What the U.S. elections can mean for Filipinos
All the cards have been laid out and Americans have started placing their bets. After months of bombarding worldwide headlines, this year’s US presidential race ends with the final choice on how Americans want to move forward.
America’s biggest conflict now seems to be how to strike a balance between preserving a receding economy while protecting the welfare of its people. How do you finance health care, fund the unemployed, education programs, and the military, while keeping Uncle Sam’s pie in good shape? This is where the Democrat and Republican approach differs, sharply pushing voters to come face to face with a forked road.
As the Washington Post simply put, it is a battle between whether Americans want the government "to lend them a hand" or "leave them alone." Democrats believe in a more involved government which means more spending to stimulate the economy, for welfare programs and health care.
Republicans advocate for less government intervention, believing that people should decide for themselves. To preserve the economy, they want to cut government spending on welfare programs, cut taxes for corporations to enable them to create more jobs, and create an option for privatize health care.
On paper, Republican policies seem more practical in fixing the economy: cut spending, boost economy. Democrats have been criticized for making government too big and involved, which supposedly worsens the economy. On which is better for America, I am not adept to explain. I am no expert on political economic or diplomatic discourse. I’m but a recent graduate who tries to keep up with what the real experts say. But even they disagree on many things.
So here’s what I know instead. My high school teacher once told me, “Numbers are exact, but they don’t tell the whole story.” And I suppose, it doesn’t take a college degree to understand that the heart of a nation is its people and running a country is beyond purely data.
This is precisely what the Republican Party is criticized for: policies that seem detached from the actual people of the nation. That Mitt Romney seems to not be able to attach a face to his numbers (which are in itself inconsistent anyway). Or he did rather, attach 47% of Americans to the face of a victim, of someone heavily dependent on government.
Perhaps the logic of Republican policies is understandable to an extent that government is not there to spoonfeed a nation. But beside the practicality, it seems, they lack the element of compassion to their calculations; an understanding of what it really means to govern people. That it is not just about the economic pie, but how everyone should get a share of that pie.
Why the election matters
But so what? For a race fraught with deeply pronounced political differences, why should it even matter to us Filipinos?
“We are a nation of immigrants,” as the ad campaigns of both Obama and Romney often repeat. But I wonder which of the two understand what that really means.
Though I have only been here a few months, it is long enough to at least see firsthand from fellow immigrants who have stayed here longer, the very struggle of just being here.
The occasional, subtle stings of discrimination—sometimes even from fellow Filipinos—endured and kept hidden with a smile of pakikisama is real. The difficulty of uprooting a whole life, a whole family, while trying to create a little space for themselves in this new world, with pieces of home, is tangible. The sadness that comes with a second generation’s evolution to apathy, where parents see their children drop traces of being "Filipino" bit by bit is true.
All for what? That age-old tale of making better lives for families back home. A tale, Vilma Santos immortalized, yet no award-winning drama can ever fully encapsulate.
In the battle between the two parties, one more capable of putting a face to numbers, this is one reason for Filipinos to pay attention to this election: the winner can spell a lifetime of difference for those here, who brave a daily battle of straddling two worlds to make life for families back home better. – Rappler.com
Jem Palo is a communication graduate of the Ateneo de Manila. She migrated to the US not long after, but is still very much Filipino.