PAGDARO SA KALINAW: In elections near and far, a distant hope in a dialogue of restorative justice

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Nov) – Last week, I re-posted the comment of a Muslim friend here in Mindanao, Philippines, with his critical perspective on the decision by the Supreme Court last week to allow the burial of Ferdinand Marcos (FM) in the Philippines’ National Heroes Cemetery. This was based on his personal experience of the injustices that occurred under the Marcos dictatorship. Additionally, not only has a former dictator been recognized as a hero by the current administration, but nearly 5,000 people have been murdered in drug-related violence over the past four months, juxtaposing the current context of impunity with the perpetuation of historical injustice. Yet this grave injustice has hardly elicited a public outcry.

That decision to allow Marcos’s burial was made the day before Trump was elected in the United States. Thus, the rehabilitation and ascent to power of violent demagogues is now “trending” globally (except in Canada perhaps, kudos to you our cold-weathered friends). Democracy as it has developed in various contexts over the years is facing a crisis, and America, which has been seen as the beacon of this political discourse, is turning to a man whom many fear is a dictator at heart and for whom respectful dialogue seems anathema. Trump, like the president of the Philippines, based his campaign upon the perceived grievances and dissatisfaction of many people with mainstream political bureaucracy. Both have a penchant for misogynous rhetoric and actions that call into question the integrity of their leadership, yet again, many appear unperturbed for it is seen as “necessary” to shake up the status quo.

This poses serious questions for us all, about the nature of how we live, govern, and interact together as individuals, communities, nations. In particular, I believe we need a deeper conversation on how to deal with the perceived and real conflicts, frictions, harms, and atrocities that arise in the course of human history. These chosen harms and traumas are used and manipulated to advance political and social agenda for both positive and negative change. The nature of our world now dictates that this conversation is not bound by ethnic, national, religious, ideological, gender, or other boundaries. I am afraid that this reality just makes it more likely that the voices of those who actually experienced the greatest harm for past violence are either suffering in silence or silenced by suffering. 

America has been exposed in this election for the deeply flawed place many of us already knew it to be. America’s flaws, by nature of it’s position, have caused great damage in many places around the world, and so the United States bears greater responsibility for those on account of its history, power, and place in the world. Yet similar flaws are shared by many other nations, to greater or lesser extents, and they also are responsible to repair the harm caused.

Thus, to start addressing this means to reach across borders, identities, and religions to listen together to those who bear the brunt of these realities. Authentic listening is therefore the first act of resistance to evil, hatred, and despair. It is time for people of good will, compassion, and justice to establish a new global discourse of respect and dialogue in order to construct creative, restorative and non-violent responses to injustices that affirm and protect the humanity and dignity of all people.

Let us do this, not by pointing at the deficits in the other, but let us together affirm, strengthen, support and multiply what is good in each person and every community. Let us take responsibility for our actions to work for justice, healing, and to restore what was lost. In these collective acts, large and small, may we dream that what is deplorable will be overwhelmed and subsumed in an assertion and celebration of the good and just.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jeremy Simons was born and raised in the Philippines and has been a resident of Davao City since 2008 working as a peace and reconciliation advocate. He teaches conflict transformation at a variety of institutions and NGOs. He spends the majority of his time in restorative justice and peace accompaniment with Lumad First Nations and Muslim communities in Mindanao. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of any institution or group.)