Wednesday, November 05, 2008

People Power

I am very fortunate to have been part of breathtaking movements for Change - the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines and the election of the first African American president.

On Saturday night, February 22, 1986 my parents woke me and my brother up. Quickly - get dressed - we're going to EDSA. I didn't pause to question whether I was dreaming or not (a few days earlier I had gotten into major trouble for joining one of the many street demonstrations against the Marcos regime). I jumped into my jeans, pajamas and all, put on a t-shirt, grabbed a baseball cap and joined my family. En route to the highway where hundreds of thousands were converging to protest a stolen presidential election, and to demand Tama Na - Enough! to 14 years of dictatorship, I asked my mom what made them decide to take action. She said we'd like you and your kuya (big brother) to have a future. We'd like to hope again. So when Cardinal Sin called upon Filipinos to barricade the rebel camps, we came. A few days later, Ferdinand Marcos was whisked away by American forces and Corazon Aquino became president.

For the past year, my partner and I have followed and supported the campaigns of Hillary Clinton then Barack Obama. We realized, along with millions of others, that it was time to change the course on which the Bush administration, the Republican party, fundamentalist theocrats and their allies have steered the nation. A path that has drastically veered away from the American ideals of freedom and equality. We joined in chanting yes we can. Yes we can work together for a better future. Yes we can hope again. Last night Barack Obama won the White House.

More than two decades after the nonviolent uprising in the Philippines, sadly not much has changed. While democratic institutions have been established and freedom of the press flourishes, gross inequity and rampant corruption prevail. Income inequality is one of the worst in Asia and close to 30% of families live below the poverty threshold. Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index gives the country a score of 2.3 (10 being highly clean and 0 being highly corrupt as assessed by business people and country analysts). Cameroon, Iran and Yemen garnered the same mark.

So, where will America be four years from now? In a decade? Will race and gender still matter? Will there still be two Americas? Will lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangendered individuals be treated as full citizens entitled to the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals?

It is up to all of us. This is not about Barack Obama. This about doing what is right and just and true for all. This is about keeping the American Dream alive.

Related Posts:
A Better America
If You Love Me

1 comment:

Angela said...

Thanks for this post, Erwin. Watching the crowds at Grant Park last night I was reminded of the elation and the revelry on EDSA when Marcos finally fled Malacanang. Who would have thought almost 23 years later, halfway across the globe, we would experience another monumental triumph of the people? How very fortunate indeed to be given another opportunity in this lifetime to change the world as we know it. And you're absolutely right. It's up to each of us to make it happen.