Lessons from America
President Donald Trump has used his last remaining days in office to glibly incite his followers to sedition, wounding the soul of America so deeply in just the third time, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and after the 9/11 attack in 2001. This third one is most devastating, because perpetrated by the highest official of the land, the attack directed at the US Capitol while Congress was in the solemn process of certifying the results of the last presidential election. A woman protester was shot and killed, police officers were injured, offices were ransacked, windows were broken. It was a self-inflicted wound; Trump partisans desecrated the temple of American democracy. Viewed from various vantage points around the world, nothing has been so bizarre except in make-believe republics.
After the Capitol stunt, Americans now realize Trump is like a ticking time bomb, every day and every hour posing a real threat to their national security. When the Biden-Harris leadership takes over, supported by a Democrat-controlled Congress, the United States will have begun to recover from the appalling catastrophe of the presidency of Donald Trump.
It is not as if Trump has not been giving ample warning. From the time he became a candidate, he has continuously mobilized and massaged his supporters into becoming human missiles locked onto his bidding. Another four years of Trump would have run the United States deeper into the ground, aggravating and unleashing demons from America’s past that have been under tenuous control, but far from eradicated. The white supremacist disease in America is never too far from the surface.
Trump has led so many more Americans (365,000, or one in five deaths worldwide) to slaughter due to COVID-19 misinformation than did the Reverend Jim Jones, who led 909 of his followers (304 of them children) in a mass murder-suicide ritual in Guyana in 1978.
For one who has lived through the Cold War and experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, I find it difficult to imagine the way Vladimir Putin has backpedaled democratic reforms in Russia and resumed his KGB career-inspired lifelong vengeance against the United States by tampering with its 2016 electoral process through cyberwarfare. Where did all that vaunted American intelligence and military capability go, supposedly reinvigorated by the 9/11 attack? How could the United States have been so vulnerable to state-inspired and -provisioned Russian email hackers as to take out Hillary Clinton and prop up Trump for the presidency in 2016?
How America will recover from this Trump catastrophe and close the gaps is a lesson we all need to watch and learn. This is all vicarious musing for Filipinos. When a Filipino looks at events at America, he is actually anxious about how the Duterte era will end in the Philippines. There are so many parallelisms; now we see how China is apparently slowly propping up Sara Duterte as the next reincarnation of Rodrigo Duterte. Facebook has time and again taken down hordes of fake accounts tied to China and Philippine state forces that were spreading misinformation on politics and on critics of the Duterte administration. The political splash these fake accounts create is then magnified by force multipliers in local social media. Survey outfits chime in with reports that Sara Duterte is the leading presidential candidate. These are all arguably attempts to condition the minds of Filipinos that there is a second wind to Rodrigo Duterte’s regime.
In the most recent brouhaha, President Duterte volunteered the information that his Presidential Security Group had already been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm in violation of the law. As protestation and indignation rose in the media and in the Senate, Mr. Duterte went on his typical offensive style, threatening the Senate against investigating such a violation of the law. As for the military, which was poised to investigate the smuggling and illegal use of COVID-19 vaccines by a unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it abandoned the plan when it saw Mr. Duterte’s vehement reaction.
This is where America and the Philippines may differ—in their ability to recover from their political nightmares. Philippine society has become desensitized to impunity in flouting the law. Will there be sufficient critical thinking and patriotism among the elite and in the various democratic institutions in the Philippines in the dying days of the Duterte regime, to allow the country to recover like the United States?