The American Dream

I write this column as I watch the third and final debate between United States President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney. They are debating on American foreign policy. It is interesting to see both men defending their positions on different world issues, from Israel to Iran, Syria and Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan, China and the European Union. It is the third and final debate before Americans vote on November 6.

The second debate, done in town-hall style last week, was also engaging. The format allowed ordinary, undecided (on whom to vote for) Americans to pose their own questions to the candidates. A college student asked how both men could assure him of gainful employment upon his graduation. Another member of the audience asked about tax rates for the rich and for the middle class. Yet another inquired what the future holds for immigrants – legal or otherwise. The questions were at the same time personal and far-reaching. There were tense moments between the two candidates especially when one attributed something to the other, to which the other did not agree.

But I am not writing about the debates per se. Let the experts do that. I was moved to write, instead, about my envy of American voters, who are presented with legitimate arguments for them to make sound decisions.

Candidate A stands for this and is opposed to this. Candidate B does not like this but is pushing for this. There have real positions on real issues—health care, jobs, tax rates, China. Take your pick.

Of course, personalities matter. One is a middle-class African American while another is a former hotshot businessman. Still, they are not elected into office by their mere personality. They don’t articulate motherhood statements that make everybody feel good only to say they would work out the details later.

Debates are sober events where matters of consequence are discussed in earnest. Contrary opinion is not shot down but welcomed. Sure, there are verbal tussles, but nothing crass. Neither works to personally take down the other. Candidates, in their knowledge of the issues, do not alienate the voters but make them relate to the big words being discussed.

These candidates respect the people who put them into office.

This, to me, is a dream for us Filipinos. Next year is an election year and already we have seen how the filing of the certificates of candidacy has become a circus. The Commission on Elections has to take time off its already tight schedule to weed out bogus organizations that make a mockery of the good intentions of the party-list system. Imagine appointing yourself leader of a group of guards when you are not even a guard yourself!

Who are the people who vie for our votes? They are household names, all right, because we have become so accustomed to voting for the candidate whose last name is familiar to us. We immediately conclude that since they (or their families) have been at it for years—generations even—they know better. No wonder it has led to a culture of entitlement among families in power. What was it they said?—it’s not a dynasty but a history of public service. Or, horrors, it’s destiny!

Sobriety is not an election buzz word around these parts. Campaign season means colorful posters and song-and-dance numbers (must be difficult to learn that Korean dance step). Yes, epal-watchers notwithstanding. Candidates take us voters for fools.

Then again, whose fault is it? We keep voting for them anyway. It seems funny thus when we complain how our politicians act in ways unbecoming of their office.

In the end, the problem is that not every voter is motivated by a desire to be circumspect. Many times, out of necessity, minds are made up with the help of a bag of groceries, a few words of sympathy or a familiar face from the tv or movie screen. Sometimes, we just put the name that’s most convenient. Why do you think many party-list organizations begin with A?

This will take generations to correct. Sigh.


Three significant historical events are marking their 70th anniversary this year: Araw ng Kagitingan, Heroism in Bataan and Valor in Corregidor. In this regard, the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, Inc. together with the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, will recognize selected war veterans for their gallantry in action and exceptional courage in combat, among others. Ten living honorees and another ten posthumous awardees will be cited in ceremonies at 5:30 this afternoon, October 24, at the AFP Theater, Camp Aguinaldo.

PVAO will also launch commemorative stamps during the occasion. A concert featuring Broadway and classical music called “A Grand Night for Singing: A Tribute to the Filipino Veteran” will follow.

Inquiries may be directed to Jet Fajardo-Rivera, PVAO Public Affairs Officer, at 912-4526 or 0922-8850637.