Is “Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford,” driving me against Iconoclasts?

A friend, and I do not use this word lightly…but it is important to note that, this friend is someone I have never met physically. Our friendship started on Facebook, and operates mostly on Facebook. I love him, and loathe him as much, sometimes. Which should tell you, he has great relevance to the human race, and the intellectual community; I do not dispense my time and friendship lightly!

But, this friend has repeatedly said [to me] that, if you do not agree with someone’s opinion or politics, especially the opinion of someone in the public, move on and choose another audience. If that person happens to be a news anchor or TV personality, switch channels. If it is a politician, stop listening to him/her. But, do not censor that person or sign petitions to have them removed from public space — TV, radio or political office, because you disagree with them.

I have vehemently opposed his opinion, and his insinuation that I signed petitions to censor anybody I disagree with. For one, I have never signed any petition against him, yet he spews plenty of nonsense, that personally and directly denigrates and hurts others.

I have said that, we cannot remain aloof to bigots, and giving bigotry room to flourish by conveniently switching our channels with a remote! Especially when the person(s) spreading bigotry has capacity to reach and influence a varied public opinion. Or when the views of such a person could be construed as “speaking for and representing the social group to which he/she belongs”. In fact it is not uncommon that, “unpopular” remarks made by a person of a given social group [say black or muslim], become selfishly co-opted by bigots [like the KKK or anti-muslim radicals] for their backlash against the social group [Blacks].

To make my thought process less cryptic, my friend and I have argued over whether people like Don Lemon, who often, spit [for lack of a kinder word] unpopular views against the black community, for which he is seen as representative —because he is black—should be censored from presenting on public television. I have signed a petition or two against Don Lemon, when his comments have come out insensitive toward black lives.

For instance, when a Black high school student in South Carolina was slammed to the floor by a police office called into a classroom to ‘restore order,” Don Demon hesitated to assign blame to the police, implicitly justifying the police officers aggressive reaction by saying,

“I don’t know.”
“It does look disturbing,” said the CNN anchor. “The part that is most disturbing to me is seeing her thrown around. As far as the desk going over, I don’t know if the desk fell over because she didn’t want to get up or if he pushed it over. I don’t know. I think there’s context to everything. I would like to see what happens before and I would like to see what happened afterwards… It does look horrible. It does look like there’s no excuse for what he’s doing to her, but again, we don’t know… This only show a small slice in time of what happened. I’d like to know more before passing judgment.”

While covering the intense street eruption in Ferguson coupled with police/military tear-gas and gunfire following Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Lemon’s remarks that, “Obviously, there’s a smell of marijuana in the air,” were misplaced but not far from stereotypes of African American males as habitual drug users.

After the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Lemon ’cautioned’ black folks to “pull up their pants, finish school, stop using the “N” word, and stop having children out of wedlock.” Again, popular stereotypes thrown at black people, even though they can be attributed to any group or color in America. Moreover, Trayvon Martin, at the time of shooting was not depicted as “wearing saggy pants” or with “children out of wedlock.”

Donald Trump is another person I find repulsive, and have persistent objection to his hate speech, and would readily sign a petition against his 2016 presidential bid. He has unapologetically slurred anyone and any group of people he does not think highly of: called for “ID tag” for all muslims,” “accused Mexico of sending their criminals and rapists to America,’ and “accused China of stealing American jobs and ruining our economy.” And he continues on a spiteful roll, with ever-growing new targets!

I have no apologies for signing petitions, to take their bigotry out of the public realm. My goal is not to silence all their voices, but to ensure they “Do Harm” to others —nor use their power and platform to misinform, slander, hurt or destroy others, taken away from them. Sure, they are entitled to their opinion, just as much as we, who are opposed to them, will respond by expressing our disapproval in the “Courts of Public Opinion.” They can continue spewing their hate in other fora, just not as public personalities, whose livelihoods and existence is made possible by the viewing or listening public.

I do not believe in turning off the TV, switching to another TV channel or remaining silent, whenever I hear bigoted and misinformed commentary on any group of people, by those with powerful voices and platform. I do not believe, my friend suggests, that I should only speak out, when I am personally offended. I strongly believe that I am not an island, but a member of a shared humanity and shared human responsibility.

Here are some quotes to back me up:

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”Dante Alighieri
[Technically, I do not believe there’s a ’special hell,’ except the one each of us creates wherever, whenever!

