Be brave, Barcelona!
Tragedy once again struck at the heart of Europe. The promenade of Las Ramblas represents one of the city's loveliest walks, filled with children playing in front of street performers, people walking quietly to enjoy the company of other people breathing in the morning air or evening breeze. Transformed in a flash by a weaponized van that sent a message of terror and fear, that promenade will not be the same again. It was hate that fueled the attack and filled the air.
No room for hatred
In the same week, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate-filled bigots spread fear in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. Brandishing the familiar torches reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan and clad in Nazi symbols and flying Swastika signs that reminded people of the killings in Hitler's concentration camps, US President Donald Trump debased the dignity of his office by his failure to unequivocally denounce and call out the hate these groups represented – directly and without hesitation.
In this day and age, there is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance of any kind. A line has been crossed, and Trump has been found wanting – bereft of the moral leadership the world demands.
Trump moreover went over the top. In a subsequent tweet in the aftermath of the tragedy of Barcelona, Trump retold the so-called exploits of General John J Pershing who slaughtered countless Filipinos in the Filipino-American War of the early 1900s. According to Trump's apocryphal version, Pershing lined up 50 Filipino Muslim fighters, shot 49 of them in bullets stained in pig-blood, and sent the last one running in fear. Thereby, Trump intoned, this action "deterred terrorism" for decades – a claim debunked by serious historians. Instead of denouncing hatred and senseless violence, Trump sided on the wrong side of history.
Threats & killings, all in a day's work
This same week in the Philippines, which at one time was an iconic symbol of the power of non-violence when its people toppled a dictatorship that had trampled on their rights, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened human rights defenders, menacing them with death at the hands of his dreaded police squads unleashed with abandon in his unrelenting war on drugs.
Moreover, he praised police operations in the province of Bulacan where over 30 people were killed in one day alone and publicly wished that these actions are replicated in other operations. In a country that had witnessed killings at the hands of foreign oppressors in the past, a hate-filled menace has grown instead of the human rights approach that had been enshrined in the country's 1987 Constitution.
Where do we go from here?
The task of the hour is to transform grief into courage; intolerance into an openness of the heart; hatred into a capacity to love; and indifference into a brave brand of global citizenship.
There are no boundaries where hatred is concerned. It has no place in any civilized society, not in the 21st-century world.
We must learn to overcome all kinds of boundaries – territorial, political, religious and all sorts of affiliations which divide us – when and where the specter of hatred rears its ugly head. We cannot succumb into fear and inaction. Now is the time, to take small steps like daily acts of kindness and big steps to tell truth to power; to tell our leaders responsible for an increasing "moral meltdown" in our public spaces that they cannot speak or act in our name.
I believe that we can turn things around, sooner rather than later. – Rappler.com
A framer of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Ed Garcia taught political science at the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University. For over two decades, he served at Amnesty International and the peace-building organization, International Alert, in London, United Kingdom. For many years, he lectured regularly at the Escola de Pau (the School of Peace) at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) where he enjoyed conversations with his students at Las Ramblas. In post-retirement, he serves in the formation of scholar-athletes at Far Eastern University-Diliman.