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Patience

/ 12:07 AM February 16, 2015

After listening to several days of testimonies on the Mamasapano massacre, there can be little doubt as to who the culprits are. The real question is, whether they can be made to answer for their incompetence and stupidity, considering the weaknesses and fragility of our criminal justice system.

For one thing, it is difficult to comprehend how Alan Purisima could have been so involved in the implementation of Oplan Exodus (previously generally referred to as Oplan Wolverine), given his suspension as Philippine National Police chief by the Ombudsman last December. This remarkable situation could only have happened with the blessings of higher authority. While Purisima professes to have given only “advice” to Chief Supt. Getulio Napeñas, Special Action Force commander, no one is buying his story. In the police, as in the military organization, “advice” from former superiors can, at times, be misconstrued as being “orders,” particularly when issued in the context of a discussion about operational matters in the presence of the commander in chief.

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Rather than continue with protracted public hearings that will only serve to intensify emotional levels, it is time to pause and take a look at what is happening around the world. This will give us a better appreciation of our own

situation.

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Even with a black president, the United States has been rocked by racial tensions resulting in rioting and mass demonstrations from coast to coast. On the same continent, in Canada, “lone wolf” attacks have raised terror levels in the country. In the Middle East, Islamic militants (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have killed American, Japanese and British hostages, and sown fear, beheading and torturing their captives without compunction. The terrorist attacks in Paris (Je suis Charlie) and in Sydney (Lindt Café siege) left 20 dead, including the hostage-takers, in both cities. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram, Islamic extremists, have been abducting schoolgirls to prevent them from gaining an education, much like the Taliban do in Pakistan. Massive suicide bombings in that country recently occurred, killing numerous innocent civilians. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict (Ukrainian separatists fighting for union with Russia) has wrought havoc on the economy of both nations, with significant loss of life.

* * *

My eldest granddaughter, Christine, a sophomore at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, wrote a piece that was published in The Daily Northwestern, titled “Learning to Empathize with All Perspectives.” Perhaps we can gain some fresh insights into how minority students in America deal with their identities in terms of race, religion and sexual orientation.

As a Filipino-American who grew up sufficiently able to assimilate into an overwhelmingly white community, I’m still learning what it means to be a person of color in America. Throughout my childhood, my racial identity was a label, one of many hats. Being Filipino meant eating my Tita’s food for dinner, going to Mass, and learning folk dances with other Fil-Am kids from nearby towns… the hat could be put on at home or in the presence of other Pinoys and taken off at school.

My mom would say that if I behaved differently, people would attribute it to my race because I stuck out. I thought, “How could anyone persecute me for something that was simply another hat I wore?” Tennis player, music lover, Filipina… Of course I couldn’t fathom a history of pain, colonization and stereotypes—I was a child. Only now am I beginning to grasp this [disparity]…

It clicked for me at the For Members Only reflection event in November, after the decision to not indict Darren Wilson (the white police officer accused of shooting to death a young, black male in Ferguson, Missouri) was announced. Many black students mentioned being called by their parents, or calling their siblings to express love and concern for each other following the decision. “Now all you have to do to get away with murder in America is shoot someone who looks like me,” one student said. These words brought clarity to me … it makes no sense to demand complete calmness and rationality in discussing identity, be it due to race, religion, sexual orientation, or otherwise. We can try to compartmentalize aspects of our identities, as I unknowingly did growing up, but ultimately, they are intricately woven into every moment of our lives. Our identities shape the way we experience the world and, as humans, our every experience is tied to visceral emotion.

Patience is key. To those of you who are afraid—of saying the wrong thing, of being attacked, of feeling confused, of what you might find if you dig deeper—have courage. Ask questions and genuinely listen. Learning takes time and persistence. You never know when something you read or hear will provide you with a level of empathy. I chose to be The Spectrum’s editor with the hope that our columns might spread that sensitivity.

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This week, I attended the Black People Making History Committee’s “Breathe-In: Teach-In” and the Muslim Cultural Students Association’s vigil for the three young Muslims slain in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.… We must constantly nurture each other’s well-being. And in seeking to build solidarity, we must remember true solidarity is only possible when we support and listen to each other unconditionally.

I reiterate the importance of patience in practicing solidarity. We may be tired of hearing these conversations, particularly if we believe we will never identify with each other anyway. It’s OK to not identify; everyone has different perspectives. But we should strive to be patient. We don’t need to agree with or fully understand each other, but we can all contribute to a space of positivity and openness. A student at the vigil said, “Do your best,” and I fully agree. We’re just humans grappling with things greater than ourselves.

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