March 20, 2007

Now that THAT's over...

Just wanted to share some pictures from the "U.S. out of Iraq" protest in Los Angeles on March 17th. I've marched in San Francisco many times, when the war was first declared, and my last march was for immigration rights. It was definitely surreal to be marching down Hollywood Blvd instead of Market Street, in downtown L.A. Because of San Fran's history of organizing in cultural communities, I kind of took for granted the sheer number of mass solidarity when I participated in these sort of events. Since everything is so spread out in L.A., there are two noticeable outcomes of the actual march: 1.) there isn't a lot of foot traffic downtown, so the people observing the protest were a vast minimum in comparison. 2.) because of the complicated freeway systems, many L.A. residents did not have to pass through downtown, therefore, not actually realizing that this important event occured.

I marched in solidarity with groups that namely wanted the U.S. out of the Philippines as well: KmB (Kabataang maka Bayan), Student and Youth Contingent, GabNet, AJLPP, and the Bayan folks were a couple of steps behind.

Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been in place in the Philippines, over 825 political assassinations have been executed against organizers that have gone uninvestigated. Recently, a young 23-year old woman going by the name of "Nicole" was gangraped by U.S. Marines in the back of a taxi van. When they went to trial, only one Marine was convicted of rape, but was later transferred to the U.S. Embassy in asylum. His whereabouts now are unknown, and the family of Nicole is still not vindicated through this traumatizing ordeal.

Because of the Visiting Forces Agreement effective May 27, 1999, people who commit crimes that are part of the U.S. Military are granted special exemptions. "The Agreement is seen by some Filipinos as granting immunity from prosecution to U.S. military personnel who commit crimes against Filipinos, and is seen by some as treating Filipinos as second class citizens in their own country. The Agreement also exempts U.S. military personnel from visa and passport regulations in the Philippines." (Wikipedia)

Now there are many ways I am connected to this. I was born in the Philippines on Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga and later emigrated as a U.S. Citizen to Treasure Island Military Base in San Francisco. My entire childhood was spent on that island with other military families; my "city" friends referred to it as the projects because of the crappy government-subsidized housing, working class residents, and relative isolation (it's in the middle of the SF Bay!).

My father is a Veteran from the Desert Storm war, and served 20 years. All we have to show for it is a shitty pension and a broken family. Every time the military steps into my homeland, women my age and younger flock to serve as "comfort women", prostitutes if you will, in order to provide for their provincial families. Many are left with illegitimate children who are eventually abandoned and run through the streets begging for change.

The military also leaked poisonous and toxic chemicals that deformed children who were born at and around the same base I was born. I wrote about it in my Philippine News Essay, and how seeing those children affected my consciousness for the majority of my upbringing.

So here I am, equal parts luck, timing, and determination. I was also a 23-year old Filipina the same time Nicole was raped in the Philippines. The same military that brought me the "American dream" and opportunity broke my family and left us with almost nothing. I mean, WWII Veteranos are dying every day who still haven't received the benefits they were promised.

Many of the organizers who are trying to educate people in the Philippines about their human rights are being assassinated: university students, mothers and fathers, women.

Now, I am the newest Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, and instead of looking at Nicole and saying that I could have been her, I'd rather look at her and say that she could have been me.

(For more information, click on these links STOP THE KILLINGS and CELL68 )


Nina Parks said...

Wow cousin this is a very strong piece. Mayn I gotta come out to LA

The Two Piece said...

Definitely biased...and deservingly so. Well written and heartful, to be sure. I empathize with all to whom justice is but a fantasy and hope for a better climate tomorrow while doing a raindance today.