A decade ago this month my mom and I stood vigil outside the classrooms where my sister and her batchmates sat braving the country’s Bar exams. I remember the smell of beer wafting through the air at around four in the afternoon when the first of the barristers came marching out triumphant. Clearly there’s cause for celebration. Months of hard work and ceaseless novenas come to a partial close and in the faces of family members gathered in this crowd you can easily spot hope. A few hours into the wait, after having passed enough cans of cookies and shared stories about sons, daughters, brothers and sisters–there’s a history that’s built instantly and an imagined bond forms between those gathered such that upon my sister’s arrival, my mother immediately called to her and introduced her to another barrister whose mother two hours ago held my mother’s own anxious hands. Never have so many saints been summoned as in this fiesta.
Last Sunday should have been a cause for celebration. I had hoped for it to be because the fondness of my memory kept hope alive. It’s long been said that in my country justice means nothing. Truth be told, I believe this and actively avoid reading the newspapers because everyday is an opportunity to add names to the list of those who have perished. Everyday someone is victimized and no matter how violently they mark their entry into our bloody history, no one who can make important decisions seems to be listening.
In this, our beloved country, we are all equal in the eyes of violence and sometimes, it’s as if Lady Justice’s blindfold serves more than it’s purpose. Sometimes I think she may be deaf too, or deafened by the useless utterances of our government officials.
Last night I was pondering the power of the word thinking that it could be omnipotent in the face of injustice. It could be that one old resounding toll coming from the Cathedral of Lost Hope. But tonight, things are different. Students have had legs amputated due to random violence. What was once a celebration and source of hope for our floundering justice system has become another occurrence marred by bloodshed. Let me count the dead, or if there are none, as conveniently reported to be a case where people have “only” been hurt, let us count the many ways in which we have killed the spirit of the wounded.
How many more people have to suffer before it dawns on us that violence is not normal? How many more events in this country’s history will cause us to bow our heads in shame rather than hold them up facing the light?
Sometimes, it takes an incredible amount of tolerance to live in this country but on nights like this, I wonder whether this is a test of endurance alone. It’s not how much I can bear that matters but whether or not I should stand idly watching these atrocities unfold.