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Heart


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From David Anthony Hohol…

Riding my trusted horse over the rolling plains always made me feel free and comforted me when thinking of the reason for my journey. An open horizon, a setting sun and a dancing hay field; the air was warm, familiar and hospitable. A purple hew of color splashed itself across the horizon, filling me with a sense of the beautiful and the true. The endless prairie looked like an ocean of green, welcoming, into the light of new beginnings; a calming merchant of freedom and infinity.

Atop the rolling hills bison and elk sunned themselves, while taking their fill of the lush green beneath their feet. The widening valley brought with it a sparkling clear-water creek, and on either side of the valley’s walls were reminders of how times were changing. The open plains were slowly turning into farmland, and crops were now appearing in the midst of the prairies. Golden fields of oats and barely danced in the wind; the bright yellow magnificence of a vast canola field in bloom blinded me with its beauty, and the rolling grasslands sparkled with wolf willows and prairie sage. I sometimes felt as though a spell had been cast upon me, as I rode atop my horse amidst a place of such wondrous and heavenly beauty – and I somehow reached another plane of existence.

There were moments when my past crept back into my mind, as it often does when one looks for purpose. It’s sometimes hard to look back on our lives and see the truth about the ones we love, but the only way to understand our own stories is to return to the beginning and do just that. When I think back to the first empirically recorded time of my existence the mystical colors of my memory swell, once again touched by the hand of life. The sleeping giant that is the mind then stirs, awakening the ghosts of my past. Recalled in the midst of such heavenly beauty, brought with it such a complete sense of serenity. It was the stillness of a comforting cloak of forgiveness and it looked at you with a mother’s eyes. I got used it after while; I didn’t even notice it was there anymore; it felt like I was home.

I was forever wondering when the rolling hills and valleys would bring me another passer-by; I watched for any signs, hostile or otherwise, of other souls crossing the plains. A pair of male bison squared-off in a fight for dominance of their herd, when I saw a white plume of smoke to the south. I knew it could only be a white man, because only he would be stupid enough to announce his presence for all to see in the middle of a lawless and open nowhere. When our mind isn’t focused on our surroundings and the dangerous veracity that comes with the beauty of this place, we’ve lost touch with reality. The truth about just where we are disappears – dangerously. I lived my entire life out here on the plains and knew the realities all too well; I felt its maddening beauty, its dangerous charm watching my every stride.

“Even a child would know better.” I said aloud to my trusty companion beneath me, patting his muscular and elegant neck with my gloved hand.

I almost forgot the surprise that comes with the territory. One never really knows what he’ll come across on a long journey across the prairies. I’d done a good job so far, having stayed clear of even the slightest sign of civilization, and continued to do so moving north of the smoke plume. Even if one day I went blind, I could still ride across these plains. Always in the embrace of a deep sense of peace while amongst them, the prairies were a part of me and I part of them. After all, for a man of my position, to be disconnected from the world around him would be inexorable.

No one may ever know of it, but the feeling that comes with being disconnected is one of loss and despair. Like the sound of a knife slicing across your finger; you never forget it, you can recall it in an instant, and when you do, the hair on the back of your neck stands on end.  I’d felt this way before, but it had been years. I learned to work with the land around me, and more importantly with myself, thank God.

In the end, we will always be more in conflict with ourselves than with others. If we don’t achieve a peaceful sense of connection, we often turn loose the savage within us. We cannibalize our very souls from the inside out. Ripping ourselves, and everything around us, into pieces in order to better understand often has the opposite effect; the whole is lost. When it becomes your nature to reach into the center of everything in your life, rather then simply embracing its circumference, the cannibal savage has won. Stopping all that comes at us in order to rationalize its internalities, instead of simply letting life flow through us, always leaves us held hostage by one of the strongest forces of nature – self-doubt.

The word ‘loss’ ran through my mind for a while. After a short pause at the creek, I ventured further into the stillness, along the creek bed, round badger holes, between the towering walls of the valley, the sound of my horse’s hooves plodding through the water echoing ever so slightly. Just ahead were the woods I needed to pass through in order to arrive at my final destination. The flowing branches of the willow and poplar trees always made me feel safe. Winding through the woodland, I confidently strode with purpose and pride. It made me feel like royalty, yet it was not an altogether uplifting feeling. After all, if this prince is coming home, his father had passed on, which was just the case, and the reason for my return.

What my family would say I could not imagine.  I hadn’t been to the see our tribe in more than six years. For me, my journey strode towards self-awareness; but I strode just a little bit slower, as I wondered what would be waiting for me. The open channels within the forest seemed to widen as I rode through them, but as I looked back they closed behind me. They seemed to be closing the door on who I was back in the world. It was then I knew I could only be the man I was before I left; the son of a chief who abandoned his tribe to live in the white man’s world.

