Emil Guillermo: Tofu? No Tafu, thanks to Trump; and a word on Vincent Chin
June 21, 2018 8:52 PM

Ordinarily at this time, we'd be talking about the hate crime that changed Asian America, the beating death of Vincent Chin in a Detroit suburb June 19, 1982.

I didn't forget. And I hope you didn't. 

But in 2016, I proposed we take the four days when Chin was in a coma, from June 19 (the day of the beating) to June 23, as days we should pause and remember there's still much to be done. 


For more than three decades, the case has been the open wound of our community. It remains an open wound because Chin's killers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, were allowed to plea bargain from second degree murder to manslaughter, given three years' probation, and fined $3,720.

You read it right. Probation for killing Chin. No jail time.

The torturous legal history is also tough to swallow. A subsequent federal civil rights prosecution found Ebens guilty, and he was sentenced to 25 years. But on appeal, the conviction was overturned, and a second trial ended in acquittal.

And though a civil judgment was won by Chin's family, Ebens has successfully avoided paying and the estimate of what is owed to the estate has soared to more than $8 million.

Open wounds, indeed. 

Ebens told me he is sorry in a 2012 interview. But I don't trust him. 

I'm not his judge or his confessor. I simply interviewed him. 

But nor am I his apologist. 

He still hasn't paid the Chin estate, and that's worth our ire. As long as Ebens is alive, he must not forget that we don't forget.

It's even more important now to remember, as we find ourselves in an era when no one would be surprised if we saw another Vincent Chin case. 

Not when white supremacy and intolerance are on the rise.

So let's take the four days to remember how Vincent Chin was in a coma. 

And think about the hate in America then, and now. 

These aren't ordinary times.

But this post is really for you wordsmiths familiar with the acronym "snafu." The first two letters of this two-syllable delight stand for "situation normal."  

The "-afu" portion stands for " all...." Well, you can intuit the last two letters, which describe a disaster beyond words. 

If you still need help, think of goods being loaded at a warehouse as being "all trucked up." 

Snafu often is used to refer to an entanglement, sometimes of one's own making, sometimes beyond one's control, but always describing a recurring situation that seems to happen all the time. It gets to the point where it's just the nature of the situation to be so screwed up that everyone just gets used to it.  

"Inured" is a nice $50 word to describe it. 

But add a "j" and make the word "injured" if you happen to be caught up in any part of the situation. 

And so this past week is a good one for neologists and coiners of phrase, who urgently see the need to issue a timely update of "snafu" to "tafu."

"Tafu" is not a newfangled vegetarian protein substitute for those who want less red meat. 

That would be "tofu." 

No, tafu is my new term for our ongoing political situation, where "T" stands for Trump, of course. (He'd have it no other way. Not only is it on his watch, it's his doing.)

The "-afu" appendage remains the same. Unfortunately.

We'd better get used to it. If you follow the news, things always seem to be "tafu" these days, and will be for the foreseeable future.

This week especially is a tough one. And I feel for Republicans, the party of family values, free trade, and open borders, and...


That was the old Republican party.  

There was once a day when Republicans espoused family values, which usually was just code for being against abortions and having an inordinate allegiance to the unborn.

But I doubt it ever included ripping away children from a migrant parent's arms. 

That's sort of like a "living abortion." But then pro-lifers don't have any problem with the inconsistencies, in general. They are for the death penalty, after all. Just not for fetuses.

We haven't seen this level of malevolence on a practical level in politics in some time, where the cries are loud and audible--mostly from children and infants as young as nine-months-old. More than 2,300 of them are lost somewhere in bureaucratic America, and not with their parents. 

Even in the most hateful days in the '90s of Prop. 187, when Californians wanted to deny social services to immigrant families, there was still a sense of keeping families together. 

And now because he always wants to be like no other president or politician before him, Trump has taken an anti-immigrant stand and made it so extreme and inhumane, even Republicans can't stand it.

This is plain and simple, tafu

It was so tafu, snafu was no longer adequate.

To prove how tafu it was, when Trump tried to undo the situation, he issued an unnecessary executive order that didn't address the 2,300 or so kids already entangled in the mess he made.  

