Wednesday, November 24, 2004

On the Other Side of the World

My partner H. and I took a romantic mini-vacation this past weekend: a scenic drive North to the Wine Country; a one-night stay in a quaint boutique hotel; wine tasting; spa treatment; the works. We both needed this--and so did our relationship, which has been straining a bit under the weight of our individually accumulated daily stresses, as well as the general malaise that has hit so many of us post-November 2.

When I woke up in the hotel, I reached for the 'light' reading I had brought with me ('light' in the most literal sense: five pages of material printed from our computer): a news report and an editorial about the recent massacre of peasants at Hacienda Luisita in the Philippines.

It didn't seem odd or cruel to choose this as my morning reading for my bucolic getaway. Life is inherently a mass of contradictions, is it not? And in some way, it eased whatever guilt I had about spending money I don't really have to pamper myself.

I'm not very educated about current events (or even long-ago historical events) in the Philippines, but I'm on enough email lists to get wind of the big news stories. And this one is both telling and tragic. I can't say much about it that hasn't been said, except to add my voice of mourning and protest to the existing chorus, both in the PI and stateside.

It's so confusing at times to be here, in the U.S., the belly of the beast, and to not have a grip on what's happening 'back home'. Reading news reports and editorials--no matter how well-written--only take me so far. And although the PI is on the other side of the world, I still know that what happens there affects me here, somehow, sometimes more tangibly than others.

I think about the violent 'dispersal' (always so euphemistic how they talk about state-inflicted violence against poor people in any media) at Hacienda Luisita, which killed at least 7 peasants, including at least one child, and then I think about the recent ending of the lockout of hotel workers in San Francisco. Many of those hotel workers are Filipino, many recent immigrants, I'm sure most sending money back home to help buy food, clothing, medicine, survival.

Yes, the struggles are similar but definitely not the same. The SF hotel workers could demonstrate and picket for weeks straight in front of the Hilton and the Hyatt and the Four Seasons and the St. Francis hotels, and not get arrested, or tear gassed, or killed. But it took many decades of labor organizing to win that right. I only hope and pray that we can support a democratic movement in the Philippines that can ensure that very basic human right for workers there: to gather, to organize, and to fight for our very survival.


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