A Letter from Africa

A small portrait of the translator

April 17, 2008 @ 19:11 UTC

Written by


Countries:
Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa
Candidates:
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain
Issues:
Breaking News, Diaspora, Economy & Trade, Human Rights, Labor & Immigration, International Relations, Globalization, Government & Politics, War & Conflict, Religion
 

We begin with a letter to the United States from the South African expatriate the
Angry African, who could basically be writing the theme song for Voices without Votes:

I know. Many of you will tell me, as you have, that this election has nothing to do with us foreigners. That it is all about America. The American choice. The American future. And you are (mostly) right. This is your choice. This is about the American future. This is about America.

But it does have something to do with us Johnny Foreigners. We do have a stake in this. Why? Because most level-headed people in this world still look to America for direction. We still look up to America. We look for guidance. We look to America for leadership in this crazy little sphere of ours. A beacon we can follow. A little light in the dark world of wars, hunger, poverty and injustice.

(For musicians wishing to put this to music, please send your samples to Voices Without Votes editor Amira Al Hussaini.)

The Angry African continues, in what eventually turns into an endorsement for Barack Obama:

…We need an America where freedom reigns. Where the government doesn’t tap into phones. Where people can say what they want and when they want. I never liked it, but always understood that people can say what they want in America. I come from South Africa. And we have a history. A history that reeks of racism and hate. And here in America you have the KKK. Never got it. Never got why you tolerate that. And then I understood. That your freedom comes at a price. A price of allowing people to say things that you might not like. But that is the price of freedom. And we need that. We need that to show the world what ultimate freedom looks like. The freedom of tolerance and living with differences celebrated. But do you still have that?

…We don’t need you to be perfect. Nobody will ever be perfect. You’ll always have a Texan talking to loudly when visiting our shores. Or an oil company that forgets their responsibility. We know Reagan wasn’t perfect. We know Clinton wasn’t perfect. We know Bush Sr wasn’t perfect. Hell, we know Nixon wasn’t perfect. But we always knew that they were just and they were true to us. Always there for us. Always saw us as their partner - even when we don’t agree. But now? Now we have a world divided. A world that looks to America and doesn’t recognise the one we loved. Because it is an America that tells us there is but one way and that is their way. Not in partnership. But in forceful domination. We need an America that says it wants to be our friend and be part of a greater good - even though we know you don’t really need us. But do you still have that?

We need an America with a vision. A vision of a better world. A vision of a better future. A different future. Different from where we are today. All divided and alone. We need that America that can point us to the path we will walk. Walk hand in hand. Together. Do you still have that?

It’s an excellent piece with a whole host of interesting comments, but we have to move on.

The letters continue, this time from Kafo, a Nigerian living in Houston, Texas, who writes in D Lamentations. The first letter is addressed to Hillary Clinton:

Dear Hillary

I think i need to explain the basic concepts of life to you all over again. I love you and so i will lay it down for you all over again.

Obama supporters are democrats so attacking them is attacking your base. DO YOU THINK YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THAT.

If by some magical wave of my wand you recieve the nomination you will HAVE to appeal to this same group of individuals that let mii us laymen's terms you are DISSING

Your fairy godmother

Kafo

In another letter, Kafo writes to Barack Obama, lambasting him for making his now infamous “bitter” statement at a fund raiser in San Francisco, California:

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Here’s Kafo’s letter:

I knew you were going to slip up
First of all WHAT WERE U DOING IN SAN FRAN
Do i need to tell you that the next primary is in the East NOT THE WEST

Anyway thanks for giving homegirl an edge this is just what she needs
You couldn't keep your ivy league priggy mouth shut for 9 more days
Seriously

I am not too happy with you now

Nonsense

I am whoseying

Let’s stay with Obama’s statement for a little longer. In an interesting post, Akin, a Nigerian living in Amsterdam, claims that Obama’s statement not only holds truths about the state of America, but for Europe as well, especially in the Netherlands, where the politics of immigration fear has made “native” pride quite strong.

Whether it was politically astute for Senator Obama to say that, say it in that way or try to rephrase it in some more digestible language, time will tell, but the is the truth as glaring as you will get it about populist parties and their causes.

The congregation of bitter people who cling to nostalgia, religion, guns, antipathy, anti-immigrant sentiment or some other so-called patriotic or nationalist cause in the name of taking back their country, which in fact, is taking their country back to the Dark Ages of economic stagnation, insularity and protectionism all of which would never yield good dividend in this global village we now inhabit.

Now, we live in a free country with the freedom to assemble for any cause we might be persuaded of, if the “bitter” people need a sort of representation in our political system, they are welcome to proselytise and they would find sympathisers, people who would lurk in the shadows providing substantial but clandestine support – democratic subversion, you might call it.


Orikinla Osinachi
from the Nigerian Times takes U.S. mainstream media, and the left-leaning Huffington Post, to task for allowing campaign coverage to be dominated by what should be considered an irrelevant issue.

There is a big problem with the American news media.

Intellectual illiteracy
is being displayed in the masquerade of sensationalism.
Sensationalism undermines the ethics of professionalism in modern journalism.

There is no justification for the clamor over the remarks of Senator Barack Obama on the working class folks of Pennsylvania. The Huffington Post deliberately adds more fuel in the flames for want of sensational news.

