Monday, November 14, 2016


I gave myself a week before I decided to blog on the subject matter.

It took about that much time for the emotions to settle ... and the shock to be aptly clarified. What is more shocking is that I should not be surprised.  The signs were all there but I --- together with most of the CNN-watching sector of mankind --- did not expect this outcome. 

It was Wednesday morning in Manila and I was in my class while my students were busy monitoring their Facebook and Twitter accounts to be up to the minute with what was happening half-a-planet away.  By the mid-afternoon, they confirmed what I had been suspecting since late that morning.  Donald Trump is the President-Elect.  He will be by January of next year the 45th President of the United States.

In other words, the reality show star with a strange corn-colored bouffant is going to be the most powerful man in the world.  Not only will he live in the White House in Pennsylvania Avenue or hold court in the Oval Office --- he will also have access to the nuclear code.  OK, I will leave it at that.

After all, as one very jaded and superbly opinionated friend of mine declared in his social media shoutout, "Pakialam ko! (For all I care!) Whether the President of the United States is a Republican or a Democrat --- it will all be the same. They will serve the interest of the U.S.A. and not be on the lookout for the ass of any other nation."  

But isn't the U.S. of A. supposed to be the Guardian of the Free World, the Moderator of Peace to insure that mankind does not blow itself up to nuclear extinction? Hasn't that been the self-appointed role of the Greatest Nation on Earth to insure that everybody behaves as they tow the line between good diplomacy and protective warfare?

I will leave that to the political scientists but my friend insists that everything that the U.S. does is in the name of pragmatism.  

There is no such thing as the Americans being too good to a fault (this time, I am quoting another classmate --- a naturalized American who is more Republican than any of the Bush Children and who thinks Trump's policy in tightening the noose around Muslim visitors to the mainland is "just protecting us Americans.") OK, fine. I will not argue.  Everyone is entitled to his opinion --- especially if it is for the safety of your fellow Americans.

I have no illusions, pretensions or even ambitions along that line : I am not an American. I have chosen to remain a Filipino and still happy about it.  

And, yes, I have no right to express any opinion about Trump or the US government because it is (as he says) "none of your business."  Not that I want to make it my business anyway. After (where I can buy my books and music online), my only other interest in America is Costco and Target not to mention my friends and family who live there. I will leave the politics to the Americans and the Filipino Americanitos. I guess my classmate is right.

But still ... curiosity about the unlikely Trumping of America goes far beyond being intrusive in our big neighbor's business.  

Who was it who said that when America sneezes, the entire world catches a fever?  Quite true. Considering how the economies of the world have been so intertwined with one another, an upset that occurs half a world away will create ripples all the way down to the South Pole.  I leave that to the economists and financial analysts to explain how the complicated network of nations has made the world so volatile as well as enmeshed with one another that when somebody screws up, the whole world gets effed in the ass.

So if Trump's victory worries me --- it is not because I am a Democrat wannabe or that I think Hillary should have won (as the popular vote so indicated) but because what happens in Washington goes far beyond Alaska or Hawaii.  It literally affects the whole Third Rock.

My interest is not on who won but why Trump won over a more seasoned and definitely far more --- uh, urbane --- political personality who knew how to practice dignified rhetoric. 

But we should have known. We should have seen the signs.  That vulgarian language, that bullying, no-holds-bar, sexist, xenophobic, racist and even White Supremacist elocution that was used by his opponents as rocks to hurl at his candidacy were exactly the same bombs he used to drop right smack on Hillary's camp come election day.

Yes, Trump made fun of PWDs.  He was brutal in his collective judgment of Muslims. He was downright mean to the Mexicans (I mean ... building walls to keep them out?). But Trump knew something that all of American media, all the statisticians and polling experts and political analysts failed to recognized. He was telling his voters exactly what they wanted to hear.  He was addressing the needs of the greater population of Americans --- not the well dressed, powdered and perfumed, etiquette-laden percentage of the citizenry --- but the much larger and forgotten blue collar  workers or even the disenchanted middle class who did not benefit from whatever profit or progress big businesses flaunted throughout the reign of the Democrats.

Why should I, of all people --- a Filipino, be shocked with the results of the U.S. Elections when the same model happened in my very own country just a few months ago?

Why should I be shocked that American voted this man who had absolutely no experience in public office ("But he is a billionaire, Man. Just how much organization skills do you need to be able to accumulate that much wealth?") and who literally rattled the genteel with his unabashed bigotry in his campaign speeches win the elections?  Loud and clear.  This is what the people wanted --- the people being the much larger sector of the voting public who either thought that his vulgarity is proof of his sincerity and lack of artifice or that he was speaking from the guts --- and not mouthing the words of a speech writer or political strategist.

That, of course, is oversimplifying but that is what most missed out. 

It was all too simple.

Trump shouted change. Hillary proposed continuity.  And guess what the larger number of people who went out to vote wanted?  Yes, if Hillary should blame anybody for her loss,then it is not the FBI --- but that the people who should be voting for her decided to stay home and bake macaroni --- or went to work and felt she was shoo-in for the White House that their votes did not matter in the final count.  Well, they did.  And tell that to the Electorial College.

How can I not know about this when the Pinoys had the same dilemma last May?

At least, in the U.S. you had four choices --- two very visible and upfront candidates --- and two that floated in the background.

An Italian-American friend of mine told me, "You see ... it was a lousy choice. It was choice between bad and worse.  I decided to vote for bad ... because the other was worse.  My kids have no jobs back in the States because of the Mexicans ... and Trump may be bad in the eyes of many but he knows the real problems."  OK, I get it.  Trump talked real-talk and Hillary was going the way of the traditional politicos.

