by Emil Guillermo
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the impeachment debate on Jan. 13, she quoted Abraham Lincoln, “We cannot escape history.”
Still, Republicans tried in vain to escape truth, justice, and the Constitution, as they attempted to defend the indefensible, Donald J. Trump.
If you have any doubts about impeaching the brand-conscious president with a use-by expiry date of Jan 20, 2021, just remember all the images you’ve seen of the Capitol mob riot and insurrection that he incited on Jan. 6.
Me? As I watched the debate, I kept thinking of Fermin Tobera. He’s not a Filipino member of Congress. There are no full Filipino members of Congress. We don’t have one of those yet.
Tobera has a place in American history–proof that Asian Americans, especially Filipinos, know the tyranny of white mob violence.
We’ve been on the racists’ radar since policymakers brought up the first Chinese Exclusion Acts, followed by similar policies toward migrants from other Asian nations, such as the Filipinos from America’s first colony, the Philippines.
By the 1920s and ‘30s, nearly 40,000 Filipinos came to California seeking opportunity. But their arrival prompted welcome signs that said, “No Filipinos Allowed.” It was Jim Crow, Asian American-style.
Politicians fomented hate and inspired white mobs that didn’t like Filipinos taking jobs and consorting with white women.
It brought on riots in California cities, most notably Watsonville, where for five days in January 1930, 500 white men took to the streets to attack and beat up Filipinos in their way.
Fermin Tobera was just 22, when after a night dancing with white women in a Watsonville dance hall, a white mob shot up the bunkhouse where he lived, killing Tobera from a bullet to the heart. It was on January 22, 1930.
The murder made news around the world, as Tobera’s body was flown back to the Philippines for a public burial.
Make no mistake, Filipino Americans know the wrath of the White Mob.
We also know the tragedy. No one was held accountable for the death of Fermin Tobera.On January 6, 2012, Congress and all America saw the power of the White Mob, and the violence was incited by the president.
That’s what the impeachment debate was about. The president turned us against ourselves. He incited an insurrectionist act.
The White Power Riot
Trump has been banned from Twitter, but not me. When I saw January 6 begin to unfold, I tweeted: “This is the ‘white power’ movement of Trump on full display. Built on lies, the “normal’ GOP has no control. Sadly, It’s the new third party of America.”If the rioters had been BLM protesters, we’d have seen way more than six dead. Yes, the double standard is real. But the racist motivation from Jan. 6 goes deeper than last summer.
We need to acknowledge that the riot wasn’t simply a protest whipped up by Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen.
The mob was composed by people—the majority of whom are white and, on the margins, who were enabled politically by Trump. They were always there. They just had not been legitimized or given a voice until they were dubbed the “Trump base.”
They are conspiracy theorists, gun nuts, and white supremacists. They are as right-wing as they are white. They are the Klan without the hoods. All of them lurking since Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City. It was domestic terrorism known by our intelligence community yet ignored and normalized by Trump.
For the last four years, Trump and his base have been each other’s raison d’etre.
Trump is nothing without them.
They are nothing without him.
And when the Republican Party abandoned principles and became synonymous with Trump, that’s when our truth-challenged political environment began.
On Jan. 6, 2021, the base showed us they will do anything for Trump. Even when the ask is based on lies.
They were coming for Congress this time. But based on their hatred of the “other,” their target could easily have been any of us.
The Trumpists see themselves aggrieved in a country that is demographically changing. These riotous whites feel they are losing out to immigrants. And Trump is their hero, who will stand up to all BIPOC–Blacks, Indigenous, People of Color–with racist and xenophobic policies.
Just look at all the Confederate flags, symbols of white supremacy, along with other neo-Nazi signs of white nationalism scattered through the Capitol building. These domestic terrorists engaged in mob violence. Why the debate?
Filipino Americans should not be deluded. There’d be no debate if it were us.
Impeachment? It is the right thing.
The Ongoing History
And now Donald John Trump, the man who never really wanted to be president, makes history as the first president to be impeached twice.
As Trump himself would say, it is a new level of political disgrace the likes of which our country has never seen.It’s a new low for the highest office in the land. What will people in the future ask those of us who lived through it? Was it really that bad?Yeah. It was.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell reportedly said he won’t call the Senate back until after Jan.19. It means a Democratic Senate will preside over an impeachment trial, where McConnell could lead 17 Republicans to vote to convict and permanently disqualify Trump from seeking office again.For now, democracy survives, with 232 voting to impeach with 10 Republican defectors. But 197 Republicans voted to stay loyal.It’s a victory where no one cheers, not when DC has more troops sleeping in the Capitol just in case rioting Trumpers plan other attacks on our democracy.Before the close of business, Trump, banned from Twitter, released a video. “I want to be very clear,” he read off the Teleprompter. “I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country, no place in our movement.”But he’s president, with blood on his hands. After all the lies and tumult, can we believe anything Trump says?Without contrition for his lies, Trump’s words are empty. He’s not unimpeachable, just impeachable. Doubly so.EMIL GUILLERMO is a journalist and commentator. In Hawaii, he was both a columnist for the Star Bulletin, and a member of the Advertiser editorial board. A former national host at NPR, he vlogs at www.amok.com
by Emil Guillermo