Gemma Cruz Araneta
Most Filipinos like me believe that the United States of America is the unbreachable, gleaming bastion of democracy. Despite the rise of China and Russia, the USA remains to be the most powerful, mightiest and wealthiest country on Planet Earth. Many of my contemporaries migrated to the USA soon after graduation, in pursuit of “the American dream” and they were not disappointed. They found “America the beautiful,” the land of the free where “thy liberty is law.” Their children learned to sing that 19th century song, “America the Beautiful.”
The American news channels on YouTube have become a secret addiction, especially after the invasion of Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021. Imagine, a near coup d’état engineered by an out-going president who could not face defeat. That was hard to believe even if something similar had occurred here, not once but thrice. But, in the US they are still at it, so I have not missed a single J6 Select Committee hearing. With bated breath, I am waiting for its second phase which begins in September.
In the meantime, political pyrotechnics from the USA continue to shock us in this neck of the Third World. I am baffled by Representatives Marjorie T. Greene and Lauren Boebert, gratuitously combative pro-gun activists. Their rants and raves reach us quite regularly. Rep. Boebert has declared that the US is not a democracy. I was so absolutely stunned by that statement. She went on to say that the USA is a republic, a constitutional republic. Well, not all republics have a democratic form of government, but to say that the USA is not a democracy is mind-boggling for me. Why should it be, a friend of mine remarked, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., declared martial law in September 1971, pushed democracy aside and instituted a “constitutional authoritarian” government.
If the USA is no longer a democracy, as Rep. Boebert ranted, where does that put the Philippines? Weren’t we made in the image of the USA? (See Stanley Karnow) Didn’t the USA itself brand the Philippines as the “showcase of democracy”? Will the Philippines, now governed by Pres. F. Marcos, Jr., have an image problem?
There was a time, though very brief, that we were a constitutional republic. It was not described as democratic, but it was the first of its kind in Asia. Unfortunately, the USA (the bastion of democracy) crushed that First Philippine Republic, called Pres. Aguinaldo a dictator and portrayed Filipinos as savages incapable of self-rule.
Another retrograde rant of Reps. Boebert and Greene is that the separation of Church and State is a myth because the Church is supposed to direct the government and not the other way around. They twist the essence of the first amendment of the US constitution which protects the free exercise of religion. Dipping her fingers into history, Rep. Boebert never fails to bring up “that nasty letter” written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Baptist Association reminding them of the separation of Church and State.
According to pundits, this “white Christian nationalism” is a real threat to American democracy because “white nationalism” is fascism cleverly disguised; it is also deeply racist. Boebert, Greene and their ilk define freedom of religion, liberty and order, as they see fit. Violence erupts when their imagined order is violated; they feel they have the right to use extreme methods to preserve law and order.
American political analysts say that these tendencies were creeping into the system even before Donald Trump entered politics and became president. Portentous terms like “deep state,” “swamp” and “shadow government,” all alluding to Washington elites, existed even before Trump’s battle cry, “drain the swamp!” Make America great again!
We all know that the core of a democratic form of government is the sanctity of its electoral system which must allow each citizen to express his/her choice through the ballot. Tamper with the electoral system and run the risk of engendering voters and candidates who put their personal interests above those of the country. There is enough evidence to show that in the past, the USA has purposefully meddled with elections of Third World countries like ours. There are too many examples to mention in this limited space. How uncanny that there are elected leaders and corporate groups and personalities that are, at this very moment, compromising the electoral system of the USA.
A few days ago, Tara Palmeri, senior political commentator of “Puck” reported on CNN that in a recent indicator 21 percent of voters believed that “threat to democracy” is the most serious problem of the USA today. Despite inflation and supply shortages, cost of living was only 16 percent, the economy 14 percent and immigration 13 percent. I wonder what the indicators are in our country, the USA’s “showcase of democracy.”