The United States is “America” to most people. But that word refers to the continent, and when applied to the US is better spelled with a “k,” as in “swastika”.

It’s the country most Filipinos want to visit. But if you’ve ever been involved in any group or activity faintly progressive; if you have relatives or friends who have been; or you’re from a country the US says harbors “terrorist groups”, it’s tempting fate to go. No matter how vague or past your involvement, it can earn you a strip search, an interrogation session with the FBI or immigration, summary deportation, or even indefinite detention.

Retired Philippine Army general Raymundo Jarque and his wife Xenia found this out last week when they landed in Dallas. Singled out for interrogation, the Jarques, at 67 years old just the right age for terrorists, were also denied food while awaiting deportation, and jailed in their underwear. The charge: possible terrorist links because Jarque was a National Democratic Front consultant in peace talks in the 1990s.

The Jarques went to the US to visit relatives. Like many Filipinos, they’re linked by blood to that country through sons and daughters, cousins and uncles, nieces or nephews who live there.

The US is not a nice place for non-whites and dollar-poor people to visit even in the best of times. You don’t really want to live there–not if you think there’s more to life than McDonald’s, a gas-guzzling car, Mickey Mouse prancing around Disneyland, and indulging one’s earthly appetites at the cost of one’s dignity and self-respect. But I confess: I’ve visited the US several times to see relatives, and even briefly lived there during arguably better times.

In 1978 Jimmy Carter was US president. Carter had inherited the US policy, in place since the Johnson administration, of supporting dictatorships. But the US tolerated opponents of dictatorship within its borders. Many Filipino exiles opposed to the Marcos regime were there in the late 1970s, and they could lobby Congress, publish anti-dictatorship tracts, and hold public discussions without fear.

But while dissenters were tolerated, the US government continued to support Marcos with economic and military aid. The conflict was between the US’ supposed adherence to democratic rights and the demands of its imperial interests. Those interests the architects of its foreign policy sought to defend and advance at all costs, including mass murder.

Since the Reagan presidency the contradiction has been resolved in favor of repression at home and naked aggression abroad. As well as self-determination among nations, the Republican gang of George W. Bush has also savaged due process and other individual rights on the excuse that it’s necessary to defeat “international terrorism”.

If Nixon bombed Vietnam and Cambodia, and George W. Bush Iraq, the Democrats’ Bill Clinton did the same to the Sudan and the former Yugoslavia. It’s in the policies at home, not abroad, where the Republicans and the Democrats differ. At least at home minority and immigrant rights as well as those of visitors were to some extent respected by Democratic administrations.

US immigration treats every visitor from a poor country as a potential overstaying alien whatever party is in power. But nowadays if you’re Asian, or just look different, you’re likely to be regarded as a possible terrorist as well. The worst thing to be is Muslim and/or Arab, which makes Indonesians, Malaysians, some Filipinos, but especially Middle Eastern folk likely victims of racial profiling at US immigration counters.

There are enough horror stories on the treatment of “terrorists” to fill a hefty volume, among other reasons because the US Patriot Act permits the summary deportation or indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without the benefit of lawyers and visits by relatives.

But the scramble to visit and live in the United States continues because the poverty rampant in the US world order (800 million people go to bed hungry daily) drives millions from their countries to look for opportunities abroad– especially in the US.

And yet poverty is no stranger to millions of US residents. Some 37 million are poor, and millions of US children often go hungry. Also an extremely violent place, some 30,000 people are shot dead every year in the US, and 65,000 more injured. School shootings by students have been described as “an epidemic.” Assaults, rapes and armed robberies are common, with one violent crime for every 47 US residents occurring yearly. Two million people are in US prisons, in the construction of which it excels as it does in war and mayhem.

