Epifanio San Juan comments on Gun Dealers’ Daughter

‘Only perhaps in Apostol’s Gun-Dealer’s Daughter and the Mayi Theater’s plays (collected in Savage Stage) do we encounter a less exhibitionistic and more ethically committed grappling with the moral and political issues of colonial war and its offshoot in civil war in the neocolony. The reason for this is the rampant neoconservatism of the Reagan-Thatcher period that followed the end of the Vietnam War. This was worsened by the ruthless repression of mass movements in Chile, Argentina, and Central America; capitalist restoration in China; the collapse of the Soviet Union and the genocidal devastation of the Middle East beginning with the first Gulf War. In Apostol’s novel, the killing of the American Colonel Grier testifies to the rearticulation of war as a deadly game conforming to Clausewitz’s instrumentalist view. In 1981, a CIA officer advising the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) was killed by urban guerillas; while earlier, in 1974, three US Navy officers were gunned down in Subic Naval Base by suspected leftists (Jones 247). However, the theme of revenge and its ambiguous repercussions in Apostol’s fiction complicates the picture. Whose will is being imposed on whom remains blurred since the enormity of destruction resulting from secret government maneuvers eludes the traumatized psyche of the central protagonist, the mentally unhinged narrator of the novel:
‘ “…a list of the colonel’s talents was alleged in the press. “Sponsored low-intensity conflicts…an instructor at the School of the Assassins in Fort Benning…projects sowing confusion and conflict in rebel-taken areas…CAFGU was his brain child…proposed and trained head-hunting vigilantes…Alsa Masa, Bantay Bayan…troops that gouged the eyes of children after they were killed…littered the countryside with Garands and carbines…dead women…dead children, their severed heads….” (227).
‘Before 11 September 2001, the futurologist Alvin Toffler expatiated on the preponderant role of “Force: The Yakuza Component” in twenty-first century global affairs. With knowledge linked to wealth and violence, Toffler anticipated an impending, decisive powershift in which “global gladiators” will cross nation-state boundaries in pursuit of hegemony. War becomes permanent, “an inescapable social fact” (468). No longer can we afford relishing the nostalgic refrains in Bulosan, Vera Cruz, and Santos, nor the metaphoric/symbolic pyrotechnics in Hagedorn and Rosca. War has become a permanent feature of everyday life, particularly after 9/11, the catastrophic slaughter in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya—the intractable vicissitudes of the“global war on terrorism” overloading the human sensorium and imploding the limits of quotidian reality.’
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