11/08/2020
Silver bullet (reprise)

It's very likely we're going to fall into the same trap again.

All right, all right. Yes, nominally, I am going to talk about the US elections. Why do you care about something you don't really have a stake in? I've been watching the coverage on television, and I'm a bit of a television geek, so there's that. Also, I've been watching late night shows for the past few years - not just the past four, but then, you know how that has dominated the monologues you've shared online. If anything, it'd be nice to see how this all pans out.

But then, of course things don't end just like that. It took four days for the television networks to call the election for Joe Biden, but Donald Trump has given every indication he won't be conceding, never mind mathematics and precedent not being in his favor. Then there's the next couple of months: what one hopes would be a smooth transition is most likely going to be just a bit noisier, a bit more uncertain. It's not something you'd appreciate when you've already had that moment of catharsis, of knowing this nightmare you've found yourself in one way or another has a definitive end date, sort of. I mean, screw the op-eds about how the end of the Trump presidency doesn't mean the end of Trumpism. We won! We fucking won! Let us have this moment!

I was watching television when the networks began calling the election early this morning. (Shalla and I were on a somewhat boozy video call with a friend.) Those days of waiting, finally paying off with the proverbial falling of the dominoes, all the decision desks awarding Pennsylvania to Biden. I may have been questioning if I'm tipsy or not when I saw crowds slowly gather to mark a milestone they've been waiting years for.

I wasn't the only one watching. I mean, it's a Saturday. People are up. (I'm not usually up at half past midnight, but there I was.) The tweets would soon come. We still look up to the United States, in one way or another; Donald Trump's presidency became a bellwether for the wave of populism and authoritarianism taking over the world, and he seemed like a good first dragon to strike down. Now we know it can be done. Now we know we can take our own dragons down. The tweets said as much. We can do this, Philippines. We can do this in 2022.

What can we do? We can vote, of course. Registration is ongoing despite the pandemic and the currently slight, but definitely floated, possibility that this election will be postponed. Considering how our elections have been set up so far, seemingly with our ability to perform our civic duties the least of their considerations, it'd be a challenge to have anyone eligible to vote - old and new - go through the trouble of registering (or reregistering), and then actually doing the deed. There are just too many more important things to go through, like squeezing some happiness out of this mundane life.

There is, of course, better understanding the issues, the stands and the personalities. But that also means too much effort. It requires you going out of your way to read up on the issues that matter, or at least the ones you're most passionate about, in places that won't just reaffirm your beliefs but cover all the ground in as objective a manner as possible. That means being challenged with other viewpoints, especially the ones that are outside your comfort zone. That means putting yourself in the shoes of others, and not just for the 'gram, not just to contort their beliefs to justify yours. Why go through all that? It's just a load of tosh, of negativity. There are just too many more important things to go through, like squeezing even more happiness out of this mundane and cursed life. All that matters is what you believe. Fuck what they say.

Relish the moment. Relish the hope this brings for pretty much all of us. But recognize that this isn't the silver bullet you're all praying for - that this was never the silver bullet you're all praying for. The United States' problems won't end with Trump being voted out. (It never even started with Trump being voted in.) Same thing here. Our problems won't end with Duterte being voted out, the way they didn't start with Duterte being voted in. But, yeah, too much effort. Instant gratification is what matters. What you believe is right above what everybody else believes, unless they believe the exact same thing as you.

Call me a killjoy, but it's misleading to imply that all our country's problems began with the current president in power. Yes, there is space to say that some of them got worse - the threats to fundamental freedoms and sovereignty are pretty unique this time around, arguably - but we all cannot wrap ourselves around it because of issues that go further back. For one, Duterte merely took advantage of the polarization that went into full steam under Noynoy Aquino's six years in office, when he insisted that anyone who doesn't wear that yellow ribbon anywhere is an opponent that must be dismissed at the very least. The structures that enabled corruption have been around for decades, and no amount of lip service from succeeding presidents have done much to truly clean up the public sector; all it did was shift the benefits to whoever was in vogue at the time.

And yet we have allowed ourselves to go with the narrative that all our hopes as a nation can be pinned on the shoulders of a grieving widow, or a defiant economist, or a grieving son, or a no-bullshit mayor. We say we are better than those who do that, but we do the very same mistakes ourselves. And so everything cycles. We see our hopes materialize. We get disappointed. We antagonize those who continue to believe. We unknowingly, or otherwise, drop our supposed principles - we believe in democracy, but call for those who disagree with us to be barred from participating - just to be proven right, to be seen on the right side of history.

But then, we're frustrated. There's no way we can figure all this out. There's no way you would be able to, or have the initiative to, understand why others do what they do, and why you do what you do. There are just too many more important things to go through. That, and the pressure out there to look like you are empathetic to what others feel, compels you to take shortcuts. I know it's difficult myself. It's not like I have figured it out, and I most likely never will. Nobody, not even those in power, has. But realizing what's truly best for us takes bringing people together, regardless of differences, and thrashing things out. And that's barely scratching the surface.

It sounds idealistic, yes. I mean, Joe Biden said as much during his victory speech in Delaware, and you probably know that's a bit of a stretch, considering Donald Trump's stubbornness and the mathematics of federal and state legislatures, not to mention a judiciary possibly stacked against them. But then, that was all theater designed to give hope. They know they have to work a lot to get even a quarter of the way there. The same goes with us. But are you willing to do the work - something more substantial than asking everyone who disagrees with you to "wake up" even if you've blocked and unfriended them already?

And your responses...

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