21 September 2010

Thinking Like Americans

That Asian-American consul who initially denied my first United States visa application, she got it all wrong! If I was the sort who wanted to sneak my way into an American citizenship, I would have done it much sooner in my life.

We Filipinos, we hardly even notice it, but we are so programmed subliminally to pine for life in the West – and, in particular, life in the United States. In basic education History classes, teachers taught us about more than three centuries of oppressive Spanish rule that were put to an end by the arrival of the forward-thinking Americans.

The very same teachers – referring to their reference books – also almost deified the Yanks as benevolent colonial masters who were friendly to the natives, set up a universal education system and taught us the basics of this alien notion of governance they simply referred to as democracy.

Does anybody even remember that there was such a thing as a Filipino-American War? Written almost as an afterthought in most History books – at least, those I grew up reading – was that the Filipino revolutionaries, when they became wise to the fact that the Americans fought the Spaniards not to liberate us but to take over as colonial masters, in fact had the utter gall to engage the Yanks in a war using bamboo weapons and machetes. But that is dramatizing things a bit…

We were taught that when World War II broke out, the Americans were once again the heroes, liberating the country from the claws of Japanese occupation. Whoever doubted – in those days – Macarthur’s defiant pledge of “I shall return,” never mind that the tactical priority because of logistics was to finish the war first in Europe before diverting troops and equipment to the Pacific to liberate the little brown men of Asia?

And weren’t we taught to be eternally grateful to the Americans for granting us the holy grail of governance – i.e. Independence – a year after the Great War concluded? The Yanks, having decided that we had learned the rudiments of this notion called democracy enough, thought we could be left on our own. Of course, we were not taught that the same war cost the Americans millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives and needed time themselves to rebuild lives back home without the encumbrance of a war-torn colony.

Not that the Americans really left after Independence was finally granted, because Bing Crosby continued to be heard over the airwaves singing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”; John Wayne continued to evade Indian arrows while shooting at them as though on a duck shoot in this invention called the “movie”; and James Dean rebelled against the establishment, all the while driving fast cars and making out with lovely women.

When the boob tube started to invade every household in these islands, we became colonials all over again; albeit, in a different form. We were enticed to wash our clothes with Tide and Breeze, both American brands; brush our teeth with Colgate; or smoke Marlboro, Winston and Philip Morris. We pined for American chocolates, breakfast cereals, potato chips and what-have-you. We thought we should wear Levi’s and Dockers and wear Ray-Bans when the sun was ablaze.

We thought, in other words, exactly as Americans did. Why, then, are we subjected to that ignominy called the U.S. visa? Aren’t they the ones responsible for making us want to go over there?

They should welcome us with open arms! We adore them as a people; we buy their products; and not everyone who goes wants to be a TNT! I, for one, just wanted to visit and earn bragging rights that I’ve been there!

Now that I come to think about it, immediately after I came back, I could think of several reasons why I would not want to live there, at least based on what I experienced where I stayed: there were no jeepneys; rice was not part of the regular diet; the pancit looked Italian; it was so frigging cold; and, most important of all, it was not home!

For the record, how many Filipinos do you know will go to the States, clandestinely learn to fly, hijack a jet plane and fly this into a skyscraper? The ones who did, they were not Filipinos; and yes, they were granted visas.

For all its greatness as a nation, the United States – and its citizens, the Americans – can sometimes be remarkably stupid in that they do not know who their friends are. For most of our modern history – and not that the Americans ever cared – we have thought of them as Pinoy Big Brother.

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