The Entity America: "Get a Grip, People!"

It confuses, amazes and dismays me as to how people view individual acts of Americans as representing the government to which they are attached. Filipinos are very good at this.

The U.S. should drop the motto “In God We Trust” and replace it with small-print legalism “The ideas, expressions, or opinions of individual Americans and institutions do not represent the ideas, expressions, or opinions of the United States.”
I’ve been tracking a recentRappler article, and the comments attached thereupon, regarding a U.S. agency lawsuit against the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF). The American agency, USAID, provides funds to VFF and accuses the agency of misusing those funds. VFF is a non-governmental Philippine agency working to stop human trafficking and provide assistance to those harmed.

The lawsuit will work out as it will. That is not the subject here. One of the comments illustrates the subject, when a reader “My Mom” wrote:
  • THERE must be a non-fiduciary reason for the U.S. to sue VF. The U.S. has tolerated and doggedly supported the most corrupt and despotic regimes of the world without flinching nor suing.
How in the world did we get from a legal action by an agency of the U.S. government to an opinion on who the U.S. backs in the pursuit of self-interest globally? My response to “My Mom” was as follows:
  • The reason the U.S. “doggedly” supports authoritarian governments can be seen in the Mid-East riots now on display. Some people are not grown up enough to handle democracy. Furthermore, this entity “the U.S”, is not a single institution. It is made up of agencies and groups and collections of people (like huge Filipino communities) that are empowered to do things. It was an agency of the U.S. that filed suit, not President Obama or even Joe America. The agency believes its money did not get to where it should have gotten.
That’s what is going on in the Middle East riots. People are attaching the opinions of an extreme extremist, a film made in the U.S. by a transplant from Egypt, to the policies and values of the United States. It is clear that the rioters are: (a) emotionally hyper-charged by their religious faith and susceptible to propaganda from Al Quaeda, (2) unable to grasp the concept of plurality of views and freedom of expression, and (3) unable to grasp that America does not “sponsor” these extreme views. It permits them.
The alternative evidently preferred by rioting Arabs is a very slippery path back to the totalitarianism they just got rid of. The rioters are free to riot (express themselves) in large part because the U.S. has supported the rise of democracy in the Middle East. Even though the situation was quieter and more stable under Mubarak (Egypt, now rioting) and Kaddafi (Libya, now rioting) and whoever ran Tunisia (now rioting).
Most assuredly these rioters are not mature enough for democracy.
On bad days I also question whether or not American congressmen and presidential aspirants are mature enough for democracy. Partisan acrimony undermines the security and stability of America. What part of “undermining” does Romney not grasp when he criticizes the American response to the Libyan Embassy murders?
And I question whether or not Filipinos are mature enough for democracy when I see comments like My Mom’s, or recall the Nicole affair and how every American male was painted as sex mad, as if all the babies in the Philippines were ordered from Amazon.com.
Also, when the Philippine Senate fails to enforce ethics (Sotto), it demonstrates a clear lack of passion for high values that make democracy work. And when the courts are bastions of favor and money instead of justice, then you know there is a short in the democracy maturity circuit.
Here’s a long sentence. Work through it.

  • America is a single entity only in the sense that it promotes an ideal of a nation that guarantees freedom of expression and the Christian values of compassion and caretaking that allow all the many disparate nationalities and cultures and opinions to fit together harmoniously. 

And America will act in her self interest to make sure her peoples are well cared for. That’s what a nation is for.

So if you wish to criticize America the entity, criticize the ideal of freedom of expression and freedoms associated with the richest meaning of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Don’t take some weird movie or some angry individual as “America”. Or the independent act of an aid agency that doesn’t like getting ripped off.
Or, if you want to be honestly critical of America, criticize the idea that people should be well cared for under a national umbrella of self interest. You know, advocate the opposite. Advocate for poverty and sickness and subjugation as a national cause.

Sometimes I think that is the Philippine national cause.

The Egyptian film-maker is not America. USAID is not America. JoeAm is not America. The murdered Libyan Ambassador is not America. Private Smith is not America.
But together, with millions of sometimes opposing interests and views, we are America.
So get a grip. Get the difference.
Comments
32 Responses to “The Entity America: "Get a Grip, People!"”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again. Another Sotto. Instead of acknowledging the case against the VFF, its leader is spouting non sequiturs. Kumander Liway should just face the music. No face saving gestures like Sotto.

  2. Yes, same ethic. Blaming the people who blew the whistle: a bookkeeper with a conscience and an agency that doesn't abide by loose values. Trying to paste the wrong on people who have the courage not to put up with bad behavior. Same as Sotto.

