Congratulations to Jessica Sanchez on her marvelous achievement, beating 69,998 other contestants to reach the final stage at American Idol. One guy topped her in the wild and woolly 132 million vote final contest, and so let's also extend our congratulations to Phillip Phillips.
A lot of Filipinos are upset that Jessica Sanchez did not win American Idol. She was out-polled by a white guy with a guitar. Here's a sampling of some readouts:
- "Phillips is the American, Jessica the Idol" said one.
- The jokesters at ABS-CBN news were chuckling that since Jessica's father is Mexican and her mother is Filipino, why is she on American Idol? And when Pacquiao fights another Mexican, which national anthem will she sing?
- Another Filipino commented that racial diversity in America is a joke, or Jessica would have won.
- "Heartbreaking loss" roared the newspaper headline.
Well, let's parse this a bit, shall we? It is instructional in our cross-cultural dialogue.
First of all, let's deal with points one and two. If the Pacquiao fight were in Las Vegas, as most are, Miss Sanchez would sing the American National Anthem. What stage of denial are you people in?
Miss Sanchez is 50% Filipino by heritage and 50% Mexican by heritage. She is 100% American by nationality.
Now it is odd that Mexicans did not go wild voting for her. But Filipinos did. There are a bazillion Mexicans in the U.S. at last count, or maybe two bazillion if you include the illegals, some of whom may have cell phones, undoubtedly stolen. Filipinos, on the other hand, have been going nutso on Facebook to rally voters, and Ms. Sanchez's pretty face has been all over the place in the Philippines. President Aquino said he was rooting for her to win.
JoeAm, interestingly enough, is 93.75% German, and 100% racially Caucasian, by heritage. He suspects that German President Angela Merkel would not be rooting for him if he were a finalist in anything.
Now Philipp Phillips is . . . ummmm . . . let's see now, no one knows and no one cares. He's white. Some Filipinos appear to believe he cheats or has an advantage because he is not tinted of skin.
That view is reflected in comment number 3 on America not being culturally diverse because Miss Sanchez did not win. Boy, that is one quirky way to look at things. I'm sure glad we have a black President instead of some Abe Lincoln kind of white bright guy.
You know, race is completely irrelevant to anything, right? It is not as if one race is monkeys and another sloths and another zebras. It means our body structure varies because we grew up where there was sun, or there was not, or our butt muscles are well-developed because our ancestors did a lot of running fleeing lions in the grass, or our hair genes have blond in them, like some Samoan Islanders. Race is completely irrelevant to anything at all, except sun tans.
Citizenship or nationality means someone belongs to a different tribe, for security and sustenance. Nothing more or less.
Cultural values differ because different tribes arrived at their existing place through different wars and mountains and religions and other experiences. Communications and values vary a bit, culture to culture. It is a learned thing.
It seems to me this is one of those squirrely moments when a great many Filipinos somehow take second place as a personal insult. Race, nationality and culture get screwed up in a personal ball of twisted values. It is rather an upside down version of pride. Failing to win becomes an insult. Complainers start looking for people to blame. And obviously, America is to blame for Jessica's "heartbreaking failure" by not really being racially accepting of Jessica.
Well, first of all, people who issue anything but praise for Miss Sanchez diminish her achievement. Why would anyone wish to diminish this kid's brilliant achievement? Gripes and excuse-mongering suggest she should feel bad rather than good. It also denies her the growth she has achieved from her entry in the program as an insecure, stiff lounge singer to her winning style at the end, confident, bold, more emotionally attached to the song and audience, and clearly having fun. Why deny her the glory of that accomplishment which she earned through three months of hard work?
“I started thinking about how long the journey was, how far all of us had come — me and Jessica, Hollie and Josh and everybody. It’s insane, man. It’s not as easy as you think.” Phillip Phillips on why, in tears, he could not finish his song after winning. Entertainment Weekly interview.
Yet the sense of Jessica's "failure", her "heartbreaking loss", is palpable in the Philippines.
Never mind that Ms. Sanchez beat out 69,998 other contestants. Never mind that Filipino tastes in music may be different than the mainstream American audience that does the voting. That audience consists of a lot of women . . . a lot of white women . . . who like good looking white guys with guitars who can sing, and who, like Phillip Phillips, have a unique kind of showman charisma. And who, in a particularly sultry song, look right at the camera and invite all those women to spend the night.
That the guy beat Jessica, who had about 300,000 Filipino Americans dialing up their votes like crazy for four hours, is testament to the white guy's popularity.
But many Filipinos would appear to prefer to take the win away from Phillip Phillips. Claim he did not deserve it. Claim there was a rat in the pantry. Jessica should have won. She was cheated. He was white.
Why, they almost sound a lot like Judge Corona on the witness stand.
Trust me, you don't need to weep for Jessica. She won, and she won big time. She'll make more money than all of us, by far. She'll be a superstar because she is that good. She may even visit the Philippines. Or Mexico. Or Europe.
Does Jessica resent Phillip's win?
“I think America made the right choice, not that I don’t think I’m good, but he’s worked hard for it. He’s really, really put his heart and soul into it, and he’s pushed through all the health issues, and he’s done it. He did it.” Jessica Sanchez in an interview with Entertainment Weekly after the competition.
Why no resentment?
Because she thinks like most Americans do. The singers shared the journey together, an intense but friendly competition. Also because she was raised in a competitive culture that in the main respects both winners and "losers". Sportsmanship is big in America. Competition and striving to do your best are big. A loser in a sports contest is a loser in a game. He or she is usually a winner in life.
Phillip Phillips will also be a superstar, of the mode of Bruce Springsteen or Paul Simon or . . . Hell, Phillip Phillips, who is unique, as a white guy with a guitar.
Now as for American racial diversity . . .
Jessica is a model of American racial diversity. Mexican and Filipino heritage. Welcomed to the land of the huddled masses along with her fellow imports from Ireland, England, Spain, France, Portugal, name the African nations, name the Latin American nations, name the Asian nations, India, Russia, Iran, Israel . . . Well, you get my point. NO country is as diversified, racially or tribally, as America. NO country has been as open at accepting immigrants from ANYWHERE. All citizens are 100% American, and almost all subscribe 100% to America's values.
As for rooting for Jessica, no problem. That's great. It's good to have a favorite, whatever the reason. Looks, voice, style, personality, nationality, heritage. Good reasons to pick a favorite. Competition is exciting. Put some money on it next year, really amp up the juices.
If able to vote, I would have voted for Phillip. I like his musical style and electric charisma. But I would have smiled if Jessica had won. And Phillip would have smiled, too, proud of what the young American girl achieved with her really big, really expressive, WORLD-CLASS voice and style.
If I a may be allowed to assume a grandfatherly pose now. . .
I think Filipinos would do well to see themselves as racially blind, secure in their nationality, respectful of all tribes, and culturally broad-minded. They need not judge themselves or their nation a failure because someone they cheered for lost. They should be secure enough to never ever take away a winner's glory. Or the glory deserved by someone who competed well.
For sure, nothing should be taken from Jessica Sanchez, a 16 year-old wonder kid, citizen of the entertainment world. How can an achievement that was so uplifting be heartbreaking? It was a glorious achievement.