Dallas, John Leguizamo and the state of Duterte | Global News
Emil Amok!

Dallas, John Leguizamo and the state of Duterte

/ 12:56 AM July 13, 2016

I’ve been taking a summer break thinking about personal things: the first birthday of my young nephew (for privacy, let’s call him the classic Filipino name, “Boy”); and the anniversary on July 11 of the arrival of my father to the U.S. in 1928!

But it’s hard to get away from the news.

At the birthday party, an overseas Filipino came up to me and asked me what I thought of Duterte.


We’ll see after the Hague decision on China and the Spratlys this week.


But I’m sure the overseas Filipino was happy he was in the U.S. instead of the Philippines. Reports say in the first six weeks after the election, police have taken to shooting suspected drug traffickers at alarming rates: nine a week, more than four times the rate in the preceding four months, according to the Economist.

The OFW, who was a Roxas supporter, was initially alarmed by “Duterte Harry,” but by the end of our conversation he was resigned to say, “It sounds like things were getting cleaned up in the Philippines.”

Cleaned up? Or shot up? Of course, the same thing is happening in America.

The Dallas shootings show that America really is becoming a lot more like the Philippines than anyone cares to admit.

Not only does America have an economically diminished middle class, but the race justice issues combined with the gun culture make for a dangerous mix that is only making a fearful America even more scared.

Seeking solace in the arts


When Dallas happened, I was already upset by the shootings all over the world this summer, from Bangladesh to Baton Rouge and Minnesota. But I was in Berkeley, California, were I was hoping a little art would help.

Berkeley already puts me in another world. But I was in yet another sub-world because I was sitting in an American regional theater way off=Broadway, the Berkeley Rep, watching a live theatrical performance. No video shield, no digital connect. This was real, human to human.

The way life’s supposed to be.

Up on stage live, alone with the audience, armed only with wit and style, was the actor John Leguizamo, making history right; going after Cortez for slaying Montezuma; excoriating Pizarro for devastating the Incans; mocking Columbus for thinking he was in India. Leguizamo didn’t cover Magellan, who was boating in Asia until the Filipinos–the world’s only Aspanics (though some may prefer Ass-tino)–took care of him.

But the Leguizamo show’s focus is the truth-side up history of the colonization of the Americas, and though Magellan may get a pass, “Latino History for Morons,” now at the Berkeley Rep is worth seeing as it works its way east to NYC.

As a journalist I’ve interviewed Leguizamo and seen him pop out of my video screen, (hell, explode is more like it).  I’ve just never seen him perform live. And now that I have been performing my own solo show, “All Pucked Up: The Short History of the American Filipino,” it’s definitely a treat to see Leguizamo’s virtuosity used to defile the oppressor.

He powerfully commanded the stage in an energetic, physical performance that exposed all the colonial misdeeds that screwed up the Americas some 500 years ago.

And he undoes all that history in less than 90 minutes.


But then Leguizamo’s solo show ended. And so did the idealized world of my imagination.

And Micah Xavier Johnson’s solo world took over. The us-versus-them world; the colonial world, where violence and death are often the only answers.

The arts would be my oasis for only so long. Life disrupted my time with the arts. It was back to reality. Back to the news.

Even Leguizamo had to pause.


Big D

As I drove back home from Berkeley to the Texas part of California, I was riveted to the live audio of MSNBC in my car through Sirius XM.

I just couldn’t believe it was still unfolding deep into the night. Every bit of downtown sidewalk they talked about I knew firsthand. From Dealey Plaza to Main Street, to El Centro College.

I could remember it all from my time as a somewhat green, curly-haired TV reporter in Dallas. My office was at Union Station at the foot of downtown.

Truth is, I loved Dallas, made some good friends at the time, worked with good people, including CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley.

And even though people often mistook me for Latino, asking me to join LULAC then wondering WTF was a Filipino, it was a great place to be a young reporter.

A lot of firsts for me. My first five-alarm fire. My first rape-murder confession. My first stalker (stalking me). My first big-time prison riot. My first mass murderer (Alvin Lee King, five victims, June 1980; he went into a church in East Texas declared, ”This is war,” then opened fire with his AR-15).

There were some pleasant firsts too. I met Sen. Benigno Aquino there while he was on his medical rehab in exile.

Big D always meant big news stories.

I know what I was like covering them as a 25-year-old, the same age as Micah Xavier Johnson, the former Army reservist who spent a year in Afghanistan; the man now called the lone shooter in his own big story.

On Thursday, Johnson told the police he was mad about Black Lives Matter, mad at the police, and wanted to shoot at whites.

And then he fought the “us vs. them” colonial battle with guns and bullets.

That’s not the way to solve all the societal ills we’re seeing now. It may be necessary to start with a basic understanding of policing.

The police aren’t Cortez coming in to rape, pillage and conquer. It only looks like that sometimes, especially these days in places like Oakland.

Besides Dallas, I lived in other communities, both big and small. When I lived in small suburban towns that were 80 percent white, the stereotyped is built-in. He who looks like he doesn’t belong is the bad guy.

I used to get stopped quite a bit and asked, “What are you doing here?”

Uh, I live here.

But police in those small towns often act like private security. Unless they know the communities they police, they have no imagination. They resort to stereotype.

It makes for lousy policing. Until they know you. Urban cops should take the time to know their beat. But too often they’re too busy.

So if the police don’t know the people in their community, guess what? You end up with a lot of mistakes in policing and end up feeding fear within communities.

And here’s a wakeup call to Asian Americans: Don’t think you’re going to get a pass just because you’re Asian.

I’ve developed empathy because on the Asian American Yellow-Brown scale, I’m not often mistaken for white.

And I know how non-whites are treated.

A friend of mine, a Japanese American told me recently that when stopped while driving he always keeps his hands visible, so there’s no question.

I first heard that from an African American friend, two years ago when Ferguson erupted.

I was in Washington, DC, and my friend told me one of the first lessons of survival passed on by his father. Essentially, it was to keep your drivers license in view and accessible so you don’t have to reach for your pockets.

Otherwise you can be killed. It’s kept him alive. And in dreadlocks.

The sad thing about Dallas is that the march was winding down. People were hugging cops and celebrating a peaceful protest.

There was joy in being able to vent and let off steam. Use anger in a productive way to show a community’s ire, peacefully. It was a community working toward progress.

And then it was all destroyed when Micah Xavier Johnson thought he was in an old-style colonial battle.

Of all the politicos, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, after all the Hillary nonsense she had to face this week, emerged as the nation’s healer.

“The answer must not be violence, the answer is never violence,” she said in her news statement. “Rather the answer to all our answers must be action, calm peaceful collaborative and determined. We must continue to build trust between communities and law enforcement. We must continue working to guarantee every person in this country equal justice under the law…We must reject easy impulses of bitterness and rancor and embrace the difficult work of finding a path together.”

Politicial rhetoric is often cheap. But Lynch got emotional

“We must remind ourselves that we are all Americans and that as Americans, we share not just a common land, but a common life. Not just a common goal, but a common heart and soul,” Lynch said. “ I implore you to not let this week precipitate a new normal in this county, I ask you to turn to each other not against each other as we move forward. Let us support one another.

Let us help heal one another. And I urge you to remember today and every day. We are one nation, one people and we stand together.”

OK, I’m in. But if it doesn’t work, art, especially that which makes us appreciate our common humanity, can be an answer. We need it as a resource when the real world seems to be spinning out of control.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran award-winning journalist who writes from Northern California.

Contact: https://www.twitter.com/emilamok

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TAGS: Black Lives Matter, Magellan, Philippine politics, political protests

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