By BENJIE OLIVEROS
First is the hate culture directed against those who do not conform to the “norms”. The brutal murder of Jennifer is not the first and, alarmingly, might not be the last victimizing gays and transgenders. It has been happening with disturbing regularity.
Gays and transgenders are not only being killed during robberies and spats, they are being murdered with such brutality that it shows the hate in the hearts of the perpetrators. Worse, those who harbor this hate are not exceptional cases but are quite common in society.
This hate culture against those who are different has its historical roots. Institutions that dominate and shape society’s culture are also perpetrating it: the entertainment industry, the church, the education system, the military and the government. Those who do not follow the norms are considered as “outcasts”, “sinners”, “a bane to society”, “corrupters of culture”. And with the “war on terror”, people who do not agree and conform to the dominant ideology and culture become victims of profiling and are vulnerable to violent attacks. After all, isn’t the “war on terror” about cleansing society of those who defy the norms and the dominant ideology? Isn’t it about preemptive strikes or killing them before they do any “damage”?
Second is the culture of senseless violence and aggression. In its war on terror, the US has been bending the boundaries of what is right and wrong. When they surreptitiously abduct ‘suspects’, use ‘persuasive’ interrogation techniques such as “water boarding”, and keep their suspects locked up in a secret prison, what does this say about respecting human rights? What then differentiates them from ordinary criminals? What prevents ordinary citizens from emulating their senseless violence and aggression?
Worse off are soldiers who are trained to be efficient and effective killing machines, are oriented that the ‘enemy’ lurks hidden among ordinary people, and are armed with lethal weapons. When US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton brutally killed Jennifer with such efficiency and effectiveness then casually walked out of the motel – just like what a seasoned criminal would do –he showed how he was trained: to kill with such efficiency without feeling guilt.
Third is the culture of dominance, on one hand, and subservience on the other. The US has been projecting its military might to bully other countries to kowtow to it. It has been showing that it could bomb, maim and pillage, and nobody could do anything about it. This culture of dominance and impunity is what it has been projecting to its soldiers. And when it ‘protects’ its soldiers from criminal liabilities, it reinforces this culture.
On the other end is the culture of subservience. When China encroached on disputed territories, President Benigno Aquino III was all fire, vowing to defend Philippine territory. When Jennifer was killed and the US Navy refuses to turn over the suspect US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, nary a whimper from the Philippine president. Because of Jennifer’s brutal murder and the barriers being thrown in the way of justice, calls for the abrogation of unequal treaties such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement are sounding louder, but it would be a miracle if the Philippine president even agrees to its review. In fact, even after Jennifer’s brutal murder, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. and US Pacific Command chief Admiral Samuel Locklear agreed on the schedule of more joint military exercises and programs.
It has been said that there would be no oppressors if there would be no slaves. It is now up to the Filipino people to break this culture of hate, senseless violence and aggression, and subservience. In the hands of the Filipino people lie all hopes for justice for the brutal slaying of Jennifer. It is also up to the Filipino people to break the shackles of US dominance over the country.