Another,

“Never underestimate the power of small beginnings. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Chinese philosopher Laozi

This one is attributed to Dalai Lama XIV, ~
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Then,
“Small is beautiful,”
~ title of a collection of essays by British economist  E. F.  Schumacher, one of the very first books gifted to me in junior high, by brilliant mind in my family, who also happened to be an economist.

Or the African proverb ~ “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And of course, my favorite ~ “Karma is a Female Dog!” 

I am a communitarian. I am human and desire nothing but humane treatment and humane living. I cannot shut up in the face of human misery or humiliation.

Nelson Mandela seems to agree with me ~
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other — not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”

So, I have openly cheered on “iconoclasts,” going after symbols of the racist past — statutes, flags or streets or books around the world, notably tearing down apartheid monuments in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth in South Africa; and removing the Confederate flag from state buildings in Columbia, South Carolina and Danville, Virginia in the United States.

The Apartheid Must Fall spring,” galvanized students at South African universities to bring down or deface apartheid statutes and monuments around the country, in an attempt to erase the visible face of apartheid and colonialism from the country’s education system. “Cecil Must Fall,” brought down the statute of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, who was a controversial British colonial politician, businessman and mining investor in Southern Africa. Rhodes advocated for the expansion of the Anglo-Saxon race, claiming that humanity would be better served by having more of “the finest race” —white race—spread around the world. He is used to have used private military power to exterminate black Africans and sanctions aggressive land grabs from black people in Southern Africa.

Statutes of Queen Elizabeth outside the Port Elizabeth City Library, and King George VI at the University of KwaZulu-Natal were spray-painted. At the Boer war museum in Port Elizabeth, a Bronze British soldier was torn down from a horse, while statutes of former South African leaders Paul Krueger and Louis Botha were defaced in Pretoria and Cape Town, respectively.

Here in the United States, we witnessed the “Take It Down Summer,” calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from State capitols in southern States, because of its association with segregation, slavery and racism. The campaign brought down the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina State Capitol in Columbia, and at the Sutherlin Mansion lawn in Danville, Virginia. Big retailers Amazon.com Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc—pulled the confederate flag merchandise from their stores, and from their websites, following eBay, Google Inc, and Sears Holdings Corp.

Opponents of the Confederate Flag view it with as the perpetual legacy of slavery and racism of  Southern states, when the confederate state denied freedom and equal rights to black people. Proponents defend the Confederate Flag as their heritage —a symbol of valor, commitment and courage of those who fought for the confederacy, in the same vein as the United States Flag, and a bastion of “white supremacy”.

Moreover, Dylan Roof, who murdered nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME, a Historical Black Church in Charlotte, South Carolina, posted online pictures posing with the confederate flag, and blamed blacks for “stealing our [white people’s] women”.

Ironically though, state officials and political leaders in South Carolina justified and sold to their public “bring down the flag, as a negative economic cost to their state, not a moral obligation, similar to the abolition of colonialism or slavery, and apartheid in South Africa!

But the most recent controversy on Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford, a campaign to remove Cecil Rhodes statute from Oriel College at the University of Oxford, got me re-thinking my “hail to the iconoclasts”!

Ntokozo Qwabe, a student at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom is spearheading this campaign, challenging Oxford to part with a racist maniac equivalent to Hitler, and save its reputation as an international center of intellectualism that attracts many black students from Africa. Historical Oxford, on the other hand, is opposed to the “moral call” to bring down Rhodes statute, because it would undermine the conservation of history. Attackers of Qwabe have called him a hypocrite, denouncing Rhodes statute, yet he is a recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship for his studies at Oxford. Responding to calls to return the Rhodes scholarship, Qwabe has stated that Rhodes did not own the money, but robbed it from the black African peoples and their lands;

“Rhodes did not have a scholarship. It was never his money. All that he looted must absolutely be returned immediately…I’m no beneficiary of Rhodes. I’m a beneficiary of the resources and labour of my people which Rhodes pillaged and slaved.”

Let me clarify that, I do not condone all kinds of “iconoclasts”; like any human, I choose and pick my battles. I believe in the sanctity of each and everyone’s religious beliefs and practices. I do not support the caricature, defacing, devaluing or attack on religious, spiritual or cultural institutions and symbols — books, flags or statutes. While I do not identify with any organized religion, I am not offended by religious symbols erected in public, as long as they are not seek or applied to directly discomfort or harm me, as a social being.

