Saturday, February 26, 2011

Being white is inconvenient

Being white is inconvenient.  Not always, but often enough.  In Africa, sometimes I'm treated differently than my black associates and friends.  Because I'm white, it turns out; just that and nothing more.  OK, that's really awkward.

Walking along the beach with a friend from the Embassy staff, I heard myself say that sometimes I wished I was black.  My friend laughed uproariously and when he could breathe again, said sometimes he wished he was white.  At issue though isn't any sympathy or compassion on my part; it's just that I get treated differently by some folks, maybe because they aren't familiar with being themselves around a white guy, perhaps?  Or leftover deference from earlier days maybe?

When I arrive in a neighborhood to visit with friends, I'm spotted all too quickly as the outsider.  While I love the folks I meet, I'd rather be a friend than a curiosity.  With their families, I'd rather be a thoughtful neighbor than just a resource.  I have to work really hard to understand their lives and culture and circumstance; being white is often an obstacle in the process.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I hope we're all paying attention; these are the days on which the century turns.

Wedeman reports from an undisclosed locatan in Eastern Libya
Ten days is it now that Libya has been in meltdown? 

Diplomats resign and air force officers defect as Gaddaffi government resorts to shooting and bombing to crush uprising. 

This morning, CNN arrives in Banghazi to overwhelming welcome by ecstatic crowds of thousands! (The commentator likens his welcome to that which the U.S. troops received when they arrived in Paris at the end of WWII.)

"When they saw us arrive, they just exploded with cheers and clapping, people saying 'thank you, thank you' in English."
--Ben Wedeman, CNN senior international correspondent

Despite concerns for the impact on world-wide economic and political issues, I find myself thrilled (actually sparkling on the inside) at the prospect of freedom and deliverance for so many millions in the area!  :)

Egypt's death toll now reported as more than 500.  Libya's dead in the hundreds.  Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, and more to come?  Must we die to have justice and freedom for our children?

26 Feb: CNN reports Libya's death toll tops 1000; Gadafi predicts escalation in his violent response to protest.  Frightening potential. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Personal Freedom; not everybody wants it!

Out to play Saturday morning at sunrise, home before dark.
Revolution and Freedom
   Children and dogs run free in some of the places I visit.  It makes you long for childhood again.  Kids are safe, loved, watched over by the adults who shape their world.  Adults make the rules, make the schedule, supply the things that are needed as best they can.  And who watches over the adults?  Communities do, I suppose, and government watches over it all.

Now we arrive at the question of personal freedom.  There are many cultures that want to be closer to the childlike life where they are watched over and cared for.  Then there are countries like my own that are pretty emphatic about government 'of the people', etc.  We presume that our version of freedom is universally desired, but the truth is otherwise.  Many have come and been overwhelmed by the number of choices and decisions required to make it through any given day in  America.  They've been stunned, overloaded, and gone back where they started where rules and choices are more narrowly shaped. 

I'd prefer a safer, more stable and predictable world perhaps, but until mercy and justice reign, I'll stick with democracy and government by the people.  As a form of government, it sucks; it's just better than the alternatives.

Freedom, then, isn't a universal value, as a friend pointed out the other day.  But fairness, justice, mercy, compassion; such things call to us so insistently.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Africa's February, Egypt's Turmoil, Opportunities everywhere to lend a hand.

"We need these people in our lives as much as they need us.  It's a symbiosis."  

It took me a few years to understand that those in sub-Saharan Africa whom I had come to love gave me so much more than I could ever give them.  It's a shattering realization, but sorely needed.

From the far side of the African continent, friends in Egypt report on the revolution when they can.  Internet from Alexandria is intermittent.  Folks there are frightened; men go out at night to help the army protect the communities.  Food is scarce, money is gone.  Many have died, many more injured.  The streets aren't safe.  Journalists have been beaten, cameras smashed.  Suspicion leads repeatedly to government misconduct.  Christian and Muslim protesters unite against the corrupt practices of the government and police.  Today was the big day, but we can't communicate at the moment.  Troubling.

Ah, Saturday morning's news tells of tens of thousands allowed to enter Liberation Square, peaceful demonstrations, protection by the army, ....
ها! وقد نجا مصر يوم آخر ، وربما لبضعة آلاف من بعد سنوات أخرى.