Can we move on to more relevant and significant issues?

Speaking of insignificant issues, a few weeks back researchers began investigating the family trees of the three remaining major-party presidential candidates. Here is a take from Blue Grass Boabobs (from South Africa) on the whole process:

Now, Obama has a very famous lineage it seems. Researchers have already established that he is related to the George W. “Don't mess with Texas” Bush and his father George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry S. Truman, and James Madison. I guess that makes him presidential material. He is also related to Sir Winston Churchill and Civil War General Robert E. Lee.

Hilary Clinton, researchers claim is a distant cousins of Madonna, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, and Camilla Parker-Bowles. It doesn’t seem like there are any famous males in her lineage. Maybe that’s why so many cartoonists find her so “entertaining.” (Clap clap point point.)

Let me guess. By the time the conventions come around Barack Obama will be everyone’s “cousin” and have an even longer presidential lineage and Hilary Clinton, it will be reported that, not to make her feel unpresidential, she is actually married to a former president, Bill “Bluedress” Clinton.

Poor Sen. John McCain. His records are a bit murky. He is only a distant cousin of Laura Bush. Maybe that's why he is crying on Bush's shoulder.

During a very short news cycle that began last week, rumors swirled that presumptive Republican nominee John McCain would choose Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for his running mate for the November election. A Dream Ticket, many analysts claimed. The fire was put out by Rice herself a few delirious days later. It should be remembered, however, that if McCain were to win the presidency, he would be the oldest person to have begun a first time in the White House. Many armchair pundits have claimed this makes his choice for a running mate very important. The candidate has stated his list has been whittled down to a mere 20 names, but he would be making his official announcement sooner rather than later.

Kafo isn’t buying it. Here is the open letter to McCain published in D Lamentation:

Dear MAC

You really can't expect us to believe that you have 20 people on your list of possible VP running mates.

Seriously.

Our last letter comes from Abesha Bunna Bet from Ethiopia. After hearing that groups of Ethiopians living in Pennsylvania are calling other Ethiopian nationals and urging them to vote for Obama, Abesha asks: “As a society are we lacking behind so far that we could easily be manipulated?”

Ethiopians. We are not a bunch of herds that needs direction. We can not be told by any group (Ethiopians or not) who to vote for with out being told why. And the ‘why’ should be answered by our individual research, and not by folks who wish to take advantage of us based on heritage. Just because i speak your language doesn’t give you the right to tell me who to vote for with out you bothering to take the time to explain why.

Even though, i am elated to see my fellow country men participate in the U.S. political system, i am afraid to tell you that what i read on that press release is a very dangerous way of taking part in politics.

It’s not that Abesha doesn’t like Obama, but he would rather see Ethiopians – and everyone else – to cast their vote regarding the issues, not just a candidate's personality.

We are a passionate and smart bunch. Our good days is ahead of us. If we make smart decisions, we would be even more powerful in the political system of this nation.

We can’t achieve a strong voice if we vote uniformly. That would make us susceptible to abuse and we would be taken advantage of. When we say something, it must mean something. If that’s the case, we would be a voice that politicians would seek and want to hear from.

With that said, go and vote. But forget taking part in history by voting for ‘ a black guy’ or ‘a woman’. That doesn’t affect us. Dig into the issues of each candidate.
The issues that matter to us.

Here is a response to the post from gebresadik:

This is a strange commentary. Obama embodies ability, leadership and promise. So if a black man was to vote with his heart, in this case it would be a wonderful thing. Lets indeed be manipulated. Let us indeed coalesce and speak with one voice. This is not simply historic it is power. Remember that most African Americans are only a generation away from being unable to vote. … Lets nbot forget that these were the action of the “First Black President” Bill Clinton. So by all means every black man must be unified to vote for Obama.

…Remember too that all societies in the US vote in their self interest, why should the blacks be asked repeatedly to wait for another time and another leader.

One of the reasons Obama’s San Francisco speech touched off such a cascade of news stories was – in my opinion – that it touched a sensitive nerve in the United States: The debate over economic stagnation felt in middle class and working class families. It’s a debate long heard in Africa, and Michael Trapido, a South African from the Mail & Guardian online blog Traps, claims it is time for all political candidates to start dealing with this issue in very real, concrete terms.

The fact is that tangible structures or proposals for dealing with the ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots have been thin on the ground. While speaking in terms of abstracts may afford hope to the oppressed masses and gain their support, it will not translate into substance nor assist in remedying their plight.
Where are the economic models and proposed measures that will translate rhetoric into substance?

This “great divide” between rich and poor may well become front and centre as the recession starts to bite, and the sooner politicians provide people with a clear idea of how they see the way forward, the better.

This applies to us in South Africa as well.

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  • 3 comments

    1. Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima Says:

      I read all and loved the “Angry African”.
      A good title for a book.

      Cheers and God bless.

    2. Solanasaurus Says:

      A theme song for this website!? We would need many different tunes.

    3. By The Fault » Blog Archive » Bloggers From Around the World Weigh In on the US Election Says:

      […] South Africa Posted in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Politics, US Presidential Election by Charles Lemos RSS 2.0 […]

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