I have taken exception to bigoted historical statutes, books and flags that hurt and discomfort my social existence, which have served supremacist aims, to oppress, denigrate and exterminate a people. When the call arises to correct historical injustices, such histories deserve to be challenged and most definitely defaced, if the disenfranchised see their continued grandstanding as giving power and credit to the oppressor.

The question becomes, where do we draw the line between “erasing history” and “correcting historical injustices”? Ntokozo Qwabe, argues that Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford campaign does not seek to erase the history of Cecil Rhodes, but wants everyone to know his crimes. Quite interesting!

Similarly, I was taken back when I heard the Quaker Friends Central School, in Central Pennsylvania banned the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because, “Its use of the  <<N word>> made students uncomfortable”. The book will no longer be part of required reading for students of literature at the school because it was not “inclusive”. I am thinking, nor is religion inclusive!

I will come back to these two Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But I must say that, I take exceptions to “revisionism of history”; that’s what makes a “good intellectual,” after all, self-contradiction [smile].

For instance, when in Uganda, government renamed streets and roads, from British names, given during British colonial occupation, to names of heroic Ugandans and Africans, I cheered on. The exercise was less out of spite, but assertion of “a new dawn of African leadership.”

Contrary, I am troubled that the Quakers are engaging in the usual [il]liberal attitude of sweeping under the rug, a troubled history, of white America and America’s racial relations, by denying the younger generation a chance to engage and interrogate in a topic, that discomforts but is very vital to forging in-roads to real social justice and racial harmony, a principle which the Quakers so loudly self-identify.

No doubt the Quakers, were one of the groups that so indefatigably participated in the struggle to free black people from slavery in America, and win their freedoms. But like many “liberal”/progressive movements and groups in America and around the world, their internal structures and programing do not always provide genuinely comfortable spaces for interrogating racism. Their “retreats” for young people which I once attended, present a facade of equality and harmony, but have a “deafening silence” and discomfort to in-group complex dynamics and life experiences. The talk about “racism” is presented as what “others” do, not an in-house concern.

Which reminds me a lot about, growing up in a former British colony. I read and learned plenty of European History, language, culture and geography, presented as the victors, saviors, and gallant fighters and humanitarians, who came to save the “Savages,” “primitives,” “child-like,” “diseased” and “impoverished” Black Africans. The African had no agency, not much history, celebratory, before the coming of “the white man”! About Europe and America, I knew all about the glitter and gold they are, but not the true face of racism, exploitation, extermination of the people who welcomed them into their lands, until I made physical contacts with their lands.

So, perhaps Rhodes Might Not Fall in Oxford, but the historical narration of Cecil Rhodes must be revised in curriculum teaching, campus tour, on the statute and all writings, to include his exploitations, racist land grabs, armed plunder and holding into captivity and servitude nations and peoples of Africa. Perhaps Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, should stay on the Quaker schools reading list, to teach young people about the true face of racism, when the legacy of white America did not consider black people as human or worthy of dignity.

Perhaps, letting these historical bigotry to stand in public are good opportunities for the human race to reflect and pat themselves on the back, “Look how far we’ve made it!” Unless, of course, we have not yet made it, and still stuck in sentiments of supremacy.

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My Uganda 2015

P1070530-001No day goes by for me without thinking of Uganda! I haven’t been back since I left in May 2013 to return to the good ol’ USA. I have fond memories of the joyous time I had, when I took a two years hiatus from “The Home of the Brave,” carrying with me Child of Mine. Truly, Joie de vivre! I made new friends, new adventures, new discoveries, and new lessons learned.

I realized then, that I was born a “Hasher,” something I never caught up on, living my childhood in Uganda! I traveled to the most remote corners of Uganda, as a ‘donor,’ a tourist, a runner, and a community trainer and mobilizer.  Plus, a “DIY Expert,” bringing back those golden days of “Bulungi Bwansi” and “Gwanga Muje,” before the NRM government and international [in]humanitarians messed up the country with “brown envelopes/handouts culture”.