I strode deeper and deeper into the forest.  As the sun began to set, the comforting sound of tribal drums could be heard in the distance, from beyond the weeping poplars, floating in the air above me, welcoming me home. What these drums meant I knew exactly.

The evening brought with it a cool rush of air; my tribe was celebrating the life of my father, and high-pitched chants now joined the beating drums. I felt like a traveler from the new world, returning to a patch of earth that was highlighted by the beginnings of my soul. I soon thought of myself as regaining my birthright; the knowledge and connection of what lived inside me to the outside world. At that moment, I discovered only this place would ever do that for me. Without being seen, I arrived at the top of the large hill that looked down over my tribe’s summer village in the valley below. The vision was one of buffalo skinned teepees, saddle-less horses, a burst of choppy bellows and yells, a swirl of arms, of hands clapping, of feet stamping, of bodies leaning, of eyes dancing, under the velvety comfort of a crescent moon.

My trusty companion almost seemed to nudge me forward. It was then, six years later, I journeyed back into my tribe, my family, in the midst of an open display of love and remembrance. They were worshiping, remembering, mourning – all at once. They were isolated from the basic understanding of the civilization that lived beyond them; that was coming toward them; but this is what connected to them to their world; the only world that truly mattered. For six years I watched people float through their lives like ghosts, wondering and fearful, as any normal person would be when witnessing the disproportionate, self-serving, materialistic world that seemed to revolve around the idea of I acquire therefore I am.  The simplest lessons of life seem to be lost upon the white man. I see the world they are creating as headed for disaster.

I saw my father’s body wrapped and waiting on the pyre. My grandmother was the first to see me. At that magical splinter of time, I knew I would never leave my village again and all that I’d take with me from my six year journey… would be the memories of why I had to return.


 

 

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Trash And The Monkey


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From David Anthony Hohol…

As I drive down the highway, and as it’s been for what seems like forever this time of year, my mind is filled with memories. I am on a long journey to see an old friend. Reggie and I have always been friends. My mom always told me, right up until she died of cancer a few years back, that Reggie and I were the best of friends before we were even born. In the Sloane District on the south side of Chicago, our mothers were neighbors out in the projects. Acquaintances turned into friends when each of them got pregnant with us only days apart. They went to Lamaze classes together, shopped for baby clothes together, and always spoke of how Reggie and I would be friends. On May 14, 1967 Reggie and I were born at the same hospital only seven hours apart and we’ve been friends ever since.

We both grew up poor, even though at the time neither of us really knew what that meant yet. Reggie never knew his father, so only his mom was there to raise him and his seven brothers and sisters. I had a father, but always told Reggie he was lucky. My father’s drinking and the beatings I took, along with my mother and sisters, are things I wish I could erase from my mind. I remember feeling happy when after another week of binge drinking my father slid a shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Right from the beginning, Reggie and I were inseparable. We learned to talk together, we learned to walk together and we went to school together right from kindergarten. We shared the same dreams, the same troubles and even the same girls some times. Reggie and I were exactly the same, and we will always be just like brothers. We spent nearly everyday together up until we were fourteen years old. It was the summer of 1981 when Reggie left Chicago to go live with his maternal grandparents in Canada. More twenty-five years have passed since that summer and our lives have changed oh so much. Nevertheless, every year since then Reggie and I have met up to spend Labor Day weekend together.

The visits have gone on to include girlfriends, wives and children. Each year we take turns coming up to see the other. This year it’s my turn, and I’m coming up alone, as I have just divorced my wife of twelve years. Each year I drive up my mind always goes back to the last summer’s day we spent together before Reggie moved away, and this year is no exception. I can see that whole day in my mind so clear as crystal, it’s like it happened the week before. Time passed can be a truly amazing thing.

 

“So ya think you’ll like it up there Reg?”

“I’ll hate it… I know I will. I hate my mom for doing this to me.”

“Too bad ya got kicked outa school… that’s what did it, huh?”

“Yah, I told ya why… my mom has this stupid dream of me graduating high school… like I care. She says I’m the baby of the family and that none of my brothers and sisters finished    school so I’m the last chance.”

“My sisters finished school and my mom’s always on my case about it, but I don’t see the big deal.”

“Well my mom says the only way I’ll ever do it is if I get outta Chicago and go live with my grandparents in Canada. Kamloops… I mean shit, what kinda fucked up name is that?”

“I don’t know what to say Reg… I mean I was there too. I don’t know why I didn’t get kicked out, but I’m glad I didn’t… my mom woulda killed me.”

“I don’t why my mom is making such a big deal outa this for. I mean two of my brothers not only didn’t finish school, but ended up in jail… I’m not that bad!”

Yah, no shit Reg… your brothers scare me sometimes.”

“Principal Marino is a prick! He said that Rydell Junior High didn’t need my kind and that me being there was bad for the school. He said this was his new crackdown and that he was gonna get my kind out and make Rydell a good place again.”

