Winning hearts and minds

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Some critics of United States global policy say that the US not only supports the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); it also created it (see, for example, www.global research.ca). Although that claim was hooted down as part of his disinformation campaign, Donald Trump said the same thing during the US presidential elections last year, when he said that ISIS is a creation of the Barack Obama administration.

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Trump’s counterrevolution

Donald Trump
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Supposedly founded, in 1776, on the proposition that all men are created equal, it took the United States nearly a hundred years to formally abolish slavery in 1863, and another century to integrate the races. That only in 2016 did a major political party nominate a woman for US president seems somehow apt: the right of American women to vote was recognized only in 1920 through the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, nearly a century and a half after 1776. (Filipino women won the vote in 1937 before the US recognized Philippine independence.)

The myth is that the United States is a beacon for the world and the benchmark against which the health of democracy, liberty, equal opportunity and social, political and economic equality should be measured. But these ideals have proven to be difficult to fully realize in the US despite legal guarantees. African Americans and other people of color still complain of racism in the work place and even in their neighborhoods, where being shot to death or surviving a confrontation with militarized, heavily armed police forces can depend on the color of one’s skin. The glass ceiling still limits the number of women in decision-making positions in government including Congress and the corporations, with the US, this late in the day, still to elect its first woman President.

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Independence, not isolation

Philippine flag by Mike Gonzalez
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The “independent foreign policy” that President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to adopt for the Philippines has for some reason been interpreted as either a policy of isolation or autarky in the sense of non-involvement with the rest of the world and a denial of the interdependence of nations, or as a total break with the United States.

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Two elections

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Elections this November took place in two countries that are geographically far apart, and have practically nothing in common. But the results were in both cases as expected, although due to widely different reasons.

In the case of the national elections — the first in 20 years — in Burma (officially Myanmar; the ruling military junta changed the country’s name in 1989), almost 95 percent of the 1,157 contested seats for the bicameral parliament were won by the main political party backed by the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), with the rest of the seats being won by other junta- friendly parties. One opposition party that contested the elections won 16 seats, another, three.

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Our man in Manila

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HARRY, THE new US Ambassador to the Philippines, and the first African American to hold that post in this country, is surnamed Thomas, as in USS Thomas, the US Army transport ship that arrived in Manila on August 21, 1901, about a month after it sailed from San Francisco. The ship was carrying some 500 teachers from the United States — the first batch of about a thousand tasked with teaching “natives” the English language and establishing the beginnings of the public school system.

As everyone should know who has gone through that system, or even the private one that co-exists with it, from the ship’s name came the American teachers’ label as “Thomasites” and not from that of St. Thomas Aquinas. After all, the US policy of encouraging in its newly acquired (through conquest and at the cost of about a million “native” lives) colony the use of the English language and the creation of a public school system was meant, among others, to undermine the obscurantist system of which the University of Santo Tomas was such a sterling representative. In that system, learning was by rote and infused with Church dogma, the Spanish clergy, despite its antipathy to the “natives,” being the teachers. Thus did Rizal’s Noli me Tangere devote one chapter (The Class in Physics) to exposing how racist, stupid, and anti-learning the system was.

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Dancing in the streets

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It’s called wishful thinking: interpreting events according to how one wants things to turn out, imagining the imminent realization of one’s hopes in the statements of the presumably knowledgeable as well as those with the power to make things happen.

It’s the recourse of the desperate. And these are desperate times indeed, reminiscent of the prelude to the Marcos declaration of martial law in 1972. As the bombings in Mindanao continue — and as the fear- peddlers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police make sure that Filipinos get their message of dread by warning them that the bombings could “spill over” into Manila — more and more Filipinos are being convinced that a declaration of either a state of emergency or martial law is only a matter of time. It’s been in the Arroyo regime list of options to keep itself in power, only the most naïve believing that she and hers will meekly step down in 2010.

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