Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Speaking of You, USA, and Me.

There has been so much in the media these days regarding racism and hatred, torture and human rights violations. It's a wonder any of us can stomach it. I think though, that our reactions are just as telling.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend in the US when President Obama was first elected. It was such a jubilant time and such a historical event...there was such joy across the world. I remember driving through Zambia and seeing women with Obama chitenges (wrapped skirts) and wondering how on earth Obama became that famous, so quickly.  I felt a sense of sadness though when Obama was elected, not because of anything politically related. I just really felt for him as a man, a dad, a husband. He obviously had a political life before the run for Presidency and knew what it entailed, but I felt like I was watching a nations across the globe, putting him up on a pedestal. And I was acutely aware that people on pedestals soon become targets. I voiced that to my friend and he was reluctant to agree, but now, years later, I think maybe the pedestal isn't as high as it used to be. For some, Obama is a source of infinite derision and should be hit over the head with the pedestal. My heart aches that for those that take office with what seems to be genuine desire to lead well, this is the common road. Before I feel too sorry for him though, I do understand that I'm sure he measured the costs.

I watched a clip from the Jon Stewart show today. I'm more of a Jimmy Fallon, keep it light and lip-synch whenever possible type of fan, but this came across a few close friends FB and so I checked it out. And it really pointed out to me that so often the way we speak of others, often illuminates our own shortcomings. I tend to lump Canada in with the USA in many of these flaws so don't feel I'm picking on our southern big brother with any malice. I think that often we can call these things a North American mindset or a western mindset and be just as guilty. The clip is Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, turning (North) American stereotypes onto Americans. If nothing else, he and Jon Stewart point out that much of what is thought and said about Africa, really isn't rooted in much truth.
I love the last set of photos Trevor shows, it is lovely to see him self-deprecate in the light of what could really be a rough wake up call for American viewers.

On a much more disturbing note, today the CIA Terror Report came out and in light of it's 2600? pages of horrific detail of the torture that detainees sustained in the pursuit of Al Qaeda and the truth of the 9-11 attacks, I am going to be hopeful.  I couldn't muster hope for Obama to remain unscathed in his presidency but I am choosing to be hopeful that this report is a wakeup call to the alarming sound of human rights violations inflicted by the US Government agency. The same US government that decries violations when they serve a purpose. I hope that eyes are opened and are stinging with tears of shame and horror.

Let this be the end of pointing fingers at others. Let this be the end of "us" and "them" and words that build up the falsehood that "we would never..." and "they are animals..." and "who could ever....".
Because we did. We were. And we could again. God forbid, we could again.

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