The order also didn't undo that zero-tolerance policy on border crossing. Zero tolerance, by the way, generally means no or limited justice. It's the kind of thing you would expect from a man who would be dictator. 

Trump's order espouses a policy that essentially says the family that border crosses together can stay together--in jail. But that flies in the face of current law that currently puts a 20-day limit on children being detained.

Most border cases take anywhere from two to four years by current estimates.

Did Trump think that one through? Did he think through any of it?

And then New York Congresswoman Kathleen Rice tells CNN that for many of the children, there is no information connecting them with a parent. No way to link them to their families. What

And nothing in the executive order resembling a plan? 

Simply Tafu.

Instead, Trump has blamed Democrats, of course. And then he made numerous statements about how open borders really hurt America.

Funny how open borders used to be the belief of a man who for decades was seen as the standard bearer of conservative America, the ultra-Republican William F. Buckley, who saw open borders as analogous to the need for free trade and free market policies.

That's what the Republican Party used to stand for, as well as balanced budgets and fiscal restraint.

But since Trump, forget it. 

Just in the last week, there's not just talk but action on trade wars, closed borders, and taking children from parents.

You can debate the first two. 

But the last is undeniably true, disgustingly un-American, and so very much TAFU.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. 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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Emil Guillermo: KJU? Summit thoughts on Flag Day, my special lead-in to Father's Day
June 14, 2018 9:16 PM

June 14th was Flag Day in the U.S., created by public law similar to the one commemorating  Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

So as Congress is set to vote next week on two anti-immigration bills (one from Goodlatte and the other from Ryan/Trump), a group of Asian Americans in Washington, D.C. today urging a "no" vote were draped in the American flag to show their true "American-ness."

I can never forget Flag Day. It's like my early Father's Day.  By coincidence, it's the day my father died, June 14, 1978.

Willie Guillermo was born in the Philippines under the American flag as a colonized Filipino a few short years after the Spanish American War's Treaty of Paris. The flag was all he needed. He came to the U.S. without need of papers around the Great Depression.


Forty years ago, we went to see the San Francisco Giants play at Candlestick Park. After honoring the flag and singing the anthem, we enjoyed America's game while eating homemade Asian style pork-belly adobo sandwiches. The Giants rewarded us with a come from behind victory, after which my father predicted they'd win the pennant.

Then he went home and died. And then so did the Giants that season.

To commemorate that day, I always try to see the Giants play, and on this day, they did not disappoint. They engaged the boring Florida Marlins on the road for 16 innings, nearly two full games, before waking from the dead to win, 6-3.  

Great day, right? 

So as not to get overly maudlin, my father's death day also coincides with Donald Trump's birthday. I just never noticed until this year.

Let's just hope Trump didn't see President Woodrow Wilson's declaration from 1916, where Wilson called for a national Flag Day to "give significant expressions to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of our great mission of liberty and justice. . .or an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away for its ideals, no force divide against itself."

Trump, undoubtedly, will think Wilson was writing about...him, The Donald.

That declaration is uncanny. Trump is doing all he can to create an America which he can corrupt, draw away from its ideals, and divide against itself.

And yes, it's the very same Donald Trump who makes a pit stop in Singapore, and after a photo op is ready to declare North Korea "no longer a nuclear threat."

I guess that means that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is now well on his way to rehabilitation given his elevation to three letter status. 

RFK, LBJ, MLK, we all know. 

Is the world really ready for the new and improved KJU?

When I heard a news commentator say that in reference to Kim, I nearly fell to the floor.

Maybe in return for a quick restore to full global statesmanship, Kim told Trump that they could simply trust each other on denuclearization. It just leads to an odd paraphrase of that Reagan line.

"Trust but verify?" 

In this administration, it's all "Trump, not verify."

Whatever he says goes. Even the half-truths are made whole by Fox News.

As Trump sees it, everything else is "fake news."

You'll recall in my last amok, after writing about the passing of Anthony Bourdain, I left with some thoughts about the state of our democracy in the free world. 

Well, it is playing out like a bad dream, isn't it? And the smelling salts don't seem to be working. 