  3. Jetlag807 says:

    As soon as the story (USAID vs VFF) broke, I KNEW folks here would immediately cry "foul" against the US Government! Like it is completely beyond the realm of possibility that a Philippine entity, in this case a NGO, would be involved in some corrupt business practices. It amazes me, as you so aptly pointed out, how Filipinos are so quick to jump and scream in defense of "the poor Filipino victim/s" when it involves a foreigner. They should take a lesson in humility from the Government of Syria who, immediately following the attack on the US Consulate, PUBLICLY apologized to the family of the victims, United States Government and its people… But alas, humility is not a common trait among the people of the Philippines. They are much more comfortable blaming others for their own mistakes and misdeeds.

  4. Edgar Lores says:

    Speaking of riots, in a main Sydney paper yesterday there were photos of Muslim demonstrators venting anger on the film. One photo captured a young Muslim lad carrying a sign that said: "Behead all those who insult the prophet".There were two sensible reactions:1. The state Police Commissioner declared he was outraged to see children holding such signs. It was something so out of context in the Aussie culture, he was completely baffled and could not comprehend it.2. Today a Muslim lecturer at a local university condemned the demo. In part he said: The Muslim anger is "an identity that has nothing to say about itself; an identity that holds an entirely impoverished position: that to be defiantly angry is to be… It renders Islamic identity entirely hollow. All pride, all opposition, no substance."What surprised me though was my surprise at the surprise of the Police Commissioner. Arendt was right: you can become inured to the banality of evil.

  5. Indeed. One of the healthiest personal qualities in the world is the ability to "own" the results that flow forth from one's decisions. It is not a point of knowledge or emotion that drives Filipino acts. Rather, saving face is. Gotta get rid of that destructive face saving. It is artificial, it is living untruths.

  6. What surprised me was the calm and mature reaction of the MILF here in the Philippines. Basically, the MILF said they find the Al Quaeda call for violence as destructive to their best interests. Instead, they offered assurances that the US Embassy need not fear Muslim unrest in the Philippines.My God, with that view entering the picture as the dominant Muslim view, there is finally hope for an end to the abysmal fighting. It takes peace to work on reducing the poverty that is driving unrest.

  7. Anonymous says:

    JoeAm, check Time cover article on Yemenis fighting home-grown terrorists. Backlash. Or the US fleet ready in the gulf. Drones and Reapers are working. Maybe why MILF issued that statement. Nobody likes war save for the jihadists. DocB

  8. They are separate I think. The US is indeed in attack mode, with certain governments, including Libya's, against a clear enemy, Al Quaeda. But I think the MILF view represents a true and real shift in attitude, an outgrowth of negotiations over the past year with a forthright Aquino government. I certainly hope that is the case.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The best defense is to attack by nonsense. Those caught with their hands inside the cookie jar are adept to such jerky reaction. Natural rebuttal from dirty Filipinos, sad to say. Corona accused PNoy. Sotto blamed the bloggers. Puno fingered people are after his job without particularly naming someone.Filipinos are ingenous in many ways. Americans learning OJT. He he heJohnny Lin

  10. Ha, OJT. Indeed. I have become quite skilled at blaming things on the housekeeper or the kid or my medical condition or my third grade teacher. For sure, I am never responsible for anything that goes bad, and I am the primary reason anything goes well.

  11. andrew lim says:

    Reminds me of Locsin's "Seldom wrong, always right". ha ha ha

  12. Humility, a rare trait among politicians. And attorneys who are paid to be right always. And used car salesmen, who occupy the bottom of the ethics list right next to insurance salesmen.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone access wikileaks online?

  14. I'm for sure the wrong guy to ask. I consider Wikileaks to be an organization of thieves, dealing in information stolen and damaging to the interests of many countries, especially the United States. I won't visit the site as a matter of principle.

  15. Anonymous says:

    "My Mom" should have said, for example, the CIA instead of the blanket "US". Is that what you're trying to get across?DocB

  16. Anonymous says:

    I have to credit VFF for cooperating, though. They must have just been taken aback. Clearly, why would the amounts reach in the hundred millions before US authorities noticed? Sotto would have blamed the bookkeeper just as he fingered the blogger. DocB

  17. Ha. Yes, well, there are a few short steps from the Action to the President regarding the CIA. I think the President basically pulls the trigger on the drone strikes. So to some extent you are right. Although a big problem with the CIA is that sometimes they operate as a rogue department, so secret that even they know what they are doing.

  18. I don't think they are cooperating. Their attorney mouthpiece was howling the other day, indeed blaming the bookkeeper as being a disgruntled former employee. Never mind that she was probably disgruntled because she got fired for complaining about the lying thieving things she was asked to do. Others have commented on Rappler that the VFF principals are arrogant and live high on the hog. That means richly.

