1:17 PM

Road to Freedom

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

"We are fortunate in our society that a means of resistance has been built into the law and the political process – the vote. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy. We must use our votes, our power and our organizational abilities to create a movement for good. We must not give up this power. We must not give in. We must not give out. We must use what we have—all our talents, resources, energy, and creativity. We must do all we can to help build a better nation and a better world. “ Congressman John Lewis, 2008.

I was 4 when the US civil rights movement started in 1956, and 13 when it ended in 1968. I was in my third year of high school in Manila.

I had long been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches, but, I did not realize the full significance of the civil rights movement in redeeming the soul of America. Not until I saw two exhibits, “
Road to Freedom“ and “Breach of Peace“ at the Skirball Cultural Center. I saw the exhibits one cold, dreary weekday, when gray clouds blanketed Los Angeles and rains were pouring non-stop. The weather compelled you to shirk, to hide underneath the blanket. But at the urging of my daughter, I went.

I found myself perusing over more than 170 photographs, taken by more than 35 photographers. The images were moving: policemen hosing down citizens; a hotel owner pouring acid on the swimming pool with black folks wading in; attack dogs pursuing demonstrators kneeling on the sidewalk; a fresh pool of blood next
to a man laying down on the sidewalk; police using their batons on folks in a prone position; unarmed boys and women with linked arms, guarded by rifle-armed men; buses that were firebombed with passengers locked inside; and a storm of state troopers breaking up marchers. Many more brutalities were documented for preservation, displaying America’s loss of soul.

Equally moving were photographs depicting hope and a sense of idealism that America’s constitution has yet
to be realized: “ life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for everyone." America brutally reflected on those images had another side to it, an aspiration contained in the Bill of Rights that all men are equal, but deeply buried in its soul.

More images move me
to tears: linked arms of men in their coats braving the rain and snow; women holding hands with men clad in their overalls; young black faces singing with tears in their eyes, afraid yet defiant of injustice; marchers standing tall while being given a two-minute warning by state troopers, yet not cowering in fear; a woman kneeling on the sidewalk, dressed in her Sunday suit, pearl earrings, a hat and an umbrella; a poster demanding freedom, and hovering is a white police officer inside a black police van. Images of lynching or killings were not there, nor corpses, but the audio recordings of the marches were enough to move us to tears -- myself, along with exhibit goers composed of young students, teachers, young professionals and older folks lingering, reading captions, listening to Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches.

A short documentary depicted Rabbi Rachel Cowen speaking of the civil rights movement as “ a religion, a secular creed, a community, with values, its liturgy, its rituals, part of a larger narrative, with its high ideals that the world can improve, love would conquer, it would triumph."

Dorothy Zellner spoke of her conviction, that when you see such inhumanity, there is a moral imperative
to go “ thou shalt not stand idly by “. Half of the white attorneys working in the South were Jews who felt a kinship with the injustice happening to blacks. Rabbi Prinz shared a “ sense of complete identification and solidarity born of their painful experience." This mattered to him to take a stand. Will he allow these state troopers to kill in his name?

These were the dilemmas that they faced, dilemmas that are not unlike ours, especially with the choices we have
to make for the upcoming Philippine national elections.

When I was part of a panel on clean elections at an EDSA I commemoration forum a few days ago, I spoke of three traits of good citizenship: loyalty, teamwork and social responsibility.

I spoke of loyalty
to the ideals of People Power I, when we as a people, advocated for the return of democracy and an end to the dictatorship in the Philippines. Collective aspirations for decades were crystallized in 3 days through non-stop rallies, where millions converged in EDSA to say no to dictatorship, guns, battalions,tanks and violence; and yes to rosaries, flowers, lumpia and pancit, and yes to freedom.

Friends spoke of their convictions, their willingness
to make the ultimate sacrifice: their lives in EDSA in exchange for freedom. They have reached an ultimate tipping point -- we want to be free!

When we are free, we can choose good actions.
Thich Nhat Hanh said "
Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out."

When we choose teamwork as a life’s ethic, we learn
to harvest what Fr. Rodel Balagtas called “harvesting God’s nuggets of grace," when we become our kababayans’ source of strength, our folks’ source of unconditional support.

Try it, start looking for strengths in others. Cultivate it, and connect with folks
to help them reach their dreams. Without realizing it, you have created a safety net, a firewall of goodness, a sense of security that wherever you go, God’s family is wide. Drive that goodness forward during the upcoming elections.

Social responsibility
Consider our choices this election. If you are a dual citizen, ask yourself: can I cast my vote for the highest common good? Which candidate did not resort
tovotebuying? Check, and steer away from the candidate who significantly destroys the sanctity of democracy and mocks the electoral process.

Who has served the Philippines with honesty and integrity? Steer away from those who compromise themselves, while in public office.

Who is that candidate, who, even when faced with the barrel of a gun, chooses goodness over evil?

Who is the candidate who can pray
to God and say, “ Lord, thank You for guiding me to choose You, to not lose my soul in all that I do.”

Choose, my readers, and let us vote for the presidential candidate who will redeem the soul of the Philippines, so we may no longer be at the top 20 corrupt countries of the world!

I believe that the May 2010 elections will be a transformative event that will redeem our collective souls,
to uphold the sanctity of democracy, and become heroes of the world that we can all look up to, just like Efren Penaflorida, Charice Pempengco, and Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno of the Supreme Court of the Philippines who will receive the prestigious Elise and Walter Haas Award at UC Berkeley this coming May 16, 2010.

We are the heroes we are waiting for, we can elect a president who will stand up for our collective values and who will preserve the democracy as envisioned by our founders.


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