Then I realized this just may be the reality we're stuck with for now. 

It's no dream, just a bad storm, or tropical depression, that we're forced endure. It's like Harvey in Houston, where Trump visits and throws toilet paper at us like it's a celebratory streamer.

The problem is Trump is riding high playing his p.r. game. And the Singapore Summit is just another good example. 

Sure, it's historic when North Korea, an adversary for generations, sits down to talk. That it never did previously and now here we are pawing and fawning over each other is a big deal.

But let's not get too excited. All Trump and Kim did was talk. And declare an odd trust toward each other like history doesn't matter. (Does anyone really recall North Korea's two broken nuclear promises since 1994?)

It's naive and comical to expect Kim will be any different. But to see our Dealmaker-In-Chief in action is to watch the diplomatic version of Trump having unprotected sex. 

Trump thinks he scored and leaves Singapore smiling.

But Kim left with the biggest smile. 

For the painless price of a photo op, Kim is on his way toward everyone forgetting all his bad perm years as well as the prisoners in his Gulags.

I recall in 1981 when then-Vice President George Bush praised Marcos, who had been under fire imprisoning dissidents under martial law. Instead of criticism, Bush lauded Marcos for his "adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic processes."

And Marcos didn't even have nukes. 

If you loved Marcos, like my dad and his generation did, you didn't bat an eyelash. 

If you hated Marcos, well, the Bush statement was so full of irony, you could build a whole Philippine Naval ship to patrol the Spratlys. 

So where are you with the Trump Kim summit? 

If you like Trump, then you are now in bed with the backslapping dictator Kim. He's your guy too. And that loosely worded "agreement" where Kim promises to "work toward" denuclearization? It's a promise of nothing. Not even as strong as any statements elicited from North Korea in previous generations that were both broken.

It is really just a bit of political puffery. Show biz. "Nuclear threat over" as declared by Trump in a tweet? 

Consider that nothing has changed because of the Trump Kim summit. 

All warheads are still in place and presumably still pointing at adversaries like the U.S. Nothing has been decommissioned.

We do have a dictator and a truth-challenged president trying hard to create some "history." 

But this is the Trump game. To be like no other politician in the past, to be disruptive and just go for the quick hit win. A lasting, meaningful achievement? Unnecessary. He's just in the presidency temporarily, remember.

For Trump, the "victories" just have to be shallow and easy. No heavy lifting here. Just say it's so, do a photo op, and propagandize your truth on Twitter and Fox.

It's smart and not smart politics, all at the same time. 

It's the paradox of what's becoming the dumbest presidency ever, that goes about things in a seat of the pants way.

In an era when people don't like the way traditional politicians have acted, Trump's getting away with high profile, short term spikes. 

The problem is as Trump uses the presidency as his joystick, he may well create real permanent problems down the road, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. 

The man already seems to value deals with dictators much more than with allies. If you're in Canada, France, England, and Germany, you've got to wonder what is going on in the U.S.

This is the world under Trump. It should make us all yearn for the boring, steady, traditional leadership that takes governance seriously. 

I keep thinking at some point one false move will have us all doomed.

Trump is certainly testing it all by consorting with only the deadliest of dictators like Putin and Kim. 

But with Marcos and others, the U.S. has consorted with bad guys before.

Surely, Trump pointed that out upon return from the summit. 

He was asked about Kim being a bad guy for doing things like imprisoning tens of thousands of people, or starving his people into compliance.

For all the implied misdeeds of Kim, Trump could only say this to Fox News:

"Yeah, but so have a lot of other people that have done some really bad things. I can go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done."

Singapore sounds like the international version of Trump at Charlottesville. White Supremacists on the domestic front. Dictators on the global front. 

We just have to get through it all. 

The Trump years are Democracy's stress test.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. 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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Emil Guillermo: Suicidal thoughts after watching CNN's Anthony Bourdain marathon
June 11, 2018 12:03 PM

"I'm so mad I want to kill myself...."

That's essentially a voicemail that I heard after this weekend from a loved one that sounded more like an alarm than anything else.

What could rise to that level? A money woe? Your favorite team lost? (Not the Warriors!)

