Monuments of ignominy
Dramatic events have been unfolding in various parts of the world after the brutal death of an African-American man in the hands of policemen in the United States.
The victim, George Floyd, was arrested last May 25 for allegedly using counterfeit money in the city of Minneapolis. A white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck while the latter was handcuffed and while his face was pressed against the concrete pavement. The policeman refused to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck, and his fellow officers rebuffed pleas from bystanders to intervene, even after the victim repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” After eight minutes, Floyd suffocated to death. It was an outright act of murder, unless the policemen admit to being addle-brained idiots.
Floyd’s death reignited racial tensions in the United States for the nth time. Widespread protests and violent riots against racism spread all over America. Rallies and demonstrations have also taken place in 60 other countries.
The protests have not abated even to this day. Floyd’s death has led Americans to confront not only present-day racism, but even historical racism in their country. Monuments dedicated to past leaders who supported or practiced slavery are being removed by local governments, schools, and protesters. Many statues of Confederate leaders who fought to defend slavery during the 1860s American Civil War have been torn down. Even the statues of European colonizers, including Christopher Columbus, who were accused of perpetrating the massacre of native Americans, have been taken down.
There is even clamor now to remove monuments dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, one of the United States’ revered founding fathers. Jefferson famously wrote the American declaration of independence, which declares “that all men are created equal.” In reality, however, Jefferson owned 600 African-American slaves who labored in his tobacco plantation. One of Jefferson’s great-grandsons even wrote a recent article in The New York Times joining the call for the removal of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.
In the United Kingdom, Belgium, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, some monuments dedicated to leaders of colonialism and slavery have either been taken down or vandalized, or clamors for their removal have been growing.
In the Philippines, we don’t have heart-wrenching issues of racism or slavery in our history, because the abuses and discrimination against our ethnic minorities have not surfaced enough to grip societal discourse. And, instead of remembering the cruelties of our colonizers, we continue to be under the spell of their invented images of benevolence.
But what we have in our country that parallels the cruelty against slaves and the heartlessness against Black Americans are the exploitation and abuses of our ruling class that have shackled millions of Filipinos to lives of extreme poverty, and that have terrorized many with brazen human rights violations.
Of our leaders in the past, Ferdinand Marcos was the epitome of ruthlessness and greed, and we thought we had banished all possibilities of any return by another tyrannical ruler after his ouster. What has happened instead? Marcos has been allowed to be buried in the hallowed grounds reserved for our heroes. Our children’s school books are sanitized of discussion on how cruel his rule was. Members of his kin are back with a vengeance in the corridors of power. Most recently, our leaders are attempting to remove from our international airport the name of one of our heroes who was martyred during the Marcos rule.
We have a government at present that has surpassed the Marcos dictatorship in all the wrong benchmarks. It took a lone Marcos to close down ABS-CBN during martial law. Last Friday, we witnessed 70 little Marcoses who either ordered the closure of ABS-CBN again or who mouthed words of approval.
While the rest of the world tears down monuments dedicated to leaders who espoused cruelty and exploitation, our wretched country marches backward by rebuilding monuments of ignominy.
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