author: rafael queypo | contributor
I have a friend – an American from North Carolina – who confided in me that, until recently, he had been planning on voting for Donald Trump.
He explained, at length, the reason: in light of Trump’s oft-criticized comments (the whole “grab them by the pussy” fiasco he’s been in hot water for), he said that something had clicked. What he told me was this: what would it show to the world if, after all that America now knows about this unscrupulous, upstart billionaire, they still decided to vote Trump in? To vote in this sexist, racist pig? What would that show to America’s allies? Its opponents?
I’ve thought long and hard about the question he posed that night: what does it mean to elect whom they will? I watched the last debate unfold, with this in mind, I watched both of them make fools of themselves, prattling too long about the pointless, prattling too little about the deathly important.
But, what qualifies as “deathly important?” Your mileage may vary, but take me: I hail, proudly, from the Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient. I will not be one of the millions deciding the fate of the United States; but, as a citizen of a country that counts its longstanding, historic alliance with America as one of its strengths, I feel at least some obligation to watch how they decide to enact their foreign policy.
Counts… I should have said counted. I learned more than a week ago now that our president had decided to distance the Philippines from their staunchest ally: instead aligning himself and the country with China and Russia.
In case I wasn’t clear enough about the “historic” and “longstanding” parts before, let me make this unambiguous now: this is a shift of tremendous proportions; it is a blow, an insult to American prestige, to the projection of power America so triumphantly touts over the world.
Allow me to introduce you to the man behind the decision: Rodrigo Duterte. The outspoken, foul-mouthed President of my country, the man at the helm of a protracted and brutal war on drugs that is sweeping the Philippines from top to bottom – and who has, in no uncertain terms, called Barack Obama a “son of a bitch,” among other choice insults.
The man, frankly, bewilders the West. To them, he comes off as an arrogant, callous man whose willingness to go above the law to crush his enemies goes too far; that his separation from the US is a ridiculous kneejerk to Obama rightfully criticizing the human rights violations that have come with his bloody campaign.
To me, and to many of my countrymen, Duterte represents change. A faith, however misplaced, in a man against the world, against the establishment that has long abused a country that only wanted change – change they could see. I feel this is something the West unfortunately fails to understand from its ivory towers.
Of course I have my misgivings. Separating from America is one of them; human rights violations are another, but I see where he comes from.
I see what he sees: Obama, once again, stretching America’s hand in arrogance, poking his nose where America has little right. He sees America’s many failures in the Middle East: the power vacuum they left that allowed ISIS to rise; the nuclear deal with Iran that did nothing but embolden them; their vacuous stance on Syria and Assad, all while Russia took a hands-on approach when America would not.
That was when everything clicked for me. I realized then, that this is what your vote means, America.
A vote for Trump might be a vote for a racist, a sexist, and so many other things. But a vote for Clinton tells me this: it tells me, America, that you are willing to continue Obama’s tradition of foreign embarrassment, of decisions so weak-kneed and indecisive that Russia, Iran and China will push around what used to be the greatest country in the world, of decisions so pathetic that your staunchest and most loyal allies turn from you and shout woe, woe to Babylon the great.
I am of what may be the contrarian and yet sad opinion that Trump will manage to screw up less. Make no mistake: Trump is by no means America’s best shot. But I hope no one is deluding themselves that Clinton is, in any sense of the word, better.