities that have taken place here.

January 2012: Edmund Padilla came out to his father as gay. In a rage, his father scalded Edmund with boiling water. October 2014: Transwoman Mary Jo Anonuevo was stabbed 33 times in a bar she owned in Lucena City. May 30, this year: The body of transwoman Gemma Vosotros was found in Barangay Balud, San Fernando Town, southern Cebu, wrapped up in garbage bags and packaging tape. A sheet of paper with the words “Tulisan Ko! DU30” was taped to the body. And who can forget Jennifer Laude? Or consider the 100-plus killings committed against the gay community from 1996 to 2012, according to the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch. Those numbers are increasing as the years pass, the line going up on the graph. And let us be clear, these are hate crimes.

2. What is grief? Matthew Holzmann wrote a poem entitled “Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czeslaw Milosz,” the first two lines being, “You whom I could not save, / Listen to me.” The poem is about campus massacres. At the end of the piece, he states, “What should we do? we’ll ask / again. The earth will close / like a door above you. / What should we do? / And that click you hear? / That’s just our voices, / the deadbolt of discourse / sliding into place.”

3. What is grief? The strength and weakness of outrage is its tendency to state what should already be common sense. That this is wrong, that micro-aggressions lead to this, that a particular culture has helped reinforce the mindset behind Omar Mateen’s actions at an Orlando club called Pulse.

I am remembering high school. I am remembering the word “faggot” being launched across the classroom like spitballs. I am remembering f***boys — before the term “f***boy” was invented — sticking their tongues out and pelvic-thrusting the air in jest. I am remembering conversing with a former friend about how not to be like our fathers, and telling each other, oh yeah, our sons can totally be gay, as long as they don’t wear dresses. There is cognitive bias at work here. There is violence at work here.

4. What is grief? Last Sunday, our church’s senior pastor shared an anecdote about a father concerned with his son’s gender identity. According to him, his boy was acting “effeminately.” So what did the father do? He encouraged his son to play basketball, practice taekwondo, take up judo. The anecdote skips to the future, and the son is now apparently married with children. The audience claps. What is the implication here, Pastor Peter Tan-Chi? That you can “cure” your gay child with sports?

I am looking you straight in the eye, Christ’s Commission Fellowship. Will you say something about the Orlando shooting? Will you say something about the hate crimes happening here? If you are going to say prayers, do not stop at prayers. I want you to say something about all of this.

5. What is grief? Hard to say. Love is easier to define. According to Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love.”

6. What is grief? Stanley Almodovar III. Amanda Alvear. Oscar A. Aracena-Montero. Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala. Antonio Davon Brown. Darryl Roman Burt II. Angel L. Candelario-Padro. Juan Chevez-Martinez. Luis Daniel Conde. Cory James Connell. Tevin Eugene Crosby. Deonka Deidra Drayton. Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez. Leroy Valentin Fernandez. Mercedes Marisol Flores. Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz. Juan Ramon Guerrero. Paul Terrell Henry. Frank Hernandez. Miguel Angel Honorato. Javier Jorge-Reyes. Jason Benjamin Josaphat. Eddie Jamoldroy Justice. Anthony Luis Laureanodisla. Christopher Andrew Leinonen. Alejandro Barrios Martinez. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool. Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez. Kimberly Morris. Akyra Monet Murray. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo. Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez. Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera. Joel Rayon Paniagua. Jean Carlos Mendez Perez. Enrique L. Rios. Jean C. Nives Rodriguez. Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado. Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz. Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan. Edward Sotomayor Jr. Shane Evan Tomlinson. Martin Benitez Torres. Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega. Juan P. Rivera Velazquez. Luis S. Vielma. Franky Jimmy Dejesus Valezquez. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon. Jerald Arthur Wright. Obituaries shouldn’t take up this much page space.

7. What is grief? The lines Holzmann appropriated originate from the Milosz poem “Dedication,” which was written at the end of World War II, after the Warsaw Uprising. He addresses the dead. The line “You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one” rings true and still resonates in the wake of all these incidents. Give me all your data, all your analysis, I still won’t know why this is happening. Wasn’t it recently that gay Americans were finally allowed to marry? Wasn’t it recently that the first transgender woman was elected into Philippine congress? I thought we were moving into an age of acceptance. What is grief? What should we do? We’ve come so far. I thought we had come so far.

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