Racism is as common as grass in the US, where everything’s right if you’re white, but everything can be wrong if you’re not. And they start them young. Grade school children blithely hurl such racial epithets as “Nigger”, “Spic”, “Chink” etc. at each other when they quarrel. It’s a habit of thought that stays with them all their lives, whether on the job, in school or on the street– where your being a “Slope” (Asian) or a homosexual can earn you a beating by racist gangs.

“America” isn’t in the heart. It’s in the colonial mind, “Amerika” being the reality. You don’t really want to live there, and visiting it is like visiting Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Except that today you don’t have to be Jewish, just different.

(Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and INQ7, September 30, 2005)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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  1. FOR MORE OF USA modern imperialism, read the following book(at NBS or FullyBooked):
    Confessions of An Economic Hit Man

    “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. I should know; I was an EHM.”

    John Perkins as an economic hit man (EHM), his job was to convince Third World countries to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development—loans that were much larger than needed—and to guarantee that the development projects were contracted to U.S. corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel. Once these countries were saddled with huge debts, the U.S. government and the international aid agencies allied with it were able to control these economies and to ensure that oil and other resources were channeled to serve the interests of building a global empire.

    In his EHM capacity, John traveled all over the world—to Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East—and was either a direct participant in or witness to some of the most dramatic events in modern history, including the Saudi Arabian Money-laundering Affair, the fall of the shah of Iran, the death of Panama’s President Omar Torrijos, the subsequent invasion of Panama, and events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

  2. This article is a gross misrepresentation of America and its attitude towards immigrant or visiting foreign nationals.

    I, an American who lived in the Philippines for a couple of years, could choose to reflect on the Filipinos who would taunt me with their “Hey Joe”s and “puti” references, for there were many. Instead I remember the kind people who helped me learn their language and shared in a great cultural learning experience for each of us.

    It is much the same in America. There are those who will prejudge you and there are those who are both racist and violent, but these people do not represent America. Instead you will find a vast majority of people who would treat you with equality and acceptance. Your heritage is celebrated and valued as an asset to the diversity of our country.

    This is America. It is real. Ask your relatives or friends who have visited or live in this great country, do they see it as America or Amerika?

  3. Apparently the “professor” is nothing more than a hate monger. Perhaps his citizenship application was rejected for some reason like his ties to terrorists? What a country!!! A place where Christians are captured, tortured & killed simply because of their faith. I want to go there!!!

  4. The fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but inh ourselves that we are underlings. Stop blaming the US Teodoro, we are a nation of losers. We have been given many chances and we always squandered it. Stop blaming the US, the world, the UN. the communists. We are done.

  5. No one tell Luis, but I just reported him to the CIA and they are looking for him now! They plan to strip search him many times if he ever tries to enter “Amerika” again. In fact, last I heard, they aren’t going to wait for him to try and enter the country; they are going over there to get him directly. I told them he is a foreigner! Since the “Amerikans” love making people poor, they also are planning to take all his money while they are over there! Ohhhhhh Noooooo! Just joshin’ ya.

  6. A perfect example of “Articulate Ignorance” or Huck Communist rhetoric! We love America!!!

    A 1956 University of the Philippines graduate.

    PS: There were few so ill-informed of the United States of America at UP in those days.

  7. Maybe it has been forgotten that Bush ordered the destabilization of Iraq because of WMD and there was none. The United Nations opposed that strategy, yet Bush moved on. Should not USA be removed among its members? They are the real terrorists, and they are just pretending to be the savior of the world. In a few years time, its empire will crumble, because of its own system, the way the Roman empire did.

  8. Ardythe, it’s easy to look back and make judgements after the fact. How about you? What did you and the “dean” here do to fight world terrorism. Or are you supporters of murderers? Or maybe you don’t care at all, and just enjoy blaming others?

    Teodoro should be ashamed for spreading hate and misinformation about a country. Dean at professor pa mandin, I expected more from you, MAN. I would have understood if you were a mediocre individual like Ardythe. But a UP dean, MAN, I would have fired your ass if I was the UP president.