We call them trapo back here, right?  

Now did we not hear more or less the same dilemma confronted by Filipinos earlier this year when they said that there was no real choice.  Well, not until Tatay Digong started talking from the hip and completely demolishing all standards of sila/tayo kind of discourse of pretentious over-rehearsed politicians.  it was the same dynamics at work: Duterte talked like the common man, expressed the needs of the common man and became the warrior for the common tao.

Whereas other politicians were going into their roster of promises of propping up this nation in terms of economic growth, blah, blah, blah --- Duterte was talking about criminality, drugs, corruption, all spiced up with his signature, "P---g ina!".  

Trump was brought to the White House by the blue collar Americans. These are the people they seemed to forget to include in the surveys and the polls. These are the citizens who they felt were expendable but felt disillusioned by the way the government has made them invisible.  These are the White Bread who felt insulted by how their jobs were being displaced by illegal immigrants --- and, yes, immigrants in general.  And of course there was that threat of domestic terrorism because of the influx of refugees from other countries whose problems should not be of American concern.

These were the focus of Trump's campaign.  That was how he  scored his points. He verbalized their fears.

He pushed the right buttons of paranoia, apprehension, anticipation thereby requiring immediate solution and action --- to be provided by him and not the Democrats. Why? Because Hillary is part of the Establishment who disenfranchised the workers with the greed of capitalism, the hocus-pocus of Wall Street and the inability of government to address the real issues on the ground.

Teka, haven't we heard that before?

Duterte, whose bailiwick is in Davao City in the southern island of Mindanao, was practically unknown to the everyday Filipino. 

However, slowly his reputation as a maverick who gets things done effectively triggered the curiosity of voters.  The moment he stepped onstage and became a motormouth of profanity and iconoclasm, having no sense of self-censorship and saying it the way he feels like saying it --- then he has succeeded in feeding the fantasy of Every Juan.  He was talking their language. He was unafraid. And he wanted change. This was his campaign as against what was offered by his opponents that proposed continuity of the past dispensation.

Like the Donald, Duterte won because he knew the people.  His campaign was not designed from some upper floor of a building assuming and presuming what the larger sector of the voting population thinks and feels.  He was right there with the people, smelling their needs --- and therefore addressing them straightforward with his street language that related to their sensibilities and which they equated with authenticity and sincerity. 

Those who voted for Duterte were those terrified by the rampant criminality in the cities --- where men riding in tandem can just snatch your bag or blow your brains out.  These are the everyday city folks who spend more than an hour lining up to ride the trains to work --- only to find out that they conk out halfway through the journey. These are the commuters who spend three to four hours in traffic every day on their way to work and then back home.

These are Filipinos who couldn't give a hoot about how great the Establishment has propped up our GNP or the impressive performance of our stock market or how many more condominium buildings and malls are mushrooming all over the metropolis.  They are stuck in traffic, they are miserable and they are not seeing any other prospect than still going abroad to be an OFW to provide a better life for their children.

They voted for change. And even if Duterte insulted everyone from Obama to the Pope, all was forgiven ... if not ignored and not taken seriously. 

The same goes for Trump: his pronouncements that shocked the world because of rather apparent shades of racism and outright sexism did not work against him.  An analyst said he was like Teflon: nothing stuck to him. His message of change as against Hillary's insistence on continuity (not to mention all the allegations hurled against her) related more to the people than the same-same promises that the Establishment offered.

But, of course, unlike Trump, Duterte had decades of experience running Davao.  And, as he himself said, he is but a molecule to the power bestowed to those tiny hands of the U.S. President Elect.  

As to what Duterte did after he was elected is not the subject of my rumination. 

As a student of communication I am more fascinated by the way messages are shaped, shared and unfurled --- and how people react to them with either faith or condemnation.

Now there are those who so easily condemn those who voted for Trump for bringing America to the brink of chaos.

It is the same allegation that some hurl at the 16M Filipinos who voted for Duterte, calling them uninformed, lacking discernment, devoid of judgment ... and yes, even stupid.

No, they are not uninformed. Nor do they lack discernment or ill of judgment. And they are certainly not stupid.  They are just like you and I --- and if we deem their lack of education and discernment to be the reason for their choices, then we have also betrayed whatever morsel of knowledge that has been given to us.  We have become  prejudiced and judgmental because what we simply we cannot understand, we belittle and condemn.

It is we who are stupid for not knowing them well enough to know what they need ... and the power they can wield. The ignored have been underestimated.  And in a democracy his vote has the same value as yours or mine.  Guess what, O Great sophisticated BGC-romping gentleman?  They outnumber our philosophizing, focus-group, statistics-obsessed ilk.

We analyze the digits. They have the numbers.

It is we who lack the sensitivity to see that the rise of populism is indeed changing the paradigms of the world --- and seemingly shifting to a new order.  We can only react to what is happening by understanding why things came to be --- and what we can do to help better our situation. We can complain all we want and feel it is the victory of the idiots over the intellectuals --- but, hell, that doesn't matter any more. Because they matter --- and we are the idiots for ignoring them...or not even finding out what makes them who they are.

We are watching Trump when he puts his hand on the Bible and sworn in as the next president of the United States.  And we understand why he got there. So we wait.

Whether Superpower or struggling Third World, the template is the same.  Apparently, in politics as in life and death, we are all equal ... and in the same boat.  Here lies a fascinating subject for study in the field of society, politics, the evolution of popular culture and ... yes, connecting with the people.

- Meme by Dennis Garcia