We have come to the point where suicide isn't a joking matter anymore. 

We all have to be like the TSA now-- Don't tell me the joke about the pistol in your carry-on and the bomb in your briefcase.

Not now.

No one is laughing after the coincidence of two noteworthy suicides on the pop culture front, plus the Center of Disease Control's release of new data showing suicides grew by 25 percent nationally from 1999 to 2016.

And that doesn't include accidental deaths which frankly may not be so accidental.

As much as I love bags, I didn't know much about Spade, but I knew of her brand. It was everywhere. That didn't buy her happiness.

But nor does whatever you take away from Anthony Bourdain's enlightened debauchery. 

I hate to break it to you, but eating everything, drinking everything, or living life to the fullest, somehow isn't the quite the answer to happiness either.

I knew a little more about Bourdain from watching his insightful shows, where food was the entree to something more nourishing and enlightening--that thing which is hard to find on any commercial television show these days, and not on Netflix.

On the surface, it's clear Bourdain was an Asian slurper from day one. A bowl of noodles would send him into raptures. He ate them with Obama. He ate them on the road everywhere. 

All food was soul food to Bourdain. And he communicated with people and their cultures through it. That was his TV show at its best. Whether it be sharing a Filipino feast in Manila at Christmas with the nanny of one of his staffers as he once did to show the heartbreak of the Filipino diaspora during the holidays; Or sharing a bowl of noodles with New York City Sushi master Masayoshi Takayama in a rural part of Japan. 

On that show I learned about the idea of ichi go- ichi e.

It's a zen phrase I'd never heard of, which loosely translated means to treasure every moment as a once in a lifetime moment that will never happen again.

In Bourdain's passing, seeing that show was like a gift from the dead.

In 2016, I saw Bourdain in his sold-out "The Hunger" tour, where it was just Bourdain on the stage. It wasn't exactly spoken word or a speech. He was just talking, telling some jokes, some stories, but basically feeding off the adulation of his fans.

But somehow his real "hunger" wasn't fed. 

Megastar rockers Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell both could have told Bourdain how it all doesn't add up in the end. 

So while I was shocked by the news of his death, I just wasn't really surprised. 

After all, Bourdain wasn't on a health food kick. If there's one thing I learned from any of his shows, it's that I don't drink or eat nearly enough. When he pours, I start pouring. It's catching. Then I'm drunk and have binged on ten hours of TV and gained ten pounds.

Or ultimately 30 pounds. And heading closer toward my Asian American destiny with cardiac arrest. My father whose death day from arteriosclerosis is June 14 (coincidentally Trump's birthday). It's a constant reminder of what I can avoid if I can be a bit less like Anthony Bourdain. 

With all his drinking and meat consumption, I initially thought Bourdain had succumbed to a heart attack. 

That's just one of the ironies of Bourdain. For all the compassion and empathy Bourdain could show on a trip to Southeast Asia, or an underdeveloped country, he had practically zero tolerance for vegans and vegetarians. 

To prove that, he once joked that he detested everything the hunter/rocker Ted Nugent ever said. But he found common ground in the fact they both liked barbecue. 

So they could share a belch and a hearty bowel movement? And that's whirled peas?

But he had to know that when the gas passed, he couldn't get to what really mattered with Nugent like he could have with even a vegan like me.  

Still that was the bad boy at play, the image he cooked up for himself.

Bourdain lived life off the edge of a fork, but the answers to life mysteries aren't necessarily found at the bottom of a cup or plate.

So maybe the problem with Bourdain was simply his ultra fame and success. If Asian Americans are considered the "model minority," Bourdain was the model white guy. How many people were envious of the man who was paid to eat everything, go anywhere, and taste it all? The "Life," right? 

Except, that is, for the missing ingredient, that thing we all crave that sustains us and makes us want to live another day.

What is it? Was there a morsel or drop of it to make life worth living? 

Was it love?

Reports say, there was no indication of any depression or sadness leading up to Bourdain's death.

But it's common that no one leaves bread crumbs.  

Nearly 80 percent of people who commit suicide deny any suicidal thoughts or intentions in their last communications, Matthew Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard told The New York Times.

