Of the US she wrote, “We’ve… witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”
Amanda Gorman, 22-year-old Black poet laureate, composed and recited a beautiful poem for the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Breathtakingly beautiful images were written in noble language, with many insights and wisdom embedded by one so young. Yes, Americans have a right to be proud of the young talent who wishes to be president one day, proud of such a well-delivered, inspirational poem that will probably be quoted far into the future.
The only trouble is, are the assertions true?
Describing the US as “a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters,” one wonders if she knows about what the US has been doing for decades, engaged in carpet bombings, invasions on false pretexts like in Iraq and possibly Syria, subversions in Venezuela, Libya and Bolivia and heavy interference and coercions over the conduct of other countries’ affairs, including the Philippines. One wonders how she interprets that there are still 75 million voters who still supported Trump enough to riot at the capital, despite the clear election results, the regular murders of blacks, with light or no penalty.
Has she studied US unilateral attacks on other nations when the reasons were not established, e.g., even when European Union member-countries say Iran had substantially complied with their agreement, or shooting missiles just a day before the investigation started on alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons? Yes, Americans did “brave the belly of the beast,” but weren’t they often the beast itself, born by invasion of an entire continent, Native Americans, Mexicans, Hawaiians, and lands beyond? Just as the beast was also a part of them, and perhaps a little of every one of us?
There seems to have been full practice of poetic license when Gorman says with full enthusiasm, that “we seek harm to none and harmony for all,” especially after drone assassinations last year, a coup against elected Evo Morales of Bolivia, hijacking medical supplies even from allies and blocking of payments for medical supplies for Venezuela but insisting US donations to opposition get through.
She recites with uncommon wisdom for one so young, “… even as we grieved, we grew… We know that our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next-generation.” These are insights of one who understands growing from mistakes and contributing to future generations. Hopefully, she and her audience will learn that the catastrophes that may not have “prevailed upon us” were inflicted on dozens of other nations. Yet, the US does have a right to be proud of her, and even to us, the visions in her poetry do inspire.
Hopefully, when Gorman says the US will reconcile and recover, it will be for other countries and the world as well. While her glowing description of the nation can be seen as a false image from the view of many other nations, hopefully it will be a goal for the more enlightened of the leaders in the US to try to achieve.
When she also describes that the building of their nation is “not broken, but just unfinished business,” US citizens and allies should understand that other countries mostly are also in the process of experimenting and adjusting, and everyone deserves to be given leeway, there will be periodic steps backward, and that allowance for differences in approach should be seen as works in progress. It cannot be that only the US and allies have that leeway.
For the US also, we hope that stability will be returned, racial issues will improve, harmonizing will be a goal rather than adversarial and coercive processes. That the US continues to be prosperous should be good for the world, and hopefully this will be achieved in nonmilitary, nonextraterritorial and environmentally sustainable ways.
It was a great vision, an inspiring poem, and while many of the self-descriptions might be illusions, hopefully the painted picture of the US will be a real direction everyone strives for. And one where the US will not insist that only their way can be followed, “OR ELSE!”
Back to the Philippines.
Last week’s visit by Wang Yi is a clear sign that China intends to substantially keep its promises of support for the Philippines, a tradition of mutual help even amid difficulties spanning centuries.
We can benefit only if we do our part and use the assistance productively, instead of the constant criticisms and politicized accusations, frequent misinformation of the opposition. Notice the stark difference in how Rappler, ABS-CBN, Inquirer, et. al, headlined with pictures the US $18-million donation of bombs or even mere “pledges” compared to the much larger enabling grants and assistance from China, showing the bias in our focus and decisions that will keep us always lagging behind others as they race ahead.
In addition to China’s offer to donate 500,000 doses of vaccines, which some of our senators are politicizing, it also extended another 500 million RMB, or P3.7-billion grant (donation) — not a loan — to help in Philippine infrastructure building. And that this is just part of a flow that has been coming in the past years in fulfillment of the over 3 billion RMB pledged by President Xi Jinping, already being used in the construction of new bridges for Manila (more than 50 percent finished), Marawi reconstruction, pandemic recovery assistances and other infrastructure development projects in the hundreds of millions of US dollars already in the pipeline. The latest cooperations see the P45-billion Clark Subic rail, the P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam and the P3.4-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project that will significantly help spread development nationwide.
Why do some of our politicians and supposed think tanks keep asking where the investments and assistance are, yet when the cooperations come, they are demonized and attacked? Even wealthy countries are not begging to give money away. Why listen to befuddled fiction writers who have not built anything? Do not poison the wells from which we all can benefit from. If we don’t want something, it is up to us to ask for something else or not at all.
China is not forcing the Philippines to take its vaccine, the demand for vaccines being so great in the world. While doubts are raised locally about the Chinese vaccine, why are some local news stories not posting the many deaths caused by the other Western vaccines, but posting speculations about the Chinese vaccine? This is not saying that Western vaccines should not be obtained, we understand there are bound to be some negative effects statistically, we Filipinos should do our own studies of the characteristics, risks and effectiveness and overall costs of each.
Our government is considering AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Russia’s Sputnik and India’s Bharat Biotech, on top of China’s Sinovac, which is how it should be and what many countries are doing as well. We think we are being smart by criticizing more, which is different from critical thinking. Instead of improving our capacities with everyone›s help and upgrading in all ways, we are attacking even those who are helping us, and not studying to learn and to produce.
Politicization of everything is destroying the Philippines. Vietnam will acquire Western as well as Russian vaccines but is aiming to even produce its own! Malaysia is obtaining both Chinese vaccines and Pfizer’s. The Chinese vaccine is being purchased in the hundreds of millions of doses by Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, etc… Even China is purchasing foreign vaccines as well, e.g., Shanghai’s Fosun Pharma is buying BioNTech for use in China.
Our main focus should be to examine the options quickly, decide and execute vaccinations.
Our political decision process and lack of management skilled persons in decision-making positions make our decisions very slow. Singapore and other Asean neighbors are already starting their vaccinations, they will recover faster than we will. Is it our characteristic to be slow at most things, except at “ligawan” (romance) and entertainment? Even in that, despite the clear natural talents of Filipinos, we have already lost by far to the South Koreans who are distributing their hits all over the world, and the Chinese are starting to organize their development and distribution of their shows as well.
Time to level up! The pandemic quarantines have been excellent periods to study in-depth and practice many skills already being taught in YouTube and other platforms, collaboration software that are now indispensable, new categories of business are opening up. People who don›t study and implement now should not blame others for obtaining the benefits before we do, likely for another generation.
Mario Ferdinand Pasion is a political analyst, director of economic alliance Phil-Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Strategic Studies, and the chairman of Nat-Fil (Nationalist Filipinos Against Foreign Intervention).
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