Saturday, July 11, 2009
President Obama delivered a speech in Accra, Ghana, before the Ghanaian Parliament. Partly because of his father's heritage, it is likely that his words resonated with the immediate and broader audience in Africa in a way that no other American president's would -- we may wish that an audience of any race would be attentive to a speaker of any other race, but that is probably not a realistic expectation quite yet in most parts of the world. So, give President Obama credit for taking the opportunity to hold Africans responsible for some of their own problems, and not entirely taking the easy Western academic route of blaming all woes on colonialism and post-colonialism:
"In many places, the hope of my father's generation gave way to cynicism, even despair. Now, it's easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants. In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many."Read or skim the entire speech, and let fly with the comments.
1) Obama's father was a staunch Communist, and Communism has wreaked at least as much havoc in Africa as the capitalist powers have
2) He again ignores the ongoing destruction caused by Muslims in Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Darfur, and anywhere else Muslims in Africa encounter non-believers. To call this "tribalism" obfuscates the imperialist imperative inherent in Islam.
Randian - it sounds to me as though the part of Communism that President Obama's father liked the most was the drinking vodka part. I think he wrapped his car around a tree as a result. But your point is well taken that Soviet-backed forays on the continent did not go well for Africans, Angola being perhaps the best example. With respect to your other point, I would guess that tribalism and tribal conflict in Africa (or elsewhere, for that matter) predates Islam by many centuries, Islamist activities certainly haven't helped -- even when directed at the U.S., as in the 1998 embassy bombings, it kills more locals than Westerners.
So an outsider goes to an African country and reads them a speech off the teleprompter in a language that most of them can't understand.
In the teleprompter's speech, he hints that (gasp!) Africans may be the source of some of their own problems.
So what? Are any of the powerful people in Africa going to look at each other and decide the game's up? The outsider gets back on his plane and flies away. What has changed?
Community organizers tend to overestimate the importance of words -- especially words not backed up by consistent actions.
randian: so you don't like communists and muslims: that'S sweel, but that also doesn't really cut to the heart of africa's problems in the last 50 years. rather, i've got the feeling that you're looking for boogymen. the reason behind failed statehood and economic collapse isn't simply ideology or faith. more often than not in africa it has been dependence, cooruption, and, as a result, bad governance. there was no 'islamic imperialism' in zimbabwe, or congo for example.
I'm pleasantly surprised. I thought Obama was good with the Pope, replying to His Hugeness's dopey talk of "social justice" by emphasizing the importance of personal freedom in creating a good and just society; and I thought he was good in the Ghanaian remarks. Maybe Sarko rubbed off on him. ;-)
Kinuachdrach: "So an outsider goes to an African country and reads them a speech off the teleprompter in a language that most of them can't understand."
Hang on: Ghana was a British colony for a century, and English is its official language today. The one Ghanaian I knew well spoke beautiful English.
"Community organizers tend to overestimate the importance of words -- especially words not backed up by consistent actions."
No disagreement there.
"...it is likely that his [Obama] words resonated with the immediate and broader audience in Africa in a way that no other American president's would"
I heard that Bush words (and financial contributions) resonated quite well in Africa. They just didn't resonate in the US media...
"I heard that Bush words (and financial contributions) resonated quite well in Africa. They just didn't resonate in the US media... "
The hatred of the American left has blinded them to much that is good about America.