Which is the real problem--no one talks about this stuff. And when confronted, they lie. Or stay quiet.

What does this mean for the Asian American community suffering from some mental health issues?

We're quiet by nature. We are shamed by the stigma. We internalize. We isolate. 

Do we seek help before it's too late?

Likely not. That must end. 

Maybe it has for some among us in a higher tax bracket. Lawyers with anxiety? Psychiatric help was once considered for the worried well. And definitely not for people of color. 

Mental health? See a psychiatrist?  Freud wasn't our cultural standard in the Filipino community.

Maybe you'd see a family elder. Or see a priest, even if the priest may have caused the psychological trauma.

Better outreach to ethnic communities is needed. 

In my youth, you rarely heard anything about mental health in the Asian American community. Meds were heart pills, not Zoloft. Silver Linings Playbook? Filipinos didn't get that movie. Unless you were under 30 and being given downers to offset the Adderall. 

But now I know of people close to me who have come right up to the edge and have benefitted from treatment. On more than one occasion. 

Mental health is for real. Pills are better than nothing. But talking works. And I've got nothing but words.

Of course, it's our presumption that people in need of help want it.

And maybe that's the only way Bourdain's suicide makes sense. The man was a recovering drug addict. He consumed food and drink seemingly without a care. He was killing himself slowly with lifestyle. Suicide sped up the process, where he took control and rebelled against his fans, his loved ones, and his maker to prove he was a bad guy, after all.

It doesn't sound like he would have wanted to be talked out of his final act.

But there are those among the legions of his fans who feel a moral obligation to at least attempt to find words. Or maybe, a last meal.

Donald Trump wins in Singapore, scores with Kim (another world dictator), creates a new kind of cold war with Canada, isolates America from its allies, and wins a second term.

That's still a bad dream, right? 

My prescription in my next Amok. 

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. 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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Note: If you know someone in need of confidential assistance, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Emil Guillermo: Why I'm voting for John Chiang in California
June 3, 2018 6:29 PM

I'm exercising my franchise! And it's not a Starbucks, a Wimpy's, or Jollibee.

It's the primary of the most Asian American state in the nation, California. And as I filled out my mail-in ballot (all the rage these days-- everyone mails it in), the TV was on and not on the news. 

CNN, MSNBC, or Fox (isn't that an animal rights channel?). No. As fate would have it, I was accompanied by TCM.

That would be the Turner Classic Movie channel, and its offering of the moment, the 1940 Bette Davis classic, "The Letter."

Turns out it's a remake of a 1929 film version of the Somerset Maugham drama that Hollywood tried to get right. Set in Malay, Davis plays Leslie Crosbie, the wife of a British rubber planter, who murders her married love interest, and gets out of it by pleading self-defense. (The colonial narrative, right?)

What's indefensible is the movie's true villain is the murdered man's wife, who in Maugham's story is Asian, but instead is played by white actress Gale Sondergaard.  (Ah, liberties!)

This is what makes TCM, TCR for "Turner Classic Racism." Our cultural missteps forever preserved as art to sicken future generations.

It only made me darken that little white oval shape on my ballot  ever more vigorously with my black pen for John Chiang to be Governor of California.

When are we going to have an Asian guy who is legit qualified to play the lead--the white part--in the biggest political drama in the nation?

Chiang, currently the California state treasurer, is a bureaucrat's bureaucrat. He's been in the public eye in government since 1997 when he was a member of the California Board of Equalization. He has somewhat paved the way for seemingly boring, numbers-oriented Asian Americans in politics. Judy Chu succeeded him. She's now one of the key Asian American leaders in Congress.

I've been following Chiang's rise from the equalization board, to the state controller's position, to his role since 2015 as treasurer of the state hailed as the world's fifth largest economy with a gross domestic product of more than $2.7 trillion.

That's more than the U.K.

There has never been a more qualified Asian American to be governor.

And if you want a fighter, all you have to do is remember Chiang in 2008. When then-Gov. Schwarzenegger was going to cut the budget on the backs of 200,000 state workers down to $6.55 an hour, Chiang had the workers' back. He stood up to Schwarzenegger and continued to pay the workers, calling them "innocent victims of a political struggle."

