Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why Can't We Be Like the Americans?

“The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.”

It was the 35th U.S. President, the youngest ever elected at 43 years old, who said that. John F. Kennedy, assassinated in the middle of his term, was known for his thought-provoking quotable quotes.

Well, another charismatic, young US President (President-Elect, that is) spoke about Change…a Change that America Needs, a Change that has now come to America.

Yes, he can. And yes, he did. Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America.

The world was witness today to history unfolding. America finally crossed the line and elected its first non-white president. Perhaps in the future, when America’s political maturity will have further advanced, they will have their first Latino president…or the first Asian president…maybe even a Filipino-American. Who knows? Barack Obama said that America is a place where all things are possible.”

To a certain extent, the Obama candidacy excited not just the American voters but the world as well. I found it a curious departure from past US elections to see and hear Filipinos in the Philippines talk excitedly about the US presidential race. The coverage of the elections also showed how citizens of other countries closely monitored the events and even cheer as Barack Obama was declared the winner. The senator from Illinois actually offered hope not just to the weary Americans but also to the rest of the world.

Here in the Philippines, I am pretty to sure that many are inspired by Obama’s victory. After all, he was in a situation that is closest to the heart of the Filipinos---the Underdog. Although it may be said that from the beginning, it was already apparent that Obama will capture the hearts and minds of the voters, it still could not be discounted that the color of his skin might thwart the destiny that was his. Doubts still lingered that America might not be prepared to have its first African-American president.

As I listened, watched, and read in the radio, television, and the internet the many Filipinos who reacted to the Obama win, I couldn’t help but agree to many who said that his electoral victory serves as an inspiration to us, that there is a hope for change in this country and all we needed was a Filipino Obama who will rise from anonymity and take this country by storm and trample on traditional politics in the coming elections.

And who would disagree with that desire? We all want an inspired and inspiring leadership.

While many feel inspired by Barack Obama, there are also those who expressed admiration at Senator McCain’s statesmanship when he conceded and urged “all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.”

The man just lost a bitterly contested election yet he concedes and rallies the troops around his opponent. Indeed, he proved that his being a war hero extends all the way to his political battles.

His statesmanship is reciprocated by the magnanimous victor, when the president-elect said in his speech, “Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.”

And he also extended his hand of reconciliation as he said that he was looking forward to working with Senator McCain in the coming days.

We are not used to this kind of statesmanship after elections. That is reflected by the many commentaries of people who, with near unanimity, all expressed the desire that the same could be said of Philippine politics.

Not a few said, “Why can’t we be like the Americans?”

I think that while the desire is there, we do not have what it takes to be like them in that regard. Well, not yet.

As I was listening to an interview over AM radio, a prominent, young and promising politician was ecstatic over the win of Barack Obama. The anchor asked him if we can have a similar, inspiring leader who could lead this nation, a Filipino Barack Obama.

The interviewee said, yes, we could have such a leader. But he added that what we need is to unite the political groups so that in 2010, there would only be one candidate from the opposition to go against the administration.

But there lies the problem---- we are looking for a Filipino Barack Obama. As always, we are looking towards personalities. Filipinos have that mentality of looking for a Savior, a Patron.

While Barack Obama is undoubtedly a charismatic, eloquent and inspiring leader, he is actually only a face of the Americans’ collective aspirations and what they stand for. What got him elected was not just who he is but what he represented.

He represented the American Dream which is Freedom, Equal Opportunity and Prosperity. He is the realization of their aspirations that in America, everything is possible.

Do Filipinos have those in their hearts? Do we, as a Nation, even have a concept of what it is to be free to follow your aspirations and desires… to rise up out of poverty…and have enough for your basic needs and have some more for your leisure?

The majority of Filipinos are only familiar with a society where only a college degree from a prestigious university will land you a good job; that not even everyone can afford to have a degree, even from a less prestigious university. Many of our countrymen are only familiar with being born poor, living poor and dying poor.

That is why we all look for that savior, our knight in shining armor. We can’t afford to have our own aspirations as individuals and as a Nation, so we rely on the one person who will save us.

Tragically, such a mindset only makes us slaves to the personal desires and selfish aspirations of the savior we are looking for.

We wonder why McCain and Obama could be such statesmen after their intense rivalry. Well, it is because they both know that there is something bigger than both of them. They know that what the American people expect is for their leaders to uphold the American Dream and Way of Life.

Obama’s campaign was successful because he always said it was all about the American People, and not about him. He acknowledged that the success of America will not only depend on him but on the American People working together to achieve their aspirations and goals as a Nation.

Obama looked at himself not as a savior but as a servant-leader and for that he earned the people’s trust.

If we want to become like America and experience the blessings they have, then we, as a Nation, must learn to have collective ideals, goals and vision, and not rely on self-appointed political messiahs. The Book of Proverbs (29:18) says, “without a vision, the people perish”. The founding fathers of America had a vision for their country and they made it the cornerstone of their country. Up to this day, although bad leaders have come and gone, the vision they had are still embedded in the psyche of the American people.

Do we want to be like the Americans? Well, it’s going to take more than changing a President or an administration. The change will have to happen within each and everyone of us.

1 comment:

Alma said...

I never thought of Obama as the underdog-- quite the contrary even...