As I See It
By ELPIDIO ESTIOKO
In the classroom, teachers teach students the exploits and pioneering activities of Cesar Chavez in his efforts and leadership as a union organizer, civil rights advocate, and as a trailblazer in California’s farm labor movement.
In fact, lawmakers and local executives even came out with a Cesar Chavez Day on May 31, and on that day, Californians celebrate Cesar Chavez Day in recognition of his crusading efforts in the labor movement.
It has to be difficult for Filipinos, in America and the Philippines, to believe that in this day and age there still exists an elected official in as high an office as the U.S. Senate unwilling to accept with absolute the heroic role of Filipino World War II veterans. Why else would someone in that political position compare the length of lecture over a three-year-old health care law to one of history’s worst-known human atrocities?
Junior United States Senator Ted Cruz, a GOP member from Texas who in the midst of a day-long filibuster did just that and in the process of the fourth-longest speech in United States Senate history stuck his foot in his mouth in front of Senate floor colleagues. The 21-hour-long speech was in support of defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Late in the morning of Sept. 25, Cruz was quoted as saying:
“I don’t want to miss the opportunity within the limited time to do something that is imperative that I do which is to thank the men and women who have endured this Bataan death march.”
He further failed in what he believed was an attempt to clarify his heedless choice of words:
“I want to make a point particularly to the floor staff and to everyone --- you all didn’t choose this.”
And for his deplorably insensitive rhetoric, the National Federation of Filipino American Associates (NaaFFAA) demanded that he apologize to Filipino World War II veterans.
“The senator’s remarks are revolting and they dishonor the memory of our nation’s veterans who fought bravely for this country so that American, Like Sen. Ted Cruz, can enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy,” NaaFFAA Chairman Ed Navarra said in an issued statement in regards to the paralytic discourse.
Is it time to give some senators a refresher course in U.S. history, or did the well-educated Cruz go rogue and simply stray away from the pack of tea partiers and such?
Five days afterwards, on Monday, Sept. 30, one day before the start to Filipino Heritage Month, Cruz met with a group that included 93-year-old Bataan survivor and POW Maj. Jessie Baltazar, a retired military chaplain, the daughter of another veteran and the executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans.
It was there inside his office at the Capital Building the 42-year-old issued an apology, albeit one heavy on condition.
“Well, let me say to each of you, I apologize for causing offense. I should not have said what I did. I’ll share with you the context of the comment I made because I was not attempting to compare my filibuster to that suffering.”
One of the amazing aspects to Cruz is the amount of discussion that has been set aside for him as an up-and-comer among the party power elite with a tangible future ambition. Thanks to some pretty haughty campaign endorsements, among them former President George W. Bush, he was elected to office in November 2012.
Cruz made some noise just less than a month ago when he was quoted in the Economist Magazine saying that “America had no dog in the fight” during the Syrian civil war. It was another bad choice of words for the Princeton undergrad and Harvard Law School magna cum laude.
I’m sensing a pattern of poor judgment but the comments from just over a week ago were incomparable in terms of its negative contextual scope. Academic intelligence is commendable and can get you very far in life but a man in his position must read the room better. Are those the words of a man who feels like a mouthpiece for his constituents?
When he is speaking with Maj. Baltazar and the others assembled inside his quarters it still feels like he has lost sight of the fact that his filibuster was of his own device.On a personal level, the misstep has nothing to do with political correctness. Unfortunately, it is not the first time I have heard such a thoughtless reference to the horrific war crime incident that in a span of five days consumed the lives of over 10,000 soldiers on their way to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac Province and affected tens of thousands more who were imprisoned in concentration camp.