“Maybe he just liked me better… I don’t know.”

“Ah get over it Sean, it’s not that at all! I always get treated differently than you… always. You know how it is. What about the time we both got caught shoplifting from O’Malley’s?”

“Yah I know, that was weird.”

“O’Malley bars me from the store and gives you a warning… what the fuck was that?”

“Yah, you’re right. I remember the very next time I went in there to get us a couple a snow cones while you hiding around the corner outside he told me to stop hangin’ around with your kind, that you’d only bring me down.”

“You told’em off though… that was cool.”

“Yah, I called him a fat tub and told him to mind his own business… fat asshole barred me for two weeks.”

“Yah… that was cool man.”

“Hey Reggie, ya feel like a snow cone? My treat… it’ll be a bon voyage present.”

“Wow, high roller! Hey, if you’re buyin’, I’m takin’. Let’s go. I guess I’ll be waiting outside though.”

 

Even at that moment as Reggie and I walked up 127th street to O’Malley’s, a convenience store that had been there our whole lives, I thought to myself this would be the last time we would ever take this walk together. I remember the sky was a hazy gray that day and the huge sun was fighting to break through the puffy white clouds that sank all the way down into the cluttered horizon. I remember a warm, soft breeze blew and that the air felt safe and familiar. As we walked up to the front of the store, Reggie said he was coming in. I told him there wasn’t any point in starting any trouble and asked him to just wait outside. At first he said he didn’t care because he was leaving tomorrow anyway, but I somehow managed to convince him otherwise. I went inside to get us two snow cones and I was just about out the door when Reggie stuck his head in.

 

“Hey O’Malley, how ya doin’?”

“What’s a matter Washington, couldn’t find any cars to hot wire today?”

“Nah, there’s none around. I just stopped in to say one thing to ya though.”

“What’s that?”

“Why don’t you go fuck yourself ya fat pig!”

“You get the fuck outta my store right now!”

 

O’Malley ran towards us and Reggie and I took off down the street, laughing uncontrollably. Old man O’Malley shouted out one last thing before we disappeared around the corner. “That’s right Washington… run like the little monkey you are… that’s all you’re good for. And you too Doogan… you’re turnin’ into trash. I told you ya would turn into trash hangin’ around with them!”

“Eat shit O’Malley!” I replied as we ran down the street.

Reggie and I ran for almost three blocks until we finally reached Cornerstone Park. Winded from our unexpected sprint, we sat under the forgiving shade of two gigantic elm trees and ate our Dr. Pepper snow cones. Later on, we played some basketball and after that went down to Mayfair Mall to check out the girls. All day long we never once stopped talking. Our topics of conversation ranged from what we would do with a million dollars, to what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was the kind of talk that goes on between kids everywhere; it was the kind of talk that seemed important; it was the kind of talk that was fun. Reggie was my best friend to be sure, but the friends I had back then always seemed to be more special than at any other time in my life. I never again had the kind of friends I did when I was fourteen. Come to think of it … who really does?

At the end of the day I walked Reggie back to his mom’s place, we said our good-byes, and Reggie gave me his grandparent’s phone number in Canada. It was then we made plans to get together the next summer. As it turned out, we did and always have. Nevertheless, as I stuffed Reggie’s number into my raggedy old jeans we really didn’t know if we’d ever see each other again. As I walked towards the street along the cracked and jagged sidewalk, I didn’t turn back because I didn’t want Reggie to see me crying. Years later when I told him, he confessed he was doing the same.

I did go on to graduate, and so did Reggie. I went to a trade school, and today work for the city of Las Vegas as an electrical engineer. Sadly, Reggie’s grandparents died in a car accident less than two weeks before his high school graduation. He was named the sole beneficiary of his grandparent’s life insurance policy, and just as they would have wanted him to, he used the money to put himself through school- law school that is. When Reggie took center stage in that ridiculous cap and gown his mother and I sat in the front row each of us beaming with pride. In the end, I suppose Reggie and I escaped much of what people thought was in store for us. With that said, Reggie will always have to deal with certain things; it was a fact of life he realized much before I did. As the years rolled by, I was better able to see the people in my old neighborhood back in Chicago for what they were. Back then, I could never understand the different way people looked at Reggie and me. As a kid, I would often ask myself why and today… I still do.

 

 

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The Value Of A Moment


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From Special Guest Stascia Horton…

She sighed as she locked the door behind her and made her way down the steep and narrow staircase, while dreading her commute. Riding the train every day had become such a stressful ordeal. Strangers invade her personal space, impose their opinions, stench and filth. A single moment of physical contact felt like an eternity sticking upon her coat sleeve.

Growing increasingly jaded, she unfairly gaveled out her own judgments, even as she resented knowing they judged her too. She couldn’t help it, lifestyles screamed at her without desire to hear it.

