DONALD TRUMP plumbed new depths of jingoism, fear-mongering and recklessness with his recent statement branding the Philippines as a “terrorist nation” along with the likes of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Uzbekistan—countries, he said, whose citizens intending to immigrate to the United States should be barred because they could potentially be recruited into “Islamist terror groups.”
If this were any other time, Trump’s latest outrageous statement would have been met with the hooting it deserved, just like his discredited claims that US President Barack Obama was not born in America, and that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated at news of planes slamming into the World Trade Center on 9/11. The billionaire businessman-cum-reality TV star has made a career out of such headline-grabbing remarks for years; lumping the Philippines with broken states such as Iraq, Somalia, or Iraq as a terrorist haven would have been merely another showcase of his abysmal ignorance of world affairs, if not his own duplicity: In Manila, after all, is a skyscraper that proudly bears his name, which means this businessman has, at the very least, no scruples dealing with and making hay in a so-called terrorist nation.
Unfortunately, Trump is no longer just the late-night talk show punchline that he once was. He is the Republican Party’s official candidate for president of the United States. Let that sink in for a moment: The proud party of Lincoln has nominated for the world’s most powerful position a man whose statements over the years have shown troubling extremes of misogyny, xenophobia, racism, prejudice, narcissism, hair-trigger impulses, and a brazen penchant for lying. The New York Times and the Washington Post, America’s two most influential newspapers, have taken the unprecedented step of issuing editorials this early in the US presidential campaign warning about Trump’s unfitness for the job, and the consequences of having him in the White House with his finger on the nuclear button. He “represents a threat to the Constitution… a unique and present danger,” said the Post.
Trump’s broadside against the Philippines and his threat to bar Filipino immigrants on the nebulous charge that the country has been “compromised by terrorism” cannot be taken lightly. Once upon a time, when he was courting Filipinos and their hard-earned money to buy into the Trump Tower that occupies premium space in Manila, he said, “I’ve always loved the Philippines. I think it is just a special place and Manila is one of Asia’s most spectacular cities.” But this time—in aid of his anti-immigrant platform that has seen him also promising to build a wall between Mexico and America and implementing a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”—he has chosen to attack a country which, because of historic and longstanding ties, has bent over backward to allow US servicemen on its soil in pursuit of terrorists and other entities that America deems adversaries in its open-ended “war on terror.”
According to a 2010 survey, some 3.4 million Filipinos, or Americans of Filipino descent, comprise the second-largest self-reported Asian ancestry group (after Chinese-Americans) in the US population. Would those Filipino-Americans who lean Republican and have embraced Trump now realize the folly of hitching their wagon to an unstable candidate whose misinformed, intolerant policies on immigration and world affairs threaten their security and wellbeing? This candidate also threatens the security and wellbeing of their home country and fellow immigrants, documented or not, whose remittances make up the bulk of the $25 billion sent yearly to their families in the Philippines.
Filipino-Americans have contributed significantly to American life, culture and society—from Silicon Valley stalwart Dado Banatao to US Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who authored the report delving into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse; from White House doctor Connie Mariano to labor pioneer Larry Itliong; from acclaimed writers Carlos Bulosan and Jessica Hagedorn et al. to leading theater artists Jose Llana and Ralph Peña.
Now is an urgent time for Filipino-Americans, a famously fractious lot, to unite and collectively add their voice to the many across the United States and the global community who refuse to accept Trump’s hateful, bone-headed rhetoric. Stay silent, and they may very well help elect this dangerous man into office.