Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Million Deaths? The "America" in Filipino

"Result of Mount Dajo Fight- Those in the Trench are 'Good Moros'" (1907) from The Forbidden Book

Who Are You? A Survey of the Fil Am Self

Street Dance, Time Travel, and a Zoo
The Owners, the Workers, and the Street

Today, I attended a local Philippine Independence Day festival. It was humungous! So many lovely people.

But something stuck out on this otherwise beautiful day-- the complete reverence towards U.S. militarism (which is typical in many Filipino events like this), such as the patriotic recital of the American National Anthem, the ceremonial raising of the American flag (along with the Philippine flag, I think right behind the American one), and the heavy presence of U.S. military recruiters.

Philippine Independence. What a funny concept that we celebrate in June (and July). Just how “independent” is the Philippines?

I was reading this article "A Million Deaths? Genocide and the 'Filipino American' Condition of Possibility" by Dylan Rodriguez in the anthology Positively No Filipino Allowed. Basically, I think Rodriguez is arguing that “Filipino Americans” need to be critical of the blind and dangerous embrace of “Americaness” by Filipinos, given the very violent history inflicted on Filipinos by the U.S. military, and the very real cultural genocide in the islands.

In today's political atmosphere, what irks me is the total historical erasure of the U.S. aggression in the Philippines. The Iraq War is not the second Vietnam, but the third Philippines (the War on Vietnam being the second Philippines). This is why we should be weary of blind American patriotism, because the “freedom” and “pride” that Americans feel (regardless of ethnicity) comes at the expense of the “collateral damage” of U.S. conquest: our existence as a Union today is by virtue of U.S. violence in the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico, etc. The very notion of being an “American” is always shaped by who is "not American." And as Rodriguez suggests, the very death of some people (Filipinos, Indians, Blacks) always constitute the life of wholesome Americans.

One part of Rodriguez’s article really stood out to me. The author’s citing of a 1902 congressional testimony of Brigadier General Robert P. Hughes is instructive:

Gen. Hughes:
They usually burned the village.

Sen. Rawlins:
All of the houses in the village?

Gen. Hughes:
Yes; every one of them.

Sen. Rawlins:
What would become of the inhabitants?

Gen. Hughes:
That was their lookout.

Sen. Rawlins:
If these shacks were of no consequence what was the utility of their destruction?

Gen. Hughes:
The destruction was as a punishment. They permitted these people [guerillas] to come in there and conceal themselves and they gave no sign…

Sen. Rawlins:
The punishment in that case would fall, not upon the men, who could go elsewhere, but mainly upon the women and little children.

Gen. Hughes:
The women and children are part of the family, and where you wish to inflict a punishment you can punish the man probably worse in that way than in any other.

Sen. Rawlins:
But is that within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare? Of course you could exterminate the family, which would be still worse punishment.

Gen. Hughes:
These people are not civilized.

Cite: Henry F. Graff, ed., American Imperialism and the Philippine Insurrection: Testimony Taken from Hearings on Affairs in the Philippine Islands before the Senate Committee on the Philippines—1902 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969)

With plans to stay 100 years in Iraq and permanent military bases in the country, the question is can an Iraqi, like the Filipino, make an obedient "Little Brown Brother"?

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