Nowadays, Ugandans wait for Mzungu — white people— to come from Europe, North America, Japan or South America [Yes, in Uganda even South Americans and Japanese are “white”] to run their common sense errands. Like, plucking their jiggers, building pit latrines for them, teach them how to rear chickens or raise their kids, even if the “trusted white saviors” have never seen jiggers or a pit latrine, themselves, do not have or have never raised children or chickens! Did I say, there are white people teaching Ugandans, “The importance of hand washing after using the toilet” or “the Right to Play”? Yes, somebody, sadly ‘retired’ common sense, among a large section of Ugandans.

Still, I had an amazing experience re-living Uganda. I re-learned some ’truths’ I had taken for granted, growing up in Uganda. Since returning to my “Wild West,” I have not been able to re-live My Uganda, except bits and pieces of recaptured memories, here and there, meeting Uganda connections, or hanging out with Uganda-like social circles. Very limited!

Of course I am not romanticizing My Uganda, whichwas not without challenges and frustrations: the hustle and bustle of Kampala City can get to you, the disfunction of the public service, the excessive abuse of power by the arms of government — especially the Executive – the President’s State House, under the Executive Branch, and the police —under the Judiciary.

The President and the Police literally hold the entire country and its citizenry at ransom. The President allocates himself unfettered powers to spend the tax payers money at will. Not on provision of public and social services, but to reward political patronage, and bribe anyone who dares to oppose his “long hand” dipping in the National Treasury – including the Legislature. The Police, commanded by a military general, works not for the maintenance of national law and order, but to safeguard the interests of the President. Instead, the Uganda Police Force is embroiled in abrogating the expectations in a multi-party dispensation, and the constitutionally stipulated mandate!

Perhaps that explains why I no longer habitually keep myself abreast with news from Uganda via the national dailies. Decades ago, after changing my habitual residence from Uganda, I regularly read the national dailies online to catch up on news about Uganda. I participated in national debates, by submitting electronic letters to the Editor, or posting commentary on online news. Not anymore; too much sad news in the papers! One can sponge up so much pain and agony in their lives!

No wonder, a quick “Google” or “Bing” search about Uganda is flooded with negativity: anti-homosexuality; police brutality against opposition politicians, opposition sympathizers and civil society activists. This news travels as far as Nigeria, from where a friend recently sent me a news piece on Uganda – about the controversial “undressing of a woman under police arrest, on the streets of Kampala City,” in broad daylight!

Then and now, Uganda is positively broadcast internationally: among CNN top 16 tourist destination; the World Linguistic Agency best English-speaking country in Africa; the Lancet Global health Journal top five health diets, and many more.

For the most part, I source most of my news about Uganda via social media – Facebook, twitter, blogs, and via personal friends who keep me posted on exciting happenings in-country. Of course, I am spreading My Uganda, in my global orbit, whenever I have a chance — via cyber communication, within Child of Mine’s social circles, personal encounters and

As I close off the year, take a look at what captivated My Uganda 2015

  1. Wakaliwood, the brainchild of Isaac Nabwana, a self-taught film director, and owner of Ramon Film Productions, located in Wakaliga [from which it derives its name], one of the rough-tough slums of Kampala City. I learned about Nabwana, dubbed “Quentin Tarantino” when he was featured on a BBC World Service Radio, and later on CNN Inside Africa, for using locally improvised equipment, material and skills in his movies. While Ramon Film Productions is not an official member of UgaWood, its products and the ingenuity of its founder are a force to reckon with, that put the shine on Uganda, and definitely caught my fancy!

  2. Uganda Freestyle Kayaking team came to me via my Facebook feed, as participants in the 2015 ICF World Freestyle Kayak Championships in Ottawa, Canada in September. After numerous failed attempts, the Canadian Visa Consular ran out of excuses for denying them visas, and allowed them travel to the country. Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of their British Manager and a supportive community in Canada, through fundraising and numerous visa letter petitions to the Canadian Visa Consular in Nairobi. They had great reception in Canada from the local Ottawa community. Hopefully, next time, the organizers will reach out to Ugandans in Ottawa.

  3. Queen of Katwe, starring the instantaneously world magnetic Lupita Nyong’o, is a biographical drama movie produced by Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala),  about the real life of Phiona Mutesi, Uganda girl from Katwe slums in Kampala City, a Chess prodigy, who becomes an international Chess Master candidate after performing at the World Chess Olympiad. It is a real-life story about rags to world fame, that could inspire any girl growing up in the hard-knock slums anywhere!