    Everything you said in your article about America– LIES, LIES and all LIES!!! But then again, you wrote Amerika. I don’t know where this place is. Just a product of your twisted imagination.

  9. A Commie! Definitely a Commie! Communism is a dying era, old man. It’s a new world we live in. Move on or perish!

  10. Sounds like a fiction story to me! But then again you’re an award-winning fiction story writer. You know what? I think you got all wacky up there from making up too much fairy tale stories. I’m looking forward to reading your “I’ve been abducted and molested by a female Alien”. 😉

  11. TheEqualizer: masyado ka yatang agit, ah!Gumamit ka pa ng iba’t ibang alias. Wala namang bastusan ng website ng may website. Kung nasaktan ka–masakit kasi talaga ang katotohanan–maglatag ka ng mga argumentong makapagpapatunay na kasinungalingan ang mga isinulat ng propesor.

    At yaman din lamang na mukhang intresado ka pa rin sa mga usapin dito sa aming bansa, makatutulong kung paminsan-minsan ay magbasa ka ng diyaryo. Masyado ka na yatang nag-eenjoy sa pagiging Kano sa Amerika, napagkakamalan mong maikling kuwento ang mga totoong nangyari at nabalita sa mga pahayagan.

    Kung gusto ng kathang-isip, daan ka sa May seksyon kami para sa mga maiikling kuwento. 😉


    New comment on your post #336 “Visiting “Amerika””
    Author : Pedro (IP: ,
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    New comment on your post #336 “Visiting “Amerika””
    Author : CommonSense (IP: ,
    E-mail : [email protected]

    New comment on your post #336 “Visiting “Amerika””
    Author : CommonSense (IP: ,
    E-mail : [email protected]

  12. Natatawa ako. Hi-hi-hi…

    Obviously the “great professor” is just trying to tickle our funny bones by trying to sound so scholarly about America. For a person who never lives there all his life, he has no right to judge the people and the country if his knowledge is only based on the short term visits and newspaper articles where he culled his expert discourse on the subject matter. The same with foreigners who never set foot in our country and judge us on what they see on TV and read on the papers.

    Crimes, among other things are not the sole domain of America. The whole world is not immune to this. A crime- free society can only exist in the mind of persons who thinks that the idealism that they espouse is the only true answer to the ills of our country. Utopian society does not exist and I suggest that you try visiting countries like Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Cuba and you’ll find out they’re worst than your “Amerika.”

    Racism is everywhere but in America contrary to what you have read in the papers, I never experienced one as compared to when I was in the Philippines wherein it is common for most people to call a person with a dark skin color as “Negro“, “Egot” or “Ita” in a derogatory manner. As long as there are bigots in us, there will always be an issue about racism wherever place you live.

    Comparing America to a Nazi state is another product of his blurred vision and hallucinations. There is no Digos Massacre or a Mendiola Massacre perpetrated by people who both say that they are the protectors of the people nor there is “salvaging” by both the right and left wingers which reminds you of the final solutions of Hitler’s Gestapo and the Japanese’ Kempeitai.

    The experience of General Jarque although it is unfortunate but as a communist consultant he should have expected it in post-911 America wherein they‘re very strict when it comes to security and people entering the country especially if you are a known Communist. It could have been avoided had he refused to go to the land of the Evil Empire, as his comrades would refer to America besides why would he even think of going there in the first place even upon the invitation of a family member?

    In this day and age, every one should always be on guard against global terrorism and freedom should come with responsibility and Mr. Teodoro, what is a little inconvenience of removing one’s shoes at the airport unless you’re a Senator of the Philippines? But that is another story.

    Amerika exists only in your warped mind.

  13. Hmmm…such disturbing comments from ‘Amerikans’. I think this article wasn’t meant to show hate but to ask for change. It’s sad really that when you criticize someone he criticizes back. Life is not a hate game, or is it? Perhaps the notions of democracy, equality and social responsibility are lost once we cross borders…they just exist within nations and left there.

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