Chiang's a fighter. Ten years ago, at least. Ever since then, I was looking for Chiang to emerge.

So I'm voting for him.

Too bad he's likely going to lose.

Why Chiang has no shot
California has a strange primary system nicknamed the "jungle primary," where the top two regardless of party get the nod for a runoff in November.

Intended to get candidates to be less extreme and appeal more broadly to voters, the system has actually emerged as a self-imposed "divide and conquer strategy."

CA ballot.jpg

The state, which is largely blue and Democratic, has no less than 12 declared Dems running for governor, all battling for fragments.

The top dog, based on a USC Poll last week, is Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the one-time San Francisco mayor who has been waiting in the wings as the next generation in the Brown/Feinstein California Democratic party establishment.

He's affable, handsome, and everyone predicts will be thinking about the presidency at some point.

I've known Newsom since he was a local pol/SF supervisor, and you can sense this when you're with him. He's got that recycled Kennedy vibe in him. And he does all the right things. Like show up at a funeral for a Filipino political activist last year. I wished him well then,  though I was curious how Chiang would fare.

Not well. 

I had high hopes for Chiang, who at one time had support from Sen. Kamala Harris, who is a fellow Asian American of South Asian/African American descent. 

Two years ago, they campaigned together when Harris ran and won for the Senate. She's likely keeping mum because all the buzz on her is focused on how she may be considering a presidential run in 2020--something that the USC poll said would be seen as favorable by Californians.

So this year, there's not much buzz at all. 

The fact is the political establishment seems to have decided to rally wholeheartedly around Newsom, who the USC poll had leading with 21 percent among likely voters, 11 percentage points over former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. They're followed by two Republicans, John Cox and Travis Allen.

Chiang was a distant 5th with just 5 percent.

What happened to Chiang? Villaraigosa, as a favorite son of Southern California, didn't help. I also haven't seen much in terms of any campaign effort by Chiang to try to cut through the haze.

What sticks with me about Chiang's career is his bold stance, fighting for state workers in 2008. That's been enough for me. But the Los Angeles Times wrote a piece recently about Chiang's inability to answer a straight question in an editorial Q&A session.

Sounds like Chiang is having a hard time transitioning between bureaucrat and candidate. 

That is Chiang's downfall. It's not that people will mispronounce his name and say Ch-ANG, and not Ch-UNG. But there's something about him that just isn't as appealing compared to a Gavin Newsom.

This is the reality. It's not about issues or even character  at the ballot box. Politics has its visceral side. As Jay Leno famously said, "Politics is show business for ugly people."

And Chiang just doesn't sell well compared to Newsom. Maybe it's like TV anchors. Asian American males? Hmmm. TV viewers prefer Connie Chung? 

Screw it. I'm voting for Chiang anyway.

As I marked my ballot on Saturday, there was Victor Sen Yung on the screen. He was the guy who replaced Keye Luke as Charlie Chan's Number One son. Yung played "number two," Jimmy Chan, in ten Charlie Chan films. And then he played the lawyer's clerk, Ong Chi Seng in "The Letter."

But I mostly remember him playing Hop Sing, the cook, on the television series, "Bonanza," from 1959-1973.

John Chiang likely won't finish in the top two on Tuesday in California.

But the fact that Victor Sen Yung is on television while I can mark my official ballot and vote for Chiang to be governor of California still feels like some sort of victory.

We may never get another Asian American as qualified as Chiang to vote for---and not to be merely No. 1 son, but the head of the entire state.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.
NOTE: AALDEF is a nonpartisan organization and does not support or oppose any political candidates.

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Emil Guillermo: This Memorial Day, remember the gun industry's war on America
May 25, 2018 12:57 PM

Orlando. . .Until I arrived here in rainy central Florida, I almost forgot that two years ago on June 12, Orlando was the scene of the worst case of mass gun death in U.S. history.

The Pulse nightclub, June 12, 2016. Do you even remember? 


We've had so many other shooting incidents since then. Las Vegas overtook Orlando to become No.1.  And then there was Parkland, Florida. And more recently, Santa Fe, Texas.

