Protecting our hearts
Genesis Argoncillo and Kian Loyd delos Santos are forever bound by their deaths. They were killed as a result of President Duterte’s orders to police to go after suspected drug dealers and users (in Kian’s case) and to pick up and detain “tambays” or idle loiterers who dare venture out of their homes (as with Genesis, aka “Tisoy”).
Their deaths also set off a firestorm of protests and grieving. Although, by the Philippine National Police’s own estimates, almost 4,000 “alleged drug offenders” had been killed by police as of last January, Kian’s killing struck home largely because of a video showing him docilely following police even while pleading to be released soon because he had an exam the next day. The next shot showed Kian dead amid a mound of garbage, with a pistol found lying next to him.
Meanwhile, “Tisoy,” who his family said was simply buying “load” for his cell phone at a corner store, turned up dead after he was accosted and brought to a police station. Authorities now say two inmates had beaten up Tisoy in his jail cell.
It is difficult to explain how public opinion comes to be formed — why, of all the deaths and beatings resulting from the mailed-fist policy of the Duterte administration, the passing of these two young men should elicit shock, rage, grief and mourning even from those who don’t know them personally.
One explanation that comes to mind is that they embody the risks that anyone — rich or poor, tambay or productive citizen, young or old — faces in this environment. We are all living with the combustible combination of mixed feelings: scared and sad, indignant and intimidated, agitated, angry and yet also ambivalent about the proper response to the violence and hatred.
What to do, then, about our personal responses to all these? How should we — or how can we — reconcile our own conflicted feelings and clashing values with the negative events we confront daily, without sacrificing our own humanity or losing our optimism and faith?
Luckily, I stumbled upon this FB post written by an American cleric who was commenting on the current state of affairs in the United States. This “land of the free,” with a tradition of openness to all seeking a better life, is now beset by the winds of official harshness and inhumanity, specifically the cruel treatment of immigrant children and parents by immigration guards with the active instigation of the leadership.
Jim Rigby is the pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, who has gone beyond the pulpit to preach through social media, posting his thoughts on current events informed by his own religious and moral training.
Here is his prescription for “(protecting) our hearts in the face of mindless cruelty.”
- Don’t think of justice as a burden you have to carry personally. Think of justice as what binds you to the rest of your human family. As long as we remember our limitations, caring for others doesn’t take away energy, it gives it.
- Don’t let your love for the oppressed become hatred of the oppressor. Keep the acid of hatred out of your own heart. You can do everything you need to do in this struggle without dehumanizing anyone. All true power comes from your love of the earth, the web of life and humanity. This insight is not about escapist piety. Hate is reactive, and reaction easily drifts away from real agency. Resolving to live and die for our highest value fills our hearts with peace.
- If you feel someone pushing your buttons, get out of your ego. Targeted people cannot afford the luxury of despair, neither can their true allies.
- Name-calling and bluster are more like the barking of dogs than human speech. Avoid the kind of speech that costs you your highest self. Conversely, do not pretend to have a conversation with someone who is only pretending to have a conversation with you.
- We all have to take turns on the front lines, and in resting and renewal. Honoring your need to rest and heal is not a lack of commitment. It is a part of the art of being a friend to humankind for the long haul.
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