Divided We Stand

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This is my favorite Marawi meme.  If I could, this  would be next week’s column. Just this meme, mic drop. But I can’t. I shouldn’t let my editors – make that award-winning editors – down. Not after the MetroPost got named the best weekly community paper in Visayas by the Philippine Press Institute for 2016, no sir. Not when an award-winning weekly actually lets me have a byline, no some questions asked. Congratulations, Ma’am Irma and Sir Alex! Y’all better recognize.

/end shameless plug

Marawi is under siege and martial law in Mindanao has been declared. True to form, Luzon is up in arms about martial law, waving placards, acting like they actually gave a crap about Mindanao before it became trendy to do so, because megaphones are the ultimate accessory! Mindanao is breaking out the selfie sticks, flashing peace signs and getting friendly with the men (and women) in uniform, because battle tanks are the ultimate accessory! Visayas, caught between exasperation and genuine concern, is busy rubbernecking, because train wrecks are the ultimate accessory!

The Philippines has long touted itself as a melting pot of different cultures. At the moment, the pot is at full boil and all the crabs in it are fighting to stay relevant. What a messed-up stew of hate and frustration. Yellows vs. Reds.  Jim Paredes vs. Mocha Uson.  X vs. Y. This is not a good look, people. Can we focus on what’s important, instead of tearing each other down like a bunch of petty high schoolers? Marawi’s residents are fleeing in droves. People have died. Foreign militants are in the Philippines, where they absolutely do not belong. Extremism is coming to the fore in a country whose citizens, for the most part, have made a name for their tolerance.

Religious extremism is the worst. It’s peer pressure and blind, dogmatic faith combined in the worst possible way. The tug-of-war between the “Yellowtards” and the “Dutertards” (by the way, calling someone a retard for believing in something is stupid and narrow-minded) is its own form of extremism. Neither side is willing to give in. Each side wants to cram their beliefs down the other’s throat, and it’s crippling our country. There’s a Man Down, Code 10 situation in Marawi, and we’re busy squabbling about who’s right? This is not the time to react. It’s a time to respond.

Anyone afraid of a possible return to the Dark Ages has forgotten what the Spanish Inquisition did to the people they considered infidels. Or what the citizens of Salem did to the women they believed were witches. That’s a dark age, if there ever was one. There are worse things to worry about right now than martial law and the echoes of a lost era, never mind that there are actually safeguards in place now because of said lost era. We should put our military to good use, and impose discipline, screening and protection in a region that needs it badly. The president is dealing with the problem as he sees fit, and doing what he always said he would do: fight the bad guys. Bring them down. It’s easy to play armchair quarterback and pretend we have all the answers, but the truth is, there are no easy solutions. How can we defuse what’s happening in Marawi? How do we bring down sociopaths who think they should answer to no one but themselves?

I say we play to our strengths and use distraction as a tactic. If nothing else, Manny Pacquiao has proved capable of reducing the crime rate whenever he gets in the ring. Also, it’s been proven that beauty pageants and Pacquiao fights are the only time Filipinos truly unite. So we get Manny to win another boxing match, thereby bringing the entire country to a standstill. The bad guys will be clustered around the TV rooting for him; meanwhile, our hardy military men will be busy sneaking into the enemy’s camp, catching them unawares. Game, set, match. Yes, my plan sucks.  But I do know this: negotiating with terrorists is a fool’s errand. I also know that if we can all get past our differences, put our heads together and bring something positive to the table, anything can happen.

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