Trump and Duterte, sittin' in a tree...That's what we're about to see, now that Trump has invited the President-Fascist Rodrigo Duterte for a little sit-down at the White House. Perhaps they'll exchange tips about how to keep all the people bowing before them while they confer.
The New Yorker has a great profile of Duterte. Before the election I was pointing out the similarities, but of course, those without ears to hear and only eyes to worship weren't paying attention.
Duterte does not, as he has put it, “give a shit” about human rights, which he sees as a Western obsession that keeps the Philippines from taking the action necessary to clean up the country. He is also hypersensitive to criticism. “Duterte’s weakness is, really, he’s a tough guy,” Greco Belgica, a Filipino politician and an ally of Duterte’s, said. “You do not talk down to a tough guy. He’ll snap.”
Huh. We could put Dear Leader-Elect's name in there and it would be accurate, wouldn't it?
Duterte was the guy who called President Obama a "son of a bitch" in Tagalog. Actually, it translates to "son of a whore," but who's paying attention to that, because he's just a guy who thinks out loud.
Duterte thinks out loud, in long, rambling monologues, laced with inscrutable jokes and wild exaggeration. His manner is central to his populist image, but it inevitably leads to misunderstanding, even among Filipino journalists. Ernie Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, recently pleaded with the Presidential press corps to use its “creative imagination” when interpreting Duterte’s comments.
Duterte is particularly fond of death squads, deploying them in his home province and striking fear into the hearts of citizens there, who nevertheless will claim publicly that they appreciate the law and order he brought. Privately, however, is another matter. Occasionally someone will speak out, but it's rare.
It is difficult to find a resident of Davao who is willing to speak out against the death squads. One day I visited Clarita Alia, a sixty-two-year-old vegetable vender, who became a strident critic of Duterte after her four teen-age sons were killed within six years. She lives in a one-room shack on a narrow street in Bankerohan, the site of the largest market in Davao. An ancient television sat on a plastic barrel, and bedding and clothes were stacked along one wall. Alia sat cross-legged on a wooden bed frame with no mattress; next to her, her daughter played with her three-year-old granddaughter. When I asked Alia what she thought of Duterte, she said, “He is a demon.”
Do not imagine that Dear Leader Trump will hesitate to use the same kinds of strongarm tactics as Duterte. We now live in a country which is about to be governed by a thin-skinned strongarm nativist who is being advised with someone who has absolutely no problem with neo-Nazis and the KKK. Death squads, forced birth, and more is on our horizon.
We have to be ready to resist, and to resist in unconventional ways. It won't be enough to sign online petitions or even to pressure Congress. We must resist and be ready to counter what is sure to be one of our greatest national crises since the Civil War.
We also have to be ready to call things what they are. No more dancing around the terms. Call it what it is and shout it out.