Like that one morning a random woman pushed through the crowd like a wrecking ball. When that wrecking ball woman dashed against her, her small stature offered no resistance and unwittingly she created a domino effect to others.  Losing her balance spurred her temper at the offending woman. Everyone‘s tempers flared, spreading like wildfire. She grabbed the wrecking ball, positioned herself, and dug her elbow in the woman’s side as she barreled past.

“Stop pushing people!” Her hot tempered voice reflecting anything but that of  a tiny, polite girl.

Shaking herself free of her attacker, the shocked and offended bully spat, “It’s the T lady, get used to it!”

She replied to the random woman, “Maybe you weren’t raised properly, but I was! I was raised to respect other people. I am sorry you had such a bad childhood, but don’t take it out on other people.”

It really was an odd statement for one taught to be polite. Indeed, her own childhood had been wrought with terror. She had made the choice  not to impose that upon others. Naturally assumptions were made that the random woman had suffered a bad life to treat others so horribly. It could have just as easily been that the random woman had a grandeur life and simply viewed others as pests in her paradise.

No one else was brave enough to say anything, politeness now presided.

What she thought was an ill tempered response mutated into an awakening.  That tiny moment caused a ripple effect.

This morning, she hoped to avoid an encounter like one fateful day a crazed and angry man who had inexplicably tried to start a fight with her because she chose to stand rather than sit. She hated sitting on the train, especially with fabric seats. Too many people urinate or soil themselves on those seats. Sitting on them was like seating in raw sewage to her. For some reason this choice really agitated this man; one of those same fouling smelling people who had probably contributed to the sewage collection in those seats.

She was hardly in the way of anyone and moved aside when this man got on the train. Admittedly, it was so he wouldn’t touch her at all, but nonetheless, she wasn’t in his way.

He started screaming at her, even got back up to scream in her face, his foul breath inducing a vomitous reaction. She couldn’t even understand the spitting sounds, only managed to glean was that he was angry that she was standing and that people like her were the cause of all problems on the train.

Not wishing to engage a conversation that had no logic, she chose to move to the other end of the train car. This did not disengage the man. He stood up, shook his fists and yelled at her. People on the train tried as best they could to just ignore the situation, though many could not help but gape.

Then came the invitation to engage in a physical fight, laughing at her that she was afraid of him.

That always got her, dares and mockery.  Her small stature was her strength. She may not win but she always inflicted so much more pain that her opponent deemed possible. It had been years since she had fought, she had vowed to leave that behind. This taunting threatened that vow.

At the next stop, she got off the train. The man laughed as though he had somehow beaten her and her temper flared as her feet stormed to the door right next him. She popped in the doorway, directly in his face. She could feel her heart racing, filling her ears with its pounding and the heat rising up and turning her face red as her fist closed tightly into white stones of flesh.

“Stand up you fool! Bring whatever you got! I am right here in your face, go ahead! I want the opening to mow your ass down!”

She spat it out much the same as he had spat at her. Not one drop of fear, anxious to end his laughing with one swift punch.

She felt someone tugging at her.

“Come on, he’s just not worth it.” The kind, very well kept man with his professional attire and gentle smile whispered into her ear.

She knew he was right, but at that moment, she didn’t care, she wanted to pulverize the offender.

She didn’t, she resisted. He was too dumbfounded to react and give her the opportunity she wanted to show that a tiny, timid girl really could kick his loud, smelly ass.

She turned and looked at the gentleman and followed him back onto the platform.

“You can’t let people like that get to you.” He said as he turned to continue on his way.

That gentleman was right, of course.

After that day, she had decided to just avoid eye or any other kind of contact. That way she could usually ride in peace, like the other people who pretended they really weren’t on a train at all. At least that is how she imagined they could suffer through this experience.

She loved observing people though, always looking for something good on the train ride that would make her smile instead.  That was her nature.

She so often found disappointment. The train was filled with young people who refused to give up their seats to the elderly desperately trying to remain upright on their year worn legs that barely could carry them around anymore, going so far as to laugh when they would stumble, not even thinking for a second that someday it could be them, or maybe their grandparent was riding another train and selfish people were treating them the same way, with disdain and disrespect and selfish kindlessness.

She recalled the day she was standing next to such an elderly gentleman, who despite being tossed around on the train like a ragdoll, getting bumped against his oxygen tank that was about the size of his hunched over frail frame, and despite people pushing him to get by, still maintained a smile on his face.

She wanted to push people back for pushing him, she wanted to yank someone out of their seat for not offering it to him. She was willing her thoughts on them to just be kind.

He had apologized for bumping into her when someone pushed him.

“No need, it’s not you, it’s the other people in too big a hurry to say excuse me or look out for others.”

He just smiled.

She wondered how he could smile under such atrocity of humanity.

