The Vote of "Non-Americans"

By in

Let me be (I hope) one of the first Filipino bloggers to congratulate President Barack Obama.

Awhile ago, many of us took notice – and rejoiced – when Barack Obama won the US Presidential elections to be the first African-American to lead the nation.  It was a culmination of an obsession and a fascination of that occasional season where we, non-Americans, delight and revel in an election and a right that isn’t ours.

Sen. Ed Angara, who put geopolitics into play, may have articulated the message best: Barack’s mother was from Hawaii, Sen. John McCain was detained as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, so the vote has a lot to do with Asia.

The “message to the world,” as Ding Gagelonia points out at FV – and with the same appreciation and admiration expressed by Pat Mangubat – brings out something sad… but then again, true.

I’m not anti-American, but I am a non-American.  I do not have the same Constitutional rights given to an American citizen to vote every four years for an American President.  Yet as the world rejoices over the victory of President Obama, I’m a bit more pensive.  As a non-American, what exactly do I have at stake with this milestone in American history?


There’s a certain fascination – sometimes even bordering on epal – on non-Americans like myself to make a big fuss about what the international community has at stake with a US Presidential election.  There have been many questions asked to both Obama and McCain over the course of the 2008 US Elections by us non-Americans: what’s their policy on outsourcing?  How will they improve foreign relations with other countries?  What’s their favorite color?  What’s their stand on reproductive health?  What will they do on their first 100 days in office?

The fact that we are so intertwined and even dependent on the United States is often the justification why we think we have a stake at this election.  Some of us take care of their old and sick, some of us diagnose their Blue Screens of Death and answer queries on “how to turn the Internet on.”  Some of us, in effect, do their jobs.  Or perhaps it’s tit-for-tat: that if the Americans have so much vested interest in whoever our President is, then we should have the same for theirs… perhaps even more.  Or maybe they have a much better elections than we do: while we never get to know who our real leaders are and constantly file impeachment complaints challenging mandates and legitimacy, the Americans get to know their poll results in a matter of hours.

Yet with all that said, the American people voted for an American President to represent their interests as Americans.  Whatever position America may have assumed over the years – a guardian of freedom, the vanguard of democracy, the global police, whatever – puts us non-Americans in the position of outsiders: accidental beneficiaries and consequential casualties to whatever sold the American people into putting their trust and confidence into the person they elect as their leader.

Is it the controlling and hypnotic influence of the media?  Is it global imperialism at work?  Is it our collective frustration at work?  Is it our penchant for intrigue and spectacle?  I do not know exactly, but whatever it is gives us the idea that we have “so much at stake” when in truth, an American President puts American interests first, and our interests are merely consequential.  What’s at stake is whether or not we’ll get the same amount of ambon – the trickle-down effect – that will come now that the US has its first African-American President.

That’s all we will get: ambon. Obama will not do anything for us out of good grace; as the American President, he will represent American interests.  We will get that ambon – perhaps even nothing – and we’ll like it.  The fact that we may claim that we are part of that abstract concept called “US interests” doesn’t mean anything.

We, non-Americans, did not vote for Obama.  We rejoice for Obama, we congratulate Obama, but we have nothing at stake.  This is a time for change – for American change – that will put America first.

As the fracas and the fiesta lights up the streets of Lake Shore Drive and the Magnificent Mile to celebrate the triumph of democracy here, our streets are remarkably silent.  Normal, even.  Few mourned the death of democracy in the Philippines when a certain phone call robbed us of a million votes.  Few wailed and screamed and demanded justice when someone robbed our farmers of fertilizer, coming here clutching his chest and perishing in an air conditioned hospital room.

Some of us do not exercise our democratic right to resistance, preferring instead to just let this all happen while we make our “vested interests” in a guy who, black or white, red or blue, is the 44th President of the United States of America: not the United States of Not-America.

