I Believe in America Again

“There are things I might not have liked about the USA but I love it at its core.”

Like most baby boomers, I have a love-hate relationship with the United States of America

.American English is my second language, after the Cagayan de Oro version of Bisaya, and to this day I can write better in this foreign language than either Bisaya or Filipino.

I like a lot American food and American culture (particularly music, literature, theater and movies) but I am conscious how harmful it has been to our own identity.

I appreciate the great contribution of America to mass education in the Philippines—my grandparents were taught by Thomasites in Leyte and Camiguin; my maternal grandfather was an early graduate of Siliman University, established by American missionaries, and I am an alumnus of the University of the Philippines College of Law, founded by George Malcolm who later on became a Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court.

But I am also aware of the atrocities committed by the American military during the Philippine-American war and the support of the American government for the Marcos dictatorship. The presence of the US military bases distorted our bilateral relationship and prevented us among others to establish a truly independent foreign policy.

I am aware of America’s record in Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East, etc. and how it continues to struggle with racism up to today, Often I have asked myself how a nation founded on the ideals espoused in its Declaration of Independence and confirmed in its Bill of Rights could behave like that.

The Philippines have been fortunate to have great friends in America, in its presidents and members of Congress, and the wonderful Ambassadors sent here. I only have praises for such excellent diplomats as Ambassadors Thomas Hubbard, Kristie Kenney, Harry Thomas, Philip Goldberg, and Sung Kim. I am thankful for the professionals in the US embassy, the USAID Mission, and the Asian Development Bank that I have worked with in the last thirty years on climate change, natural resources and ecological governance, and anti-corruption interventions.

It is with deep pride that Biden has appointed Ms. Gloria Steele, former USAID Mission Director in Manila and who is of Filipino origins, as the interim USAID administrator.

The Biden win is good for the United States America and for us. The Biden administration will be as tough on China as Trump was, and probably more strategic. It will be more vocal on human rights, as Democratic administrations usually are, and that could be an irritant but that can be managed by good diplomacy as Ambassador Kim has so adeptly done in the last few years.

Cooperation with the United States will escalate in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and the global climate emergency. The return of America to the World Health Organisation and the Paris Agreement is wonderful for the world; these will be great for the Philippines. Our two countries can work together on these issues here in our islands and as allies in international efforts.

I have lived, with my family, in America for more than a decade—as a student in New England and as a professional inside the Washington Beltway. There are things I might not have liked about the USA but at its core, I love America. And today, I believe in it again.

The words from a wise 78-year-old President and a 22-year-old young woman and poet, both Catholics, during Inauguration Day last week, justify this faith.

Joe Biden: “Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat. To overcome these challenges—to restore the soul and to secure the future of America—requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”

Amanda Gorman: “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast ..And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another…When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”


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