She saw a young man, sitting, observing and wondered if he had any good in him.

The young man had not been on the train for long. He was watching the older gentleman. He was observing people around him as well.  She wondered what he was thinking. She wondered why she had noticed him at all. Ah yes, she had heard him say “Excuse me” when he boarded, a rarity.

In a world in which we all wish we didn’t have to admit this, race is an issue. The elderly man was white and the young man was black. Though that shouldn’t matter, it so often does.

He was a quiet young man, despite his dress that would suggest he would be loud and tapping out rapper lines in harmony with the clicking on the tracks and dinging of the signals. After a few moments, he did, what seemed to her, something incredulous.

“Sir, would you like to sit?”

He had leaned over and said it quietly to the elderly, white man.

The man smiled and color seemed to come to him at that moment.

“That is very kind, I am about to get off.”

The young man just nodded.

Her faith in humanity at that moment was restored. Good did exist after all.

She battled with herself as to whether to acknowledge to him what she had witnessed. She finally decided that kind of behavior should be lest he lose the desire to continue on that course. She didn’t want to embarrass him by it either.

As her stop neared, she positioned herself closer to him, in the same space the elderly gentleman had occupied prior to exiting. Just as the doors opened, she turned to the young black man, leaned over close.

“That was a really cool thing you did.” She whispered to him without even looking at him.

She did, though, turn to look at him just as she stepped onto the platform.

His face was full of gratitude and pride and his smile was bright as he stared after her.

He was the only person smiling on that train.

She nodded at him and continued on her way, wondering if it would have enough of an impact on him to change the course of his life to one of offering kindness, nourish the good that resided within, because someone noticed.

Still some ten and odd years later these stories play in her mind every time she boards the train. It is actually a rare occurrence now that she has to be subjected to this vile experience. At least her thoughts always end with drifting to that one day when that one young man with one simple question restored her faith in humanity.

She has a very noble reason for venturing out today. A gentleman was a guest speaker at a charity event. She had taken note of him a couple of years ago, a mixture between Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, was simply the only way to describe him He was a phenomena that had taken America by storm of late. He had a wisdom that captivated and a contagious good will. He had been at the head of so many charitable and political endeavors. He wielded a positive influence over the youth. He was going to reveal the secret of his motivation. It was an invitation she simply couldn’t resist. This yearning she had to believe in good needed to know what could take someone from a violent life of crime to an esteemed life of giving.

While she had taken note of him on this news, had listened to his speeches and read some of his writings, she had never seen him up close.

It was a festive event, with polite people of high society mixing with lowly people of meager means. It brought her much satisfaction to observe the mingling that she never thought she would witness. People here knew her, her own writings of positive outlook, her poetic expressions of real life that spoke to the heart were known in their own rite. Yet, though known she was by her work, recognized in person she was so often not. It was no matter to her. It only mattered to be surrounded by the elusive good that had won out over prejudice.

As he started his speech, the telling of the story of that one moment in time that changed his life, she thought her mind had drifted again to the memories of her train rides, right up until the moment that she realized he was telling his side of her story.

She looked up at the man, some ten and odd years older now. He caught her eye and smiled brightly at her.

At that point that lingering question as to whether or not that one moment in time she had taken heed to offer up a word of praise could make a difference in someone’s life was answered.

 

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The Fiction Of History


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From Philippines Congressman Mong Palatino…

Do not underestimate the power of historians (repeat, but this time mimic the voice of Darth Vader). And speaking of influential historians, the first name that comes to my mind is Teodoro Agoncillo. It was his fault why the ‘Cry’ of the Katipunan is called the ‘Cry of Pugadlawin’ and why it is celebrated on August 23. Historians are still debating whether it happened in Pugadlawin, Caloocan, or Balintawak and there is still no consensus on the exact date of the ‘cry’. But Agoncillo used his considerable influence to force the government to proclaim that the historic event took place somewhere in Pugadlawin on August 23. Thanks to Agoncillo’s successful lobbying, what was a vague historical moment instantly became a precise historical fact through an official state decree.

But Agoncillo’s persuasive power did not only apply to government officials. He was popular because he championed the study and writing of history that adopts the Filipino point of view which was considered a radical type of historiography in the 1950s and 1960s. The other main proponent of this school of thought was Renato Constantino. Both of them advocated the recognition of history from ‘below.’ They asserted that the history of the ‘inarticulate’, the story of the masses deserve special attention. That universities continue to require students to read the books of Agoncillo-Constantino is proof of the enduring appeal and relevance of the ideas popularized by these two great Filipino historians of the 20th century.

The works of the two scholars may have also helped in reviving the student and mass movement in the 1960s. The thesis of Agoncillo-Constantino which identified the 1896 revolution as the defining moment in Philippine history complements the Marxist analysis of class struggles in society. Their books inspired a generation of students to link the unfinished revolution of the Katipunan with the declared commitment of youth activists to serve the people and rebel against an unjust social order.

