US elections

[OPINION] The Fil-Am community has work to do

Leticia Labre
[OPINION] The Fil-Am community has work to do
'That so many voted for 4 more years of Trump’s hate and chaos is worrying. That I know so many Filipino-Americans who were part of this group is especially depressing.'

As I write this, a US presidential winner has yet to be proclaimed. The atmosphere is feverish, both here in my home in Pennsylvania, and in the many chat groups I’m part of. I feel an adrenaline rush from being on the precipice of hope, my mind racing with post-election aspirations, both serious and trivial. I’m fervently looking forward to the progress on immigration, racism, and women’s rights, just as much as I’m eager for a respite from Trump’s incoherent, self-centered babble. I would not have tolerated his kind of talk for even a minute had I encountered it at a dinner party. Four years of it was suffocating.

Yet my adrenaline is also tempered by the sober recognition that a lot of work is ahead. This win is not going to be the salvation I had daydreamed about. That so many voted for 4 more years of Trump’s hate and chaos is worrying. That I know so many Filipino-Americans who were part of this group is especially depressing.

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Part of me wants to sweep this realization about the Filipino-American community under the carpet. After all, what can be done about it? Even during less divided times, we are a community who recognizes that a crab mentality exists among us – one so treacherous that it drives Filipino-Americans to resent others who do better than them, and even turn some fellow Pinoys in to immigration authorities. Yet, how far can running away take me, or us?

A few days ago, Rappler ran a piece on what motivated Fil-Ams to vote for Trump. I identified only one commonality with them, but it’s a powerful one. Trumpers professed a sincere and heartfelt love for America as their underlying motivation for supporting Trump. This I understand and share.

As a Filipina with multiple passports, I had a choice of where to settle. Four years ago (right before Trump was elected), my husband and I decided to come to America even though we weren’t citizens, and it meant having to start an immigration process from scratch. We chose America because we believed in American values and wanted to raise our children according to them. Despite America’s convulsions, we still think we made the right decision, precisely because this is a country that dares to struggle.

Filipino-Americans owe it to this country that has given us a home to bridge the divide among us. An article by Yuval Levin in the New York Times talks about interpersonal relationships at the grassroots level as the antidote to polarization. This resonated with me as key. Indeed if I only gave attention to the conversation at the national level, it would be so easy to hate Trump voters. But I am thinking now of a cherished friend, an ardent Trump supporter who I miss dearly. We grew up together, and when the conversation is not about politics, her friendship is one that sustains me. I would be happy, even eager, to do the hard work of reconciliation with her. And I’m sure that you can think of your own beloved Trumpers to work with, too.

Fil-Ams have contributed so much to America. Now, again, we have a chance to be part of the solution, by healing the chasm among us. Can we rise to the call? – Rappler.com

Leticia Labre is a policy wonk and communications professional working in the environmental space. She is a Filipina in the diaspora contributing to Rappler from inside a Trump stronghold in Pennsylvania.