Trump outbursts make PH history come alive during Filipino American History Month
Why is October 2023, Filipino American History Month, different from all other Filipino American History Months?
Maybe it’s the way Filipino history appears to be reverberating in real time in the US., acting as a harbinger of what could happen in our very own country.
People here are beginning to realize that the Philippines—America’s first colony that was transformed into a democracy made in our image—has turned into a negative model for America.
If you want to see how democracy can devolve into a lawless, autocratic mess, the Philippines is our American preview.
People are recounting the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and seeing the lawlessness of the autocrat responsible for more than 10,000 extrajudicial killings, according to human rights groups.
People here are beginning to realize that the Philippines—America’s first colony that was transformed into a democracy made in our image—has turned into a negative model for America
And then they see in recent weeks, Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for president, the twice impeached, four-time criminally indicted former president, calling for Duterte-like things on social media, like the execution of General Mark Milley, the outgoing Joint Chiefs Chair.
We see Trump in a speech in California calling for the killing of shoplifters.
We hear Trump at his fraud trial in a New York courtroom disparage a sitting judge and threaten court officials to the point where the judge must issue a gag order.
We see Trump and consider what Duterte did to the rule of law in a democracy made in our image, and wonder aloud if Filipino history could repeat itself to some degree in America.
David Remnick, the New Yorker editor and writer, talked to Patricia Evangelista, a Philippine journalist, whose new book on Duterte “Some People Need Killing” is out soon.
Remnick’s latest essay quotes Evangelista as saying that the raging autocratic rule of Duterte has left her “a citizen of a nation I cannot recognize as my own.”
Remnick asks if we, Americans “are prepared to feel the same?”
He wonders what we will do in this country about the violent rhetoric of Trump. The choices are stark, as we either “reject his rage or endorse it and thus transform this country beyond recognition.”
We see Trump and consider what Duterte did to the rule of law in a democracy made in our image, and wonder aloud if Filipino history could repeat itself to some degree in America
This is a view from the mainstream media at the start of Filipino American History Month 2023. It’s a time when American democracy seems to be creeping toward Philippine strongman rule with each unchecked outburst from the leading Republican candidate for president.
That certainly would be a historic twist if the Philippines, the US-built model of democracy becomes America’s model for autocracy.
And we haven’t even mentioned the Marcoses who, through Duterte, have been rehabilitated and restored to power.
All that despite their crimes against democracy from their own extrajudicial killings, assassinations and incarceration of political opponents, and the looting of the national treasury. But that’s what happens to the rule of law when one man is above it all.
The relevance of Filipino-American history just seems more real in 2023. So much so that maybe it’s time for a Filipino American History 101.
The Filipino-American National Historical Society (FANHS), the folks responsible for making October Filipino American History Month, will hold a two-day online event on Saturday (Oct. 7) and Sunday (Oct. 8) from 4 to 6 p.m. It’s free. Register here.
Saturday will cover everything prior to World War II and would be hosted by FANHS founder Dorothy Cordova.
I will moderate and host the Sunday session and cover everything after World War II.
More than 30 speakers have been invited.
During the sessions you’ll hear people tell personal stories about how Filipino-American history impacted their lives.
You’ll see how racism changes through the years and how it continues. And we’ll see how a closeness to the Philippines continues to leave society confused about who we are as an American community and people.
The Philippines and America have always been intertwined. Come hear Filipino-American stories and feel the history.
It’s free. Register here.
(Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer North American bureau. See him at www.amok.com)