  4. Kampala Fashion Week, is growing like a storm, year after year, with amazing fashion designers, new models, new creativity and just a new, juicy, illuminating fashion, defining Kampala, and bringing joie de vivre and creativity that I know about my peoples. I was awed by pretty much all the runway fashion, particularly Jose Hendo’s collection “Resonance,” a revival of barkcloth an original Ugandan clothing material from the inner bark of a Mutuba tree (Ficus natalensis), worn before western-designs infiltrated the country, and destroyed the local garment industry.  Add to that, the photo genius of Giulio Molfese, top fashion photographer in the country with a golden eye to bring camera pictures to life.

  5. GirlGeekKampala made international news, as a hub for Ugandan women passionate about establishing their footprint “Geeking-Out” in a male dominated info-tech industry.  The host incubator is Outbox, Kampala’s “Silicon Valley,” thanks to partial funding from Google. Also check out AfriGal Tech, a team of four Ugandan women software engineers building Mdex, a SickleCells app, and Hive Colab, the first collaborative Tech Hub in Uganda.

  6. Yoza, the equivalent of Uber for Dirty Laundry, falls in the same league with tech-ingenuity coming out of Uganda. Yoza [“Wash” in English], is a locally developed app to find laundry services providers around Kampala, from the comfort of your home. Now one can nurse a longer hangover on Saturday, without the worry of laundry!

  7. The Gay Community, deserves a special ululation here, for its continued unapologetic mainstreaming of its presence, in a society still highly bigoted toward gays. Uganda society generally views homosexuality as an immoral, abnormality, and a threat to “children” and “the ‘normative’ institution of heterosexual marriage”. But the landmark court ruling in 2014, which overturn the Anti-Homosexual Act (AHA), 2013, boosted the gay community with renewed confidence.
    Highlights of the Uganda LGBTI community is the annual Gay Pride, and this year, the first SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) Gala and Equality Awards held in December to recognize its supporters and allies. Thanks to its indefatigable and unabashed LGBTIs, like Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera [who in my opinion was more deserving of the Glamor Woman of the Year Award than Caitlyn Jenner], an internationally recognized Ugandan gay, feminist and founder of the first gay NGO, Freedom and Roam Uganda. Kasha has bolded stated that while LGBTIs were until very recently a total taboos in Uganda, she never had to come out, because she was never in the closet. She has always lived openly gay, even in high school, where she got expelled from numerous schools, for her attraction and intimate fraternity with the same sex. Kasha was one of the petitioners for repeal of AHA, 2013.

  8. @ImSoUGANDA a revolutionary twitter account invented by Ugandans, on a mission to positively branding of their country. Using #Ondaba, Ugandans share their “SoUgandan Moment,” while on adventure or tourism in-country. T-shirts with #ondaba are often worn by Ugandans traveling abroad, and pictures shared.

  9. #UgandaInSpain, is closely related to #Ondaba, an effort by a small group of Ugandan, perhaps inspired to reverse the backlash against #SpainIsNotUganda, a hashtag from the pronouncements of Spanish Prime Minister demeaning their country. This group of Uganda tourism, sports and media personalities, took Uganda to Spain in 2015, to promote “sports tourism,” made connections with Spanish politicians, and world renown Spanish Soccer League players, and successfully lured them and their supporters to add Uganda to their tourist destinations in 2015 and beyond. #SoUganda!

  10. Uganda wins CECAFA 2015, on Saturday, December 5 when Uganda Cranes, the national soccer team, beat Rwanda 1-0, taking home their 14th Confederation of East and Central African Football Association— title. An exhilarating moment, especially after that heartbreaking failed attempt to quality for the 2014 Confederation of African Football Cup last year, after losing to 2-0 to Guinea.

  11. Running and Physical Fitness continue to blossom in-country, with more people taking seriously healthier lifestyles, safety-first approach or social exercising. Fundraising and fun running has caught on following the success of MTN Marathon Kampala, with a growing number of annual marathon/half-marathon/10K or 5K runs, in Kampala such as Hope Ward Run to raise money for the International Hospital Kampala, the Rotary Cancer Run to raise money for the Cancer Ward at Nsambya Hospital, and the Kids of Africa Run, toward support for a Swiss African Children’s Village. Running and fitness clubs are growing, notably Kampala Hash House Harriers, an internationally inspired Drinking Club with Running Problems, whose laid-back, no membership style, non-social stratification attracts any Kampala. Don’t be fooled, because these Drinkers run are also serious international marathoners. Fitclique Africa is the first ever women-only gym in Uganda, founded by Mildred Apenyo, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow Gym; Fitness 4 Life-Uganda, a gym that that offers military-style group workouts and drills in Kampala, amazingly sliming waistlines and ‘magically’ disappearing potbellies of many among Kampala’s drinking and eating spendthrifts. Triathlons and Duathlons are also catching up, as well as biking, mountain climbing, adventure parks and many more!

