Emil Guillermo: Stocking stuffers? Pro-Democracy, my Asian American Black Bottom, and Harvard's early Christmas

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When I talked about a pro-democracy movement in a recent column, that was no idle chit-chat. If you’re one of the nearly 160 million who voted in the last election, it’s time to protect your franchise and let people know that the votes have been counted. Now that the electors have certified the Biden-Harris victory, the games should not begin.

But the lame duck president insists on being the fake future president. And his backers, like the recently pardoned Michael Flynn, say on the conservative news silo, Newsmax, that “[Trump] could order the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states, and basically rerun an election in each of those states.”

It’s essentially martial law, to which Flynn commented: “It’s not unprecedented. These people are out there talking about martial law like it’s something that we’ve never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times.”

This is the sound of a Pro-Authoritarian, Anti-Democracy American movement in action.And now we know from reports that it is a discussion happening in the Oval Office itself. The New York Times and CNN report of yelling matches in meetings between Trump, Flynn, and others close to the lame duck.

If there’s yelling, someone better be in there yelling for us.

I’ve only known martial law in places like the Philippines. Weak, not strong democracies. Prone to dictatorship. Places where martial law is so real, they just refer to it as “ML.”

It’s not that bad yet. “ML”? You mean “MLB”? “Major League Baseball.” Nope.

This is why we need a pro-democracy movement in America.

What would that look like? When it happened in the Philippines, people flooded the streets and let the dictator know he wasn’t going to get away stealing their country. They banged on pots and pans. They made noise.That was People Power.

In a social distanced pandemic world and in a polarized America, maybe we flood the White House and Congress with emails. That is, if the Russian hackers don’t intercept them first and send them to trash.

Last week, Trump called the Russian hacking of our government’s computer systems essentially a “hoax.” Fake news. A weak response from the leader of the free world. There should be hell to pay. Some pro-Democracy patriots called the cyber attack what it was–a “digital Pearl Harbor.” Eventually by late Friday, even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had to admit “pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”

And he said it on a right-wing talk show, another right-wing silo.

The beginning of the end? When the silos dish a little truth with the martial law talk, Trump gets lamer by the day.

In January, we still have the Senate runoff elections in Georgia and the Congressional count of electoral college votes. Lots of entertainment ahead that only seems to mock the seriousness of the ongoing pandemic. California, the most Asian American state in the country, is ordering more body bags to take care of the makeshift morgues being created.

The nation is on pace to exceed the number of WW2 deaths by March.

Meanwhile, Trump remains uninterested in our country or in being a leader. He sends Pence out to get the vaccine and stays hidden like he’s an undocumented person.

I guess for him that’s empathy?

But Trump tries to take credit for the vaccine, just the same, as a news headline blared: “Trump brags of a Vaccine His Fans Won’t Take.” Maybe his fans should take a placebo. The best antidote to a “hoax.”

Irony of ironies. Moderna’s vaccine was created by its cofounder and chairman Noubar Afeyan, a Lebanese immigrant and naturalized American citizen.

Is there enough vaccine to inoculate us from the last four years of xenophobic views on immigration?

Here’s an idea for a Trump exit. Reports say Trump is pondering pardons to pass out like an anti-democracy Santa, perhaps his final act as our country’s best fake president.

How about stopping deportation proceedings against those facing family separation and severe hardships, or pardoning those who found their productive lives in America disrupted by ICE? They might be the most deserving folks this season, more so than those close to Trump looking for a “get out of jail free” card as a stocking stuffer.

Of course, all of it, both good and bad, seems so doable and less outlandish when we know a truly anti-democracy idea like martial law is seriously discussed in the White House.

As I watched Netflix’ “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” I kept thinking where is the bottom, specifically when it comes to Asian Americans? I kept asking, “Where were we?” I mean, historically. Nowhere. I’m not suggesting that producer Denzel Washington cast Asian extras in a Chicago street scene. I’m saying as a viewer, while you’re watching, imagine what was going on in America in the 20s and ‘30s. If you’re Chinese, get into the parallel histories. Despite the Chinese Exclusion laws, young Asian Americans were still in Ivy League schools like Cornell, where the first Asian American fraternal organization was established in 1916 and continued through the ‘30s to support the micro-minority of Asians who were here. Were they young trumpet players like Chadwick Boseman’s Levee? You can’t take your eyes off Boseman; he plays the role of the young horn player so well. The tension between Bozeman and Viola Davis’ Rainey make this production sizzle. And then it’s just seeing August Wilson’s play transformed to the screen and seeing how BIPOC negotiated the white structure imposed on us all. You understand the black bottom, but if you know Asian American history, you know we were even further down the chasm of American society back then. But where’s the bottom if we don’t really exist in any pecking order? Would we even have enough to buy the symbolic shoes of Levee that could take us from the depths of our Asian American existence, to the top? Or maybe somewhere good, if only in our imagination. Watching “Ma Rainey” isn’t just about Ma Rainey. At the core, it’s about all of our struggles.

There are about 175 Asian American families who are celebrating Christmas early.

They are the ones with students who were admitted to Harvard under the Early Admission program–175 out of 747, about 23.4 percent to be exact. But that would make 174.798 students. (Would that .798 student be a micro minority? A three-quarters Asian American?)

Asian Americans once again lead the way among BIPOC early admits, though down slightly from last year’s 24 percent. African American students were at 16.6 percent, up from 12.7 percent. Latinx were at 10.4 percent, down from 11 percent. Native American and Native Hawaiian were at 1.3. (All numbers as reported by the Harvard Crimson). Numbers are fun, but quotas are illegal. This is for entertainment purposes only.

The number of early admits overall has dropped, possibly due to the skyrocketing number of early applications. 10,086 applied for EA, a 57 percent increase from last year. The good thing about early admissions is that you can get rejected and sent to the regular pool to seek redemption. (8,023 of the EA apps got diverted this way). Or you can be outright rejected (924 this year) and then spend the rest of your life spinning how Harvard made the biggest mistake in the institution’s history.

I look at the numbers and marvel at how diverse the school has become. I recently communicated with two classmates, one of whom is a South Asian who grew up in Kenya and then went to Harvard. And now he’s a South Asian African Asian American. An SAAAA?

This week’s early admits show some numerical progress. My friend and I used to sit next to each other in the dining hall when we saw each other sitting alone. In the absence of diversity, we made our own diverse table. And we let some whites sit with us. I connect at least once a year to remember the past and wish him a Merry Christmas.

And to you too. We may be apart, but we don’t sit alone.

Check out my website for new video updates. In the edition up now, I tell stories of what Filipinos did for love. And if you fast forward to 1:11:50 on the video, I tell the story of my Christmas tree fish.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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