  19. Anonymous says:

    You're right and I also have to retract my earlier statement, especially in view of that report that they're living it up like the rent-seeking businessman- politician I know. Why is it that Pinoys who started poor, rose from the ranks, end up like the greedy rich they criticize so much? DocB

  20. The criticism they do when poor is based on envy. That is, they WANT to be rich, but aren't, so they tear down the rich people. Then, if they should happen to become rich, they are no longer envious. So they can freely flaunt their achievements by grandstanding and becoming obnoxious. Envy is ego suppressed, grandstanding is ego flaunted. That's the definitive answer as to why. It's the bottom and the top of ego. We well-balanced people would NEVER be like that.

  21. Wikileaks is a fraud, they publish dirty linens of most western governments but seldom releases info about totalitarian governments. They criticize the hypocrisy of the "western democracies" but fail to expose those of closed societies. Until now I am waiting for them to publish info about how the Communist party in China run their country.

  22. How I wish the world is simple. I believe that if the US founding fathers were still living, they will be appalled to what became of the United States and might have second thoughts regarding the cherished Bill of Rights by the US. You know Joe the US will have a balanced budget if they reinstate the draft and enroll all the stupid rednecks who want war against their perceived "foreign" enemies. Killing two birds with one stone, the government can get rid of potential troublesome individuals and also save money from welfare they dole out to these rednecks. I am no racist but most rednecks are just plain idiots, they love to chant "AMERUCA", are warmongers (they should man the front lines instead of having a drinking spree),subsist partly on Federal welfare and criticize government spending (hypocrites!), espouse their own version of "Democracy" (more like idiotcracy) and are bible-thumpers who believe in the literal interpretation of the book.

  23. I lost my train of thought with my rant but seriously Israel (or Jews in general) is giving me more and more reasons to dislike them, same goes for the people too since they elect their politicians, they have the greater responsibility as to who to lead their country. They are rattling their Sabre's (actually America's with Bibi's constant meddling in the upcoming US presidential election) and threaten tow age war with Iran (good luck with that). They are a nation of hypocrites regarding nuclear weapons (Hullo Dimona) and if they want to welcome their Maker, they should fight their own war and stop dragging the entire world to their idiotry ( they are as bad as them rednecks).

  24. I swear, on a different day, I would have written that same exact paragraph word for word. Only you already did it. I agree 100%, and it is the extremist drift TOWARD the redneck point of view that is the threat. Plus a stupid Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to fund political groups.When are you going to do a guest blog for me? I'm sittin' here waiting.

  25. I saw an interview with Assange and one of his lieutenants right after the Wikileaks exposure of US diplomatic cables. I thought to myself "This is one oily, sneaky dude. He has an agenda and it is not nice, although it is couched in righteous terms." This was before the sex scandals and his cowardly fleeing. He expects others to lay their secrets on the table, but he flees to protect his own.

  26. Yeah i dislike Assange ever since the diplomatic cables were released. I mean really? Sensitive information are to be found in those cables and what pissed me off is that he forego the responsibility that came with the irresponsible leaking out of sensitive diplomatic info. He really is I think beholden or a pawn of another hand, we don't know who but it smells something fishy.

  27. He He He I am flattered but I am not great in constructing paragraphs (I usually lose my train of thought), my friends have already suggested that I should write a blog but I don't think I have the dedication. Although i'll think about it, I'll try to make a draft in good ol' paper and lead :)What topic btw? And since I have never written my own blog piece what format do I have to use?

  28. And for the record I am appalled by both sides of extremism, but I fear more the extreme right rather than the extreme left. At least in anarchy you can defend yourself and your loved ones, in a fascist type of society, not so much.

  29. Both extremes are indeed nuts on the normal curve of rational political behavior. I agree with some of the ideals of the Occupy Movement, but they remind me too much of the NPA, gangsters who couch destruction in an ideological wrapper.The advantage of guest blogging is that you can write when you damn well please. I have to crank out daily (which, by the way, is GREAT shaping for the self-discipline gene). The format is whatever you like, the topic anything about the Philippines, or even America or China or Malawi if it is instructional to Filipinos. Pick something that drive you nuts or inspires you. That's my formula.

  30. Hmmm ok I'll read up some more articles, I think I'll take the international route, the local media seriously lack substance on foreign news that may affect us in the future. I'll get my brain cells moving then πŸ™‚

  31. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the insight on envy, JoeAm, though I myself would feel it at some low point in my life but would quickly recover and be zen about it.DocB

  32. Zen is good. That's the essence of the balance.

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