A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Sept. 2-8, 2015
Gratitude, V-J Day, and the elusive AB 199
Among other things, we shall be talking about “pagtanaw ng utang na loob” or owing a debt of gratitude. For what shall we be grateful? To whom shall we be thankful? A prayer by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) goes: “Give us, O Lord, thankful hearts which never forget Your goodness to us. Give us, O Lord, grateful hearts, which do not waste time complaining.”
If we just focus on being grateful, we wouldn’t even have time to complain. So let’s start acknowledging our debt of gratitude, although it may be overwhelming just to start thinking about where to begin. A useful system I learned from social studies long ago was the macro-mezzo-micro division, from the widest society levels down to the group and then personal levels, all working in tandem to present a holistic view of society according to the ecological systems theory. So when we say that we are grateful for the macro or the most general facets that affect us all, we can say (if we want to) that we are thankful for public policy, media, development of regulations, or food pricing, for instance. What about being thankful for the men and women who perished in World War II for their sacrifices so we can enjoy the rights and freedoms we do now?
September 2, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of V-J Day or “Victory over Japan Day.” According to Holiday Insights, “the U.S. government, anxious about ending World War II, dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 with the objective of forcing the Japanese to make an unconditional surrender. Instead, the Japanese government debated on what to do, so the U.S. dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. On August 14, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito cabled the U.S. to surrender, and agreed to the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. On August 15, 1945, news of the surrender was announced to the world. World War II was finally over. Hostilities ended. On September 2, 1945, the Japanese formally surrendered aboard the U.S. battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. President Truman declared this to be V-J Day.”
Related to this remembrance, the Bataan Legacy Historical Society (www.bataanlegacy.org) is sponsoring an exhibit and a conference from September onwards at the San Francisco Public Library’s Main branch on Larkin and Grove. Let’s take it from “At the Library,” Sept. 2015 (vol. 49 no.6), SFPL’s newsletter: “World War II in the Philippines – A look at the dramatic and horrific story of the Philippines during World War II, including the infamous Bataan Death March, the guerrilla liberation movement, and the Battle of Manila, where 100,000 civilians died in a month’s time. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war against the Empire of Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the ravages of war did not come to the continental United States. Instead, the war was fought in the Philippines, a U.S. colony from 1898 to 1946. Filipinos made up seven-eighths of the main line of resistance of the U.S. Army Forces of the Far East (USAFFE). Manila became the second most devastated city after Warsaw, Poland. By the end of the war, approximately 1 million civilians had perished. For more information about the exhibition and the conference, please visit http://www.bataanlegacy.org. Main Library, International Center (3rd Floor). Sept. 12, 2015–Jan. 9, 2016. Related Programs: Opening Program: Sept. 12, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room. Conference: Oct. 24, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Koret and Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room.
Since we’re still in the macro level in our discussion, let’s also mention Assembly Bill 199 (AB 199), which was signed into law in California way back in 2011 but had never been implemented. Re: AB 199, according to the legislative counsel’s digest, “This bill would encourage instruction in social sciences for grades 7 to 12, inclusive, to include instruction on World War II and the role of Filipinos in that war, and would encourage that instruction to include a component drawn from personal testimony, as provided.” As the Bataan Legacy Historical Society remains at the forefront in the fight to implement AB 199, you and I could do our part in making sure that our grateful voices are heard, too. You see, there will be a vote on Oct. 8-9 in Sacramento related to this Bill which is basically about curriculum revision, and the California Department of Education will have a say in it. We are hoping that before the Bataan Legacy SFPL conference on Oct. 24, some form of good news can already be shared with the attendees about the fate of AB 199, considering that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will be one of the main speakers. Here’s hoping that our gratitude mixed with civic action will lead to positive results!
Going to the mezzo level now, we can choose to be grateful for the groups and associations to which we belong. We can give thanks for work, school, ease of access to resources (like what has been made possible by the Americans with Disabilities Act), social support, and culture. On the micro or intrapersonal level, we can be thankful for our preferences, knowledge, skills, abilities, perceptions, motivations, health and socioeconomic status, among others. A spirit that’s thankful for what it already has, uncomplaining and not craving for things it doesn’t have, is actually happier than the ego that keeps overreaching for things it thinks it needs. And the mystery is, the more thankful you are, the more the blessings keep coming! (Anecdotal evidence available: ask any grateful person that you know.) They do say that gratitude is the great multiplier (Rhonda Byrne, “The Power”). Related to this, they also say that what you focus on expands.
I would like to make a special case about the special people in our lives right now who have been in this world far longer than we have. I am talking about our great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents. Once upon a time, we were helpless babies and they were at the peak of strength, providing us with all our needs, including tuition and allowance for approximately 20 years of schooling. Oh, getting a college education is SO important to the Filipino-American family! And now it’s 20 years later, you’re working, you’re busy, you have your own family – hey, you couldn’t even reflect one bit about the goodness and nurture you got from your Mommy and Daddy? Is your memory suddenly short-circuiting every time it attempts to look back at the past? If our memories are colored by hatred, can’t we find it in our hearts to forgive? How much do we owe the ones that came before?
We owe them our very lives. And you’re right: one can never totally repay one’s debt of gratitude to them. You know what, I won’t even try. Let me spend the rest of my life looking back and thanking my forebears for their instrumental roles in my life. Now I’m doing my share to make sure they get cared for. I could only hope that when it’s my turn to be weak of body and mind on account of age, young people in my family would step up and care for me. This presupposes, of course, that I have been an example to them of caring for the seniors in our family during my time. And why am I doing this again? Oh yes – because I’m grateful.