by Emil Guillermo
The State of the World and the State of our Union both came into view for what was a historic coincidence on February 25, 2022.
From Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the War in Ukraine, and how it all relates to being Filipino in America. This is a snapshot of where we are in 2022.
The world woke up last week to the invasion of Ukraine that has swiftly escalated into a real war of resistance. The Ukrainians, outnumbered and outgunned, are standing tall in defense of their nation, roughly the size of Texas, with a population greater than California.
And this is where we as Filipino Americans and all AAPIs come in.
For this is the one story in the world right now. And whether you know it or not, you’re in it.
The Ukrainians are the underdogs in this fight against Russia, which has used lies and misinformation to invade a sovereign and free nation. Here was Russia’s justification: Ukraine is run by “neo-Nazi, Russophobes” intent on “genocide.” It’s just pure lies that defy logic. The move by Russia is no less than the attempt to resume the colonial dreams of the Soviet Empire.
But Ukraine is strengthened by all those in the free world who recognize that their battle for freedom and sovereignty is also ours.
This is the global fight between countries of democracy versus those of autocracy.
And all Asian America Filipinos must let others know we stand in solidarity.
Recalling Marcos’ fall to people power
Few among us know the will of a people yearning to be free better than Asian American Filipinos, more than 4 million in the US, many of whom are part of the Filipino Diaspora and live in the US as dual citizens.
To this day, we struggle with the lasting effects of being America’s first colony. But Filipinos have also beaten a dictator and have successfully sought freedom and opportunity in this country.
We now know what’s at stake.
If Putin can overtake Ukraine on a whim as the world watches, what’s to stop an autocrat anywhere in the world? Fil-Am leaders fear that Russian success over Ukraine “will embolden other world despots like China’s Xi Jinping to invade their small democratic neighbors like Taiwan and extend its hegemonic power over the Philippines and other smaller nations,” said a statement from US Filipinos for Good Governance.
Last week, that group of Filipinos in Washington, D.C. joined Filipinos the world over to show their solidarity with Ukraine by remembering the anniversary of the fall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In another historical coincidence, it was on Feb. 25, 1986, that President Reagan withdrew his longtime support for Marcos, forcing the dictator and his wife Imelda to flee the Philippines and seek exile in Honolulu.
The toppling of a dictator was due to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who came to EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) calling for the end of the Marcos regime.
It has come to be known by the phrase “People Power.”
They didn’t have guns. They didn’t have sanctions. Indeed, the US had propped up Marcos, until Reagan realized he was backing a losing proposition. It’s because Filipinos just showed up on the streets and stood their ground as a free nation.
It may take more firepower than that in Ukraine. It already has. Rifles are being passed out to every able-bodied man ages 18-60. Armed citizens are taking the fight to the streets. But as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said on his Post-it videos: “Our weapon is truth.”
Heroism is catching. On Snake Island, a verified recording shows a Russian warship telling 13 Ukranian guards to acknowledge. But the guards stood their ground: “Russian warship. Go f*ck yourself.”
Russia is learning that taking away the freedom from a fledgling democracy is a whole lot harder than it thought. More like trying to pin and diaper an angry infant. The Ukrainians are kicking and screaming, ready to give up their lives for their country.
Russia will be dirtied.
The coincidence of Putin’s invasion and Marcos’ fall is worth savoring because it can happen again. A former KGB agent turned plundering president/thug/dictator can learn the same lesson Marcos did 36 years ago.
But only if a united world stands up to his aggressive lunacy.
The State of the Union? Diverse, but we got next
Can you say Ketanji? President Joe Biden has. And it shows just how much our country is changing.
It’s taken awhile.
Biden took a brief respite from Ukraine to give the nation a competing headline, countering the historic invasion with the historic SCOTUS nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
After more than 230 years, the nation is ready for the first African American woman to be named a justice on the highest court in the land.
Here’s my prediction: In 25 years, we will come to know Judge Jackson as KBJ, and her name will be synonymous with bending that arc of social justice our way, especially if two others join the three liberals on the Supreme Court.
Am I getting ahead of myself?
That’s the level of excitement after seeing Jackson speak on Friday. She required a step for the podium. And her voice indicated her relative youth at age 51.
But Jackson spoke with humility and grace. She thanked God and her family for her good fortune in having been born “in this great country”: “The United States of America is the greatest beacon of hope and democracy the world has ever known.”
All Asian Americans can relate. Our ancestors have followed the light.
Jackson may have gone to Harvard, but she had a public-school life. Her father was a high school history teacher who later attended law school. Jackson was a child when she saw her father do his job and his legal studies, eventually becoming a lawyer for the school district. He was Jackson’s first role model.
A sense of service to community may have led to her work as a public defender. But she’s had success in all realms of law. Jackson is not just a corporate clone or judicial scholar. That diversity of experience makes her an asset to the court. She’s a judge with a broad sense of empathy.
Indeed, I heard her story and can hear some of my Filipino American story.
Except for the robe part.
Originally when the nomination process began after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, my first reaction was to remind everyone that there has never been an Asian American on the Supreme Court ever. Black, yes. Hispanic, yes. Female, yes. Asian American, nyet.
I made some suggestions. But given the politics of Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman, Jackson makes sense.
And now after seeing Jackson take the podium, all I can say for potential Asian Americans to the high court, “we got next.”
But for now, Judge Jackson showed why she was a good selection for the moment.
Who else has been vetted by the Senate three times already for federal appointments? Who else can thread the straits of partisan nonsense as well as Jackson?
Jackson is more qualified than some of the recent SCOTUS appointees. And yet conservatives are ready to use anti-elitist, anti-intellectual arguments against a distinguished graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law.
Jackson is so qualified, her resume is a definition of the kind of democratic merit that can be produced by an affirmative action that works.
As she spoke, I was struck by how Jackson was so human and personal. Legal opinions are important. But we also need to know the stuff that goes beyond the law.
She talked about all the police officers in her family, as well as one relative who was on the wrong side of the law in the drug trade. She introduced her husband, Patrick, whom she met in college, and how her marriage has produced two biracial children. By marriage, she is also related to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
She’s all-American and all connected. It’s what a diverse modern society has become. It’s the real state of the union. And it’s why Jackson is a good historic addition to the high court.
It will be close in the Senate, but she should be confirmed by Easter.
Just don’t forget. It’s time to get the president–and anyone else who wants to be–on the record.
An Asian American, maybe even a Filipino, must be next.
EMIL GUILLERMO is a former host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and was an editorial board member at the Honolulu Advertiser. He analyzes the news on his web talk show “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” live at 2pm Pacific, M-F, on Facebook @emilguillermo.media; On Twitter @emilamok; and on the Emil Guillermo channel on YouTube. Recordings on www.amok.com.
by Emil Guillermo