Joma Sison, the country’s most famous communist theoretician, echoed the nationalist viewpoints of Agoncillo-Constantino in his writings. The foreword of his book, Struggle for National Democracy, was written by Agoncillo himself. The first part of Philippine Society and Revolution, regarded as the country’s red book, subscribed to the outline/paradigm proposed by Agoncillo-Constantino in narrating the history of Philippine society.

Reynaldo Ileto, another popular historian, observed that those who read the books of Agoncillo-Constantino became the primemovers of the radical movement in the late 1960s. He wrote that a new historical consciousness was necessary in order to ditch the reformist Rizal and embrace the revolutionary Bonifacio.

Ileto further wrote: “By the 1980s, the Agoncillo/Constantino/Amado Guerrero historical construct had become fully established among a generation of students and intellecutals…sons and daughters of well-off families, having been fed a healthy dose of the Agoncillo/Constantino variant of history, did throw down their books and man the barricades in 1970-1971; quite a number of them even went to the hills after martial law was declared, and some have been killed by the military.”

Agoncillo himself acknowledged the impact of his writings on how rallies are conducted in the country. Asked about his major contribution to Philippine historiography, he mentioned that Bonifacio was only one of the obscure heroes of the Philippine revolution but the Katipunan founder eventually gained the recognition he deserves as a national hero because of Agoncillo’s writings. “Kapag may rally, sa Liwasang Bonifacio pumupunta ang mga tao; hindi sa Rizal Shrine sa Luneta,” Agoncillo casually remarked during an interview.

“Sentimentalists of the status quo”

Nationalist historians are still visible in the academe but their influence has been dwindling over the years and their researches are seldom reviewed in the mainstream press. Government institutions and politicians no longer seek their opinion. Today’s popular historians are gossip mongers, socialite writers, and speechwriters of politicians. They are fanatical defenders of the conservative tradition, obsessive-compulsive record keepers of the activities of their elite ancestors, and hostile critics of forces that seek to create history. In short, they are ‘sentimentalists of the status quo’ (Badiou). What is alarming is that they are able to hide their real political intent by renouncing partisanship to any ideology. They claim to be historians who believe in objectivity but this is far from the truth. Their version of history is dangerous because it overemphasizes the role of superegoistic individuals while ignoring the political activities of the masses and other anonymous collectives.

The rise of conservative popular historians coincided with the intensifying suppression of leftist opposition movements. As the political left gains strength, conservative popular historians become more malicious and wicked in their anti-left rant; and their sophistication in hiding their political bias gives way to an open categorical attack against leftist forces.

We need popular historians who are respectful of the historical struggles of the poor. It is not wrong for popular historians to work in government as salaried underlings but they should at least recognize that the course of history is not only dictated by the actions of their masters but also by the persuasive actions of ordinary people.

Agoncillo and Constantino were popular historians who respected the right of the masses to create history. They were not communists but at least they were intelligent scholars who understood that revolutions and social struggles are serious and legitimate topics that should not be trivialized

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Seventeen


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Is school going well dear?” My grandmother asked, smiling at me. I didn’t reply at first, so she asked again.

“Sorry Grandma. Yeah it is. It’s going good. I finish grade twelve soon and I’m gonna hear about universities in a month or so.” I tried to smile, but it was hard, and instead of asking a question back, like what you’re supposed to do when it’s a normal conversation, I just sat there quietly.

“Well dear, I’ll leave you alone for a little while. You look like you need some quiet time,” she said. Then she stood up, and started heading out of the room.

My Mom, standing against the wall about ten feet away, looked at me and nodded her head towards my grandmother. I knew what she wanted, but I didn’t want to do it, so I pretended like I didn’t notice, and acted like I needed to straighten out my tie or something. Then there was a shadow in front of me, someone blocking the light that was behind me.

“John.” my father whispered a warning in my ear, warm breath passing across the back of my neck, setting my nerves on edge, egging on the rebellion inside me that was just about to blow up. “Get up and get over there,” he said, growling. His hand squeezed my shoulder hard, not in a loving way. I knew there was no point arguing, and besides, with everyone pretending to not look at me, it would have been pointless. I looked over at my mother, but even she was looking away, her face set in that stupid “I can’t deal with this” expression that I just so totally hated.

“Okay,” I said quietly, my teeth clenched. “Just let go of me.” I jerked my shoulder forward, and my father released his hand. I stood up, worked my way past sitting relatives and friends, around chairs and couches, darting glances, unasked questions, and into the next room.

As often happens to men my age, not old enough (yet) to live on their own, there ends up always being a lot of time spent in places you just didn’t want to be at. It could be a reunion, a family gathering, a Christening, a baptism, first communion, and then all those goddamn holidays, and every time there’s a better place to be and some better thing I could be doing, and some plan I totally made weeks ago and even told everybody about, like, a hundred times, but no. No. I have to go.