7 comments on “The Vote of "Non-Americans"”

  1. Reply

    My mom and I were just talking about this on the phone earlier. I told her about how absorbed some Filipinos were in this year’s American presidential elections, and how they even had opinions about who should win – based on whose win would be more advantageous to Filipinos. You know, with so many Pinoy nurses and the issue of outsourcing and stuff, and even immigration issues. Like, some say Obama would be more open to immigrants, especially to those petitioned by their families… I sorta doubt that, because I feel that immigration laws will pretty much remain the same. Especially since Obama is all for the idea of giving more jobs to Americans, well, immigrants would only be more competition for American citizens if that’s the case. 😐

    I told her, “Duh, whoever wins would choose to do whatever would be best for Americans. Why do Filipinos care so much when they’re just like pawns in this weird game of chess that Americans play?”

    Why can’t Pinoys just mind their own politics first? 😡 Why can’t they do something about their own country? It’s now a time for change for America… Why can’t it also be a time of change for the Philippines? Why don’t we just start doing something significant instead of sitting on our asses, debating about which American presidential candidate should win? -_-

    Honestly though, I feel torn between my loyalties to the Philippines and to the US, being a natural-born American citizen of Filipino descent. T_T Like, sometimes I feel I should sympathize with the plight of struggling Pinoys, especially since I’m a Nursing grad and practically everyone I went to college with is trying to get a job abroad (with the US as their target). But then again, I can’t help but think like an American… Like, if I do something, how will this help me as an American, or how will I affect America as an individual? 😐 If I vote, will the people I vote for be beneficial to America, and to me, in the future?

    Aish, it’s complicated. T_T

    But I really thought your entry was very interesting. 😀 It mirrors my thoughts, except you’re much more eloquent… Haha. XD

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    • Noralyn
    • November 9, 2008

    Whew. Well, I agree with Justine and of course, with you. I am not really interested with the US election until I had a post-simulation exam and the essay question was “In your opinion, what is the impact of the winning of Barack Obama to the US-Fil relation?”. A part of my answer was pretty much the same as Justine. And some part of it focused on the anti-terrorism activity in the Philippines that is in danger of not winning any support now. I’m not so sure about it.

    Some US companies are investing in outsourcing business in the Philippines and I’ve heard it from the news before that if Obama will win as the US president, then the call centers will be definitely pull out of the Philippines. This would mean a series of lay-off and unemployement to Pinoy agents. I was once a part of a call center company, and my friends are still there. If this would happen in order to provide job to Americans, then we would cry. But we have to accept the fact that many Americans would prefer talking to native Americans and not to those who’s trying to be an American.

    In addition, since Obama is not pro-war, then our administration will more likely receive “ambon” or worst no support at all from the US government. The administration is actually begging for military support from US, being an influential and powerful country, to declare martial law, to fight against MNLF, to receive financial aids, etc. but based on the unpopularity of GMA, we cannot tell if she would reveive any. Obama is for Americans and not for non-Americans.

    I am a non-american. I am a Filipino. And I think, if Obama is championing “change”, we should have done it first before him. We need “change” in our country, in our political system and in our way of thinking. Filipinos should vest interest to the Philippines and not to a country that had always been treating us as tail.

    • stasi
    • November 9, 2008

    I never expected that Obama was much celebrated over there even though he planned to place heavy tax on outsourcing.

    You nailed it with two slangs: “epal” (same as watching big brother) and “ambon” (a false sense of safety blanket).

    It was indeed a milestone if you read Time’s 1968 edition. But as Non-Americans, we failed to stay true to ourselves and ask “what for?”

    It would’ve been better to focus on Garci, the pending investigations and the many scams that we swept under the rug because it’s not newsworthy anymore.

    I’m stopping here—the retrospection annoys me.

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  5. Reply

    I am running for President of the United States in 2012. Being the President of the US is often called “Leader of the Free World.” I think everybody in the free world should be allowed to vote for the leader of the free world, not just Americans.

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