I have read about what actress Maggie Gyllenhaal said and the reported furor that it stirred. I am not out to crucify her nor praise her for what she says, but I just wanted to say people seem to forget that we live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I am not an American. I am a Filipina living in New York and allowed to stay in this country by virtue of a Permanent Alien Resident Card or what we refer to as a greencard. I come from the Philippines which is deeply divided between its love-hate relationship with Uncle Sam. Personally, I have no gripes about the superpower that America is, but there are a lot of things that Americans do not understand about how the world views them, in the same way that the world often misinterprets or refuses to understand what America is all about.
From a foreigner’s point of view, many will agree with what Maggie Gyllenhaal innocently said — that America is partly responsible for the events of 9/11. In this great country’s pursuit of democracy, it has in many instances, accidentally stepped on the toes of more conservative countries who view our idea of democracy as a threat to their existing ways.
While Americans are well-intentioned, there have been many instances in the past and in the present when there were many sacrifices made by other countries as we tried to promote freedom in other lands. A case in point is Iraq. The United States went there to get rid of Saddam Hussein and the threat he posed to the free world — from the outside, that is all fine and dandy. But for a country torn by internal strife, Saddam Hussein was the strongman who held the country together, keeping the insurgency in check, and while his ways were far from being right, some view the state of Iraq today as far worse than before the Americans came.
Again, it’s a matter of opinion. Even the widespread hatred of America across the seas is something that many Americans cannot understand. This, I believe, is what Ms. Gyllenhaal was speaking to — that it was the duty of America to start asking questions to arrive at the truth. That as a superpower, it was incumbent upon America to bear responsibility where it lay — and to recognize that horrendous as the 9/11 attacks in truth are, there are reasons which bring us back to how America is perceived outside the United States, and how its actuations can invite such a heinous display of disdain from those who do not share its views.
In Manila, I was a witness to countless demonstrations by the so-called “left” who accused the Americans of being imperialist dogs. In the University of the Philippines where freedom of expression is sacred, I saw students organizing for mass actions against the United States. In in those times when people took sides, I stood back and and did not choose to condemn the so called multinational imperialists. To me, the presence of the United States in my country was but a consequence of a third world country trying to make it in the real world. If it wasn’t the US, it would be another more powerful country. My husband has a totally different color politically, but we manage to respect each other’s views, fell in love and actually sleep side by side night after night.
I think we should give Ms. Gyllenhaal credit for saying what she said the way she said it. I just hope she doesn’t get crucified for exercising her freedom of speech in this country which prides itself to be the best democracy on this planet.