The door clicked softly behind me, and the quiet conversations were replaced by soft whispers down the hallway in the other room. My feet stood there, rooted, unable to shift or move even an inch, until the scream came. It was a loud, short, piercing, anguished, confused scream, and I just hated it. I hated it and I couldn’t take it anymore. Then came the sound of someone falling on the ground, and a moment later the soft footsteps of family friends and half-known neighbors passing by, deciding suddenly to be somewhere else for a while. It was the crying that got me going again, I just couldn’t take hearing it.

As I moved into the other room, I saw that everyone else had cleared out. It was a large space, but looked so cold and empty now. These are always sad things, but I mean they could have at least made the room look a little more cheerful. In the middle, in a small pink heap on the floor, my grandmother cried. Her bony frame and sharp angles shaking, gasping, sudden misery making it hard for her to breathe.

I walked over and asked her if she was okay, putting my hand on her shoulder. I fumbled in my pocket and found some kleenex, and passed it down. She took it and thanked me, and kept crying. I didn’t want to stand there, bent over like some giant, so I sat down, and listened to her for a while. She didn’t understand what was going on, and wondered why nobody had told her that her husband had died. There he was, lying peacefully, as they say, but he didn’t look right to me, not like the way dead people look when you watch funerals on TV shows.

Soon her crying died down a little, and I stood up, gently getting her to stand up as well. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. I just stood between her and the casket, and helped her to the door, and back into the other room.

A minute later I was sitting down in my chair, the same chair I’d been in all morning. My grandmother was cheerful again, asking me all sorts of questions. She asked about school, girls, my car, and my sports. Then she started to look a little distracted. She looked at her watch, and around the room, searching. “Where’s William?” she whispered to herself, looking for my grandfather’s face somewhere nearby. She looked for a few moments, then stood up and left, and I looked down at my shoes. When I sensed my father coming my way, I didn’t even wait for him to say anything. I just got up and walked after my grandmother.

She’d been quicker this time. When I popped my head out the door, I didn’t see her. I waited for a moment, but I didn’t hear anything either. It was strange. So I walked down to the viewing room, and sure enough, she was there. She wasn’t crying, just sitting on the floor, in the middle of the room, staring at my grandfather, like all those other times today.

I put my hand on her, and felt nothing. I pulled it right back, scared, and got down on my knees beside her. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn’t crying because she wasn’t breathing. I didn’t know what to think, or do. I felt so confused. I knew I should be feeling really sad, that I should be crying, but it wasn’t like that at all. I felt, not happy, but relieved. And then I felt ashamed for feeling relieved. I felt so goddamned selfish for feeling that way, but I couldn’t help it. And then I think I figured out why.

It was mercy. All day, in and out of this room, I counted seventeen times, including now. I watched my grandmother see her husband die, right before her eyes, again and again. Every time it happened, leading her away, I watched her forget all about the whole thing. Today I hated God like I never hated anyone in my whole life, because it was just the cruelest joke ever imagined. I kept thinking if I saw anyone even crack a smile that day, I’d just go ballistic on them.

I guess it just took a little while for God to listen, but eventually he did. What the mind forgets, the body remembers, and whether it was God or nature, something knew it just wasn’t natural. And so there I was, kneeling on the floor, holding my grandmother’s hand, and while I knew I had just lost her, she had found her husband again.

From James O’Hearn…

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Shooting Stars


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From Special Guest Stascia Lynne Horton…

Soaking up into my lungs the sweet aroma of the fresh mountain air and letting the energy from it settle in over my limbs, my eyes did have the grace of catching a most glorious sight, not just once, but twice.

Up above as I lifted my head in the exhilaration of the energizing surroundings in which I had found myself in the Peekamoose, basking in the delight of the twinkling lights that sprayed across the dark velvet sky like diamonds that were scattered, I found myself feeling giddy. Dashing across that almost midnight sky, at that time between two days, was a spray of a fast and glowing light streaking through and leaving sparkled dust in its wake.

Just as I was raising my hands in delight trying to capture the attention of my companions who were more distracted by fatigue than intrigued by the beauty that had embued me with renewed energy, yet again come into my sight yet another feast of delight. A second shooting star was chasing the first, in a valiant attempt to steal its glory.

I took it as a good omen, that this trip was bound to be glorious and inspiring.

In the dark of the forest that the stars were not bright enough to display, creatures were afoot, drifting among these invaders in their home.

Soft padded feet tread carefully across the forest floor. Wearing a mask that hid their eyes from sight and rings upon their tail to hide their trail, the soft feet fell upon an object that was sharp and shiny. It was cold, smooth and dangerous and tiny shards of it were hiding in the pine needles under their feet. It stung their tongue when they decided to explore the scent by tasting it. Shaking their heads they stole into the clearing, eager to feel upon their tongues the delight of the aromas that enticed them, Smells they would not find deep in the forest, new tastes that tempted them to dare the trip over the now treacherous ground. The smells were hidden inside substances nothing like the trees or rocks or leaves. The things held nutrition inside foreign substances with vile smells and feel when you got close. It was slippery under their little paws. All seemed quiet until their ears stung with loud noises from large creatures that aroused from their slumbers to send them scattering in the dark.  Running across the forest in fear, a stinging pain came in the paw from those shiny, smooth, sharp objects and slowed the ringed creature in its flight. It limped pathetically to the river, desperately trying to wash away the sharp shard in the water, grabbing it in its mouth, only to feel again a sting as air hit the tissue that should not have been exposed. Hungry, frightened and in pain, it sauntered away to hide deep in the forest, wishing it could taste those foreign treats it smelled. Little drops of blood gave away the path it stole on the dried leaves underfoot.

A bird flies overhead in the mists of the dew of a new dawn. The sun shines down on the field of green and golden grass and catches the bird’s eye with something shiny.  The tiny little bird swoops down to snatch up the shiny strip and carry it away to its nest. It weaves it in with the needles and grass and goes in search of more things to build a cozy home. It easily finds more of these shiny and slick pieces of grass. They don’t smell or feel like the other grass, but they are shiny and pretty. It lays its tiny little eggs, nestles in over them to incubate and keep its wee ones warm. Tiny little heartbeats it feels under its belly in its shiny new home. Drifting off to sleep, lulled by the humming inside the tiny eggs.

A snakes slithers in the grass as it seeks the warmth of the sun. Slithering into a ray of sun and getting ready to settles itself in crisp grass, the sunlight captures something in the tree up above, shiny and bright. Much to the snake’s delight, it sees the feathery occupant, made apparent by its shiny nest. It stealthily steals its way, smoothly and silently slithering over the rough bark, keeping its eye on the shiny nest. The tiny bird awakens suddenly, feeling a vibration on the limb other than the tiny hums in the eggs beneath. The bird squawks in terror as it beats its tiny wings hard and fast in its escape flight. The snakes gracefully slithers over the edge of the pretty nest, flicking its tongue in salivating delight over its delicacy of discovery of eggs kept warm. Grateful it was as it slipped the tiny eggs over its cotton thick throat that the nest had been so shiny and pretty, sparkling in the sunlight. The tiny bird watched helplessly with sorrow at the loss of the tiny eggs it had worked so hard to protect.

Fat and fluffy striped tiny creatures who steal so quietly and quickly in the forest, stuffing their fat jowls with nuts and seeds, often frightened by the smoke and fire, dashing in fear, not paying attention always to the path they chose. One such fat and cute little creature sought seeds free from the heavy footsteps of these creatures that brought with them strange sounds and smells. It came to a surface, black, smelly and hot in the sun that blocked it from the spring that flowed in quiet. So eager to escape the frightful sounds, it bravely dashed across that black earth. Overhead a hawk caught the movement across the black and still grass and it swooped down silent and fast to snatch the fat little snack up in its talons. Gliding through the air so effortlessly, it heard the hum breaking the wind, but would not be distracted from its treat.  Fat little squirmy treat was almost within reach and its eyes grew wide and the hum grew louder and the vibrations from a different wind ruffled its feathers. Something shiny was bearing down. The shiny hum was faster than the hawk and the chipmunk. Fur trailed across the black grass, sticky fur dotting the black path and dotted with feathers along the way. A cloud of feathers swirled gracefully up in the sun and wind. A tuft of feathers now adorned the shiny monster that bore down through the path of black grass breaking the peaceful serenity of the forest.

Not aware of the plight of the creatures attempting to adapt to the drastic change in their environment, I found my own sorrow at the damage done by humans who seemed ignorant of the beauty of the land they visited. The ground was deluged with shards of glass. The fields were dotted with strips of plastic. The river’s edge was dotted with refuse that stole its beauty. Remnants of ingrates imposed upon the beauty of the land to see. Though still the river runs clear and the trees sprout new leaves and the dragonflies hum and the birds chirp, people had spoiled this generous gift offered to them.

It was then, with that mournful sight in mind and heavy of heart, that I began to wonder if what I took as a good omen was really the night sky dropping a star as we drop tears at the rips in the artistic painting it had bestowed as a gift below.

I took note of those tears, and listened to its mournful sigh. I will not cause the sky to cry.

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SHORT STORIES


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fictionFictional perspective has always offered a unique look into the heart of  culture and experience. RELATIVITY OnLine will encourage the creativity and freedom of fiction by feauturing a monthly short story. Our special fictional selection will be posted on the 21st of every month.

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