I hadn’t planned to be on email late Wednesday evening last week. I had some work I needed to finish before Thursday. Just as I was logging off my email, an email popped in from a friend of mine in the US. I read it eagerly with a smile, but the tone I read was one of frustration mashed with condescension. I marked it unread, and dismissed the tone and said I would read it later. I thought maybe I was overreacting.
I opened the email again and read it, I asked myself what it was he was responding to. I looked at the last email I sent.
“How are you feeling after the elections? I am so relieved, to be honest, and pray things do get better in the US – may the real healing begin.”
Then I signed off my email as I always do. This was sent 4 days after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election. When I wrapped up that email with this sentence, I genuinely didn’t know what to say. Politics like religion is a conversation I tread on lightly especially when I am not so sure about how absorbed a person is in it. And genuinely, like an African election, I knew this US election would hit a raw nerve whatever side someone was on. So I was basically trying to tread lightly.
My friend’s email response started like this:
“…You better start paying more attention to the news…”
After reading that numerous times, I started to ask myself why I was feeling extremely insulted by his response. I get it, I hit a raw nerve. Whether I read the tone wrong, maybe he was being playful or not, implying ignorance angered me.
The US election even if I didn’t watch, read or listen to the news was every damn place you looked all over social media, people discussed in WhatsApp groups, in memes, and forwards of articles. Implying ignorance, was rude, cold and uncalled for, especially since he knows me. This was a friend, not some random person. That was hurtful.
Secondly, I am African, what America is going through right now is something most of us on this continent go through every damn election cycle. We get the politics of fear and intimidation, we get the discrediting of media and watering down of institutions. In Kenya, we call that the BBI. We know exactly how important an election is and how high the stakes are. In Africa, it is literally life and death, I kid you not, because politics on this continent is politics of fear and a constant zero-sum game.
Third, Americans are going through this for the first time in recent history. Africans are used to psychotic, despotic and greedy leadership. It’s something we abhor and try to fight, but unlike the US, you still have strong institutions. Your judiciary is alive and kicking into action to shut the ridiculous and unbacked claims in courts. You have mainstream media which has been calling out the incumbents lies from day one- relentlessly. You have some legislators still choosing what’s right to fight the seed of autocracy sown by the outgoing President.
Yes, the world is holding its breath wondering how things will turn out. I am actually curious to see what will happen on 20 January 2021 at noon? Will there be decorum or will the alarms go off in the White House announcing a belligerent intruder and have him wrestled to the ground and whisked out of the building like an African opposition politician in parliament?
What America is going through for some may be joy, for me is an extreme concern. Because for so long it has served as the High School Principal whacking Nations on the knuckles for not doing the right thing. Watching it implode and the world now left to its devices with rising right-wing movements and militia, it looks like globally we are regressing.
For Africa which has long looked to the Global North for direction on the ideas and ethos of a democratic system. A system I might add was forced upon us and ruined our organic nation-building and robbed us of our history, resources, and almost all our humanity in the process among other things. This system is still in the throngs of constant conflict between Western ideologies of nation-making and disrupted the African nation making fused with neo-colonial practices. Let’s just say it’s an ugly shit storm I genuinely have no idea how we will get out of.
As much as the US worries me, right now, Kenya worries me more. We have a political class that is on the road to demolishing the weak institutions we already have. Institutions that just got a new foundation barely 10 years ago with the new constitution which is now on the verge of obliteration. We have politicians inciting people to conflict and a healthcare system literally hyperventilating and thanks to the pandemic are about to flatline. Our government is a glutton for debt which is plundered and then we are taxed to death for loans which never serve its purpose. This situation is an Economic Hitman’s wet dream!
You know what, this is just making me even angrier. I am too tired of living as a victim of bad systems and I will try my best to pick up and fix the piece of Kenya I can. So just because I simply ask how an American friend is feeling isn’t ignorance. It’s empathy. Because as you can see, America isn’t the only country in the world right now with a laundry list of problems to deal with!