The Cosmetics and the Acid Test

Gaza child 2011

Written: January 5, 2009

On my return home last October from abroad where I attended an international conference and spent the whole month of Ramadan, my wife and I were treated by a longtime friend and brother-in-faith at a favorite Thai restaurant somewhere in Makati City.

No sooner that Tom Yam Goong was served than my former classmate started a casual tête-à-tête, “You know, I regularly monitor the US presidential race. I would hardly miss watching Obama’s speeches and interviews. I also read news reports of his election campaigns and debates. I like his ideas. With him, I hope for a change for the better. I really like to see him campaigning along with his ­hijab-wearing sister.”

“How about you, do you also monitor him?” he asked me. “I don’t have much time for it!” I replied. “As a student of International Relations, do you think this attitude of yours is good?” he asked again. “Of course, I read news reports and analyses of the presidential race, but I do not expect any fundamental change even if Obama wins the election—and I think he’ll make it,” I clarified.

When he asked me why I said so, I stressed that winning presidential election in the United States involves a lot of money. No one could take a seat in the White House without the blessing of financial groups and institutions. So, the person of the US president is not a decisive factor for global change, and no change in the US foreign policy in the Middle East, for example, can be expected.

As my family proceeded to Mindanao—to Cotabato City, to be specific—I noticed that the same positive expectation from Obama was expressed in local radio programs in Maguindanaon vernacular. A radio host and commentator was even daydreaming that Barack is a Muslim!

It was with such atmosphere of optimism for Obama that a lady ambassador of “goodwill and humanitarianism” paid a visit to evacuees and internally displaced people in Maguindanao and promised them so-and-so million US dollar amount of aid for rehabilitation, without them knowing that the superpower state Her Excellency represents is responsible for the ignominy that is Guantanamo Bay, the havoc that is Afghanistan, the quagmire that is Iraq, and perhaps, the terror that is 9/11.

Last December 28, while sipping a cup of tea with chamomile in the early morning, I heard over the radio that Tel Aviv began massive aerial and naval strikes in Gaza Strip. The ground invasion also commenced last Saturday (January 3). As of press time, at least 531 Palestinians have been killed and over 2,600 others are wounded. And the death toll is rising.

As usual, all attempts at the UN Security Council—the latest of which was yesterday—to call for immediate ceasefire have been vetoed by the United States. Where and how is Obama, the expected catalyst of global change? Still a silent spectator. Anytime now, expect him to express a word of support for the onslaught. Make no mistake about it—the least thing that can be expected from him is a word of condemnation or even a veneer of neutrality.

To put a brief marginalia to this episode, Obama is mere cosmetics while Gaza is the acid test.

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