Radical Love: On Election Anxiety and the Remedy for Despair

(Photo credits: CBCP News)


The last six years have been infuriating under this incompetent and nefarious administration. And the last six months have been exasperating and troubling because it once again highlighted how badly the machinery of a lying, arrogant, indolent, thick-headed son of a dictator has tried to revise and erase our history. Amidst all this, however, came an unexpected surprise. A glimmer of hope. A seeming light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought I would actually begin to have faith in a leader again, until VP Leni showed us all what it means to be a true public servant.


I voted for her in 2016, but it was mostly a protest vote against a Marcos coming back to power. I knew her background, I knew what she had done in her district, but somehow I just was not fully certain that she could be a true agent of change. And yet, as the last six years have shown, she became so much more than that. She did so much with so little, especially with how the administration tried to "neutralize" her and her office. She turned the role of the Vice President — officially just a spare tire under the Constitution — into something valuable, something of true relevance to the people. She has fought for our farmers, was the first to defend our fishermen, is always ready to serve during typhoons and calamities, provided so much help during the pandemic, and so much more.


But what I admired — and also what baffles me the most — about her, is her ability to channel all the frustration and the anger into radical love. Radikal na pagmamahal. A kind of love that moves people to action. A kind of love that tries to overcome hate, that listens, that looks at the bigger picture. But mostly, a kind of love that seeks true justice and accountability. This is a person who has been maligned by the very people who have done nothing when our people were going hungry. She rose above the noise and served the ones most in need: farmers, fishermen, healthcare workers, the ordinary people neglected by our government's brazen apathy. A love that invites us to look inside ourselves — as individuals and as a nation — and find out what can bring us together in order to serve the greater good. It bewilders me how, despite everything that has happened, she manages to keep us all hoping. 


I have not been able to eat and think properly for the last few days. Election anxiety, they call it. I am so overcome with worry that the thieves will prevail. (As they have tried to in the past. But remember: they failed three times. Glorious, glorious defeat.) Some people will say, "Kinain ka na ng eleksyon." And it's true. But why shouldn't that be the case? Politics affects every single citizen of the country. I know that the privilege I have will probably cushion me from immediate economic hardship, and whoever wins, I will probably continue living the life that I know. But that is not the same for everyone — and more people will suffer at the hands of the evil, deceitful, and corrupt if we do not choose the right leaders. Real, actual people will suffer. Our institutions are on the verge of being dismantled. And we cannot afford that to happen. So we cling on to the very promising possibility of a good leader.


Hope.1 How is it even possible to even believe in hope these days? I think the playwright Gabriel Marcel said it best:


It is precisely where such love exists, and only where it exists, that we can speak of hope.


When we begin to comprehend a magnitude of love outside our own selfishness and neediness, it turns into hope. And it's with hope that we can hopefully overcome this looming despair and fear.  How does she do it? If I can posit a theory, it is because she knows what devastation feels like. She has stared at it in the eye. Not only in the tragedy of losing her dear husband, but in seeing first-hand the anguish of the most oppressed, the most marginalized. She has listened to all of them. She has gone to every corner of the country, she has seen and talked to and actually gotten to know them. She knows what it is like to work within a system that is rotten and broken and unrelenting in its cruelty. She knows devastation. It reveals the precariousness of the world. And it leaves you no other choice but to long for something better. 


VP Leni has been a true example of one who embodies not only radical love but a profound kind of hope. She of course has her flaws; she is not perfect. But in my entire life, I have never seen a leader who has ignited this level of spark, of kindness, and of action. The crowds, the house-to-house movement, the spirit of volunteerism — it's so inspiring. (It actually makes me feel so bad that I'm not back home to actually participate in all of it.) 


And while I remain weary, anxious, and afraid, I take comfort in the fact that I have thrown my full support behind a person who has done so much, who upholds the same values that I believe in, and who understands what it means to weather through profound loss and adversity. Unlike cynicism, hope is hard-earned. She has endured so much — as have a lot of many other Filipinos. As have you and me. And when you learn how to overcome, surviving becomes a badge of honor. Hope becomes an armament to despair. Because you've done it before — flourishing despite suffering, winning against evil — you can absolutely do it again. 


We will do it again. It is certainly worth believing in. 


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1 Hope, incidentally, is also the name of my first best friend since kindergarten, and one of the most inspiring #LeniKiko volunteers I know. Hi, Enemy! 

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