Gun violence happens so often, we forget the past too quickly, too easily. 

That's why we need to take time on Memorial Day.  

For the soldiers, and our war dead, sure. Many of us remember them every day, anyway.

But let's not forget those who are lost to the gun industry's war on America.

The industry profits on regular Americans gunned down senselessly. Individually and en masse. 

We seem to forget them all as soon almost as soon as it happens.   

That's why we need to expand our sense of Memorial Day. Too many people die in the war that's taking place right under our noses.

I'm a good example.

I'm still in Orlando for the 28th Orlando Fringe Festival, the largest theatre festival of its kind in the U.S. Among the stories in my "Amok Monologues: All Pucked Up" is the shooting death of my cousin, Stephen, who I saw as the second coming of my father.  

Stephen, an immigrant from the Philippines, was eight years old when he arrived in San Francisco. He practically traced my father's footsteps and then exceeded them. He received his B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University.

But the story diverges before then. Stephen was shot and killed on May 4, 2014.

He received his degree posthumously. 

Stephen was celebrating his impending graduation and was drunk one night. He went back to the tenement apartment on Mission Street in San Francisco, where he had lived for 18 years in one room with his family. 

He took the elevator to his apartment on the 5th floor. But he got off on the 3rd. 

When you're drunk, it all looks the same. But it was the wrong floor, and the wrong apartment. And while there was no sign of a struggle or breaking or entering, he was inside an apartment that was not his. 

The resident, a retired security guard, had a gun. And he knew the law. The Castle Doctrine says if an intruder comes into your home, you can shoot to kill. No questions asked. It's a slam dunk self-defense case. 

And that's how my cousin's life ended too soon. A single bullet. A mistake, sure. There was no recourse.

I've lived out the drama as part of my show, which I performed at the Orlando Fringe Festival for the past two weeks. 

But it's one thing to relive one's personal story of senseless gun violence on the stage. 

It's quite another thing to visit the scene of what had been the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Until I drove past the Pulse nightclub, I had forgotten it all took place a few miles from where I was staying.

In 2016, Orlando's Pulse nightclub had been the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with 49 people killed and 53 injured. 

This week, I took a break from the Fringe Festival to see the memorial the community is working on to honor the victims. 

It was heart-wrenching.

If you have experienced gun violence through a friend or close family relative, just multiply that by 49. 

What's there now is not quite finished.  

From the news, you'll know the scene from the video clips of people running from the shooting.

The building is still there. And while there was talk of tearing it down, the overwhelming sentiment is that it should be a monument to the event, the victims, and the community.

What will be erected should be done by 2020, said Barbara Poma, the owner of the nightclub at a Fringe event talk. 

In the interim, the sign is there as a haunting reminder. 

Under it, a translucent pillar wall has been set up for people to leave a mark that they were there.


Surrounding the club is a wall of photos and inscriptions that remind us that the club, which was heavily patronized by a young, ethnic, mostly LBGTQ crowd, represented one of the most diverse groups imaginable.

The carnage of the Pulse elicited an equally diverse response.


Among Asian Americans, there are representatives of the Sikh community.

A bona fide Asian is presented, the Dalai Lama.


And there are groups representing Arabs and Muslims.


One sign reads: "I don't care if you're black, white, latin, Asian, Indian, muslim, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, religious, atheist, republican, democrat, rich or poor. If you are nice to me, I will be nice to you. Simple as that " 

That's a notice that is as diverse as it gets. It's signed with a rainbow heart shape and the phrase "Orlando Strong."


A foundation has been set up to complete a memorial museum project. But already, it's clear the emphasis will not be on anger or grief. Nor will the memorial be glum and solemn.

Instead, the message is on unity, love, strength, acceptance, hope. 

It's going to be a memorial for the living.

Already in the interim it's that; your guide for living a life of tolerance with a respect for diversity. We can remember the dead. But the future is up to us.

We just don't seem to be learning fast enough.

Memorials that require the living to take real action may help.

So should a long weekend that may give us the time to ponder the horror of our domestic war, the one right under our noses fueled by the gun lobby, and ignored by the politicians.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments