Salt & Light: A Reflection on Current Events

Before I begin this post, I want to assert that I’m speaking not as a historian, or political expert. I speak as a citizen of the world – just like you, whoever you may be, whatever you may believe. I am a Filipina – born, bred, raised; and a Christian. I work for an American company, am a member of a community of both expats and locals, married to a Dutchman, and mother to a Eurasian dual citizen.

These things together, and the privilege of having a voice, have brought me to write this piece: a reflection on this bizarre day and age, and hopefully a little light at the end of a long day.

Our present paradox.

2016 has seemingly seen it all: Brexit, Duterte, Trump, Syria, Black Lives Matter, the epidemics of Cognitive Dissonance and Fake News. Social media and increasing mobile connectivity have granted many unfettered access to information, and each other, such that conventional borders can no longer contain conversation, ideology, discourse. However, this access has also brought with it polemic, controversy, misinformation, and a dangerous brand of populism driven by terror, suspicion, distrust and fear. In some ways, you understand. This generation has seen prices rise, stocks fall, debt increase, and quality of education decline. It can be (in places) difficult to accept there has been progress at all. Especially as people are inundated with imagery that constatly reminds them of the brokenness we face in this world. In other ways, though, you wonder, and mourn.

The irony is that there are two truths to this: first, that the difficulties people face are real, but second, that while the world does have far to go, it has come so far already. That is our present paradox.

For example:

Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.

…Despite [that], most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago…Today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher [vs 1995]…only 12% think it is lower.

(Pew Social Trends, 2015)

In Britain, crime dropped 8% between 2014 and 2015, and that year it was the lowest it had been recorded since the Office for National Statistics began their reports in 1981 (Source: ons.gov.uk). And while the Philippines has reported increased crime rates in the last few years, its Human Development Index has grown 20% in my lifetime – showing slow but sure movement deeper into “medium development” accounting for growing gender equality, higher wages, longer life expectancy, lower maternal and infant mortality, and more (Source: UNDP HDI Report 2015).

Despite this progress, people are still distrustful, scared, and impatient. And politicians have risen to the occasion to stir up frustrations and run on fear – oft driven by false claims. In Trump’s immigration speech in September, for instance, he stated Hillary would bring in 620,000 refugees from Syria over a short period of time (riding on the fear of loss of opportunity, and misdirection of taxpayer funds). However, Clinton has only called for an additional 55,000 refugees from Syria (bringing the number to 155,000 total). Trump lied. And that’s just the tip of the Trump-berg.

In the Philippines, meanwhile, our current president has proven to be equally divisive. His misogynistic comments cannot be escaped, some of his staunchest supporters are popular (vicious) trolls, his cabinet constantly reframes and reshapes his statements, the press often demonize him, and his values are inconsistent. Recently, the crime rate was reported to have dropped, but how can they report only 1,700 crimes vs 3,000+ in the same period last year, when there have already been 4,000 deaths in the drug war? I have tried to be objective, wishing for his success because his is ours, after all. I celebrate his wins (billions in investments from China, a “mega-rehab” facility, a working emergency hotline…), and question him respectfully. Yet amidst the effort to lend the benefit of the doubt, stand the fundamentalists, the misinformation, the heart-wrenching vitriol, the disappointments.

In just the last 24 hours: my countrymen have taken to the streets to protest the burial of our most notorious corrupt dictator in the Heroes’ Cemetery (Libingan Ng Mga Bayani), Trump has begun his Victory Party, and given his Victory Speech, and even Toblerone has changed their UK bars in the face of hiking production costs. Analysts are saying the Philippines and South Korea will suffer the brunt of tariffs America will likely put on goods from Asia. Climate change advocates fears are realized as Trump-Climate-Change-Denier wins. Those #WithHer mourn the rise of an evidently racist, misogynist President in the “Free World.” Meanwhile, Filipinos celebrate the country’s newfound relationship with China; Trump supporters believe someone will “finally” #MakeAmericaGreatAgain; and so on.

When the world feels this divided. What can we do to make it better?

Be the salt and light.

Now comes the crux of my post. In a world seemingly filled with uncertainty, where it has become ever more possible that the fears many held could now be realized, I have been repeating this line in my head, over and over again:

BE THE SALT AND LIGHT.

Salt and light were used by Jesus as metaphors on his Sermon on the Mount. He says: You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) and You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

Salt is a preservative, and a flavor enhancer. A popular interpretation is that by comparing us to salt, we’re reminded to hold fast to the goodness in this world (preserve the good, don’t let it “expire”), and to add value in this world (to enhance what is). I’d like to add too that salt holds water. When something holds water, idiomatically speaking, it is sound and valid. Be of sound mind, and valid argument, and good heart.

Second, light is the truth-and-hope-bringer. It is used to describe clarity, promise, possibility. Light at the end of the tunnel. Shedding lightLet us be the light that does not go out. Let us bring contrast to the darkness. We are lights in this worldand we should not hide our light. We must share it so it brings brightness to everyone in the room.  

The truth is, we cannot know for sure what comes next. When we look into Duterte’s plans, for example, there’s a lot you can get behind. And with Trump, well his 100 Day Plan isn’t all doom and gloom. We can’t know what their intentions are for certain. All we have to control, are our actions and our perspectives. Let us bring hope, instead of doom, joy instead of despair. If/when our leaders fail us, let us step up and support one another. Let us work together for our collective good.

Today, we take a moment to mourn the flaws in our systems. The brokenness of our world. But tomorrow we fight. We stand against the misogynists in office, the racists on the street. We set real examples for our sons, our daughters, and we love each other. Yes, we have to live with our choices, but with courage, and humility, we can make better ones as we go along. We pray for success. We suspend pride. We lift up our situation. We keep moving forward.

It may seem abstract, but there are concrete things we can do for each other that have nothing to do with the people in office. We can stand up for the girl on the bus who’s been groped, we can listen with objectivity and kindness, we can volunteer, we can protect, we can donate, we can share, we can love. We can be our best selves. That is still within our control. Let’s be the salt and light.

And with that I leave you with a poem I wrote this evening on the way home:

Though perhaps a war was lost today
We can all still win the prize
The future’s not yet known
So let not this bitter fright
Bring forth a darkest night
Be the salt and light.

Come hurricane or drought
Back decades we have run
The world in constant flux
A new era has begun
Still, despite uncertain plight
Be the salt and light.

This world is not our own
There is much we can’t control
But what we have we hold
Tonight perhaps we cry
But tomorrow we must fight
Be the salt and light.

Of what I do believe
This much I see is true
We must with grace become
The world we want renewed
I trust not others’ might
We must ourselves burn bright
And be the salt and light.

Be the salt and light.

One thought on “Salt & Light: A Reflection on Current Events

  1. Pingback: 2016 In Review – foster & fit

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