  12. Pope Francis visited Uganda in November 2015, shortly after his US trip, exciting into ‘penitence’ even the bitterest enemies into lovers! His presence in country, miraculously induced a handshake between arch political rivals President Museveni, and his stingy rival Kizza Besigye! Turns out, “It was Politics, STUPID!” But the biggest accolades went to the Ugandan public, notably Media CEO and public personality, Robert Kabushenga, who led a successful fundraising drive toward support for the renovation of Uganda Martyrs Shrines in Namugongo, where the Pope was schedule to visit and conduct mass. In true Ugandan spirit of “Bulungi Bwansi,” the drive attracted Ugandans of different religions, in-country and in the Diaspora, and raised a total of UGX1.3billion [USD 384,618], through sale of rosaries, those sacrilegious Catholic prayer beads, and a Charity Walk.

  13. Etofali Lya Buganda, which preceded Kabushenga’s Pope Fundraiser, started as an initiative to raise money for the completion of Bulange Plaza. Building on its success, popularity and public commitment among in-country and the Uganda Diaspora, Etofali extended its mandate to include other projects of Buganda Kingdom continued on various building projects of Buganda government. It caused lot of excitement, pride and prestige for Buganda!
  14. Makerere University improved its international prestige and rankings, ascending 22 places from 891st in 2014, to 869th position, according to the Center for World University Rankings 2015, based on the quality of education and training of students, prestige of faculty and quality of research. Talking about Makerere University, I wouldn’t be doing myself justice, if I did not give a shout-out to my favorite academic and best scholarly mentor of all time, Makerere University Professor J. Oloka-Onyango, who was finally rightly honored to deliver his inaugural [ironically close to his retirement] lecture. No doubt, he has served the world renown institution with the highest prestige, dedication and distinguished honor and integrity!

  15. And if you just wanna catch up with all things inspirational, mind boggling, challenging, or gossipy about Uganda, I recommend “scare-a-hero,” a blog by Simon Kaheru, a self-described “Professional Communicator”. Simon is an indefatigable activist for all things, deeds, thoughts, products, taught, learned Ugandan. He is a PR machine, an entrepreneur, and employer, and an innovator. He is a much sought-after “go-to-person,” and brains behind a lot of Uganda branding breakthroughs, including #UgandaInSpain, #Ondaba, #IamSoUganda. He’s truly #SoUganda No! I am not getting paid for this PR plug; I wish 😃

Ok, I will it at this. Feel free to add to the list….and let’s see what 2016 brings in My Uganda……hopefully ….really hopefully geographical proximity!
Meaningfully Yours,

Weareallafricans

Santa Bebe Came Into Town!

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Yesterday was Christmas 2015. In our household, that means, first and foremost, “Santa Comes into Town,” per Child of Mine aka COM.
Yes, He still believes in Santa, I let him play along, or he is he making me play along! I am beginning to wonder, who is fooling who?
Oh well!

As well, Christmas is a day my family, who believe that, Jesus Christ is born and comes to bless their loves. So, I honor them with the privilege of being with them in spirit. I grew up in a Christian household, and we got gifted on Christmas with new clothes, shoes, and feasted on all sorts of special foods and treats on this day!

For 2015, we spent Christmas Day at the Lakshmi Cow and Animal Sanctuary in Bangor, Pennsylvania, a 30-minute ride from where we live. We signed up to volunteer to feed the animals, and share a meatless potluck lunch. We also volunteered to carry a dish/es with us. Everybody we hung out with, we were meeting for the first time. But we did not feel like strangers.

In fact, from the time at the Animal Sanctuary, I learned two things:

  1. I am a small god; my conscious and soul is that which makes me.
    I had never thought of myself as a “small god”; I call myself “a human,” and that’s the way I live my life. I believe in the notion of communitarianism, human living, I believe in Karma, in horoscopes, zodiac signs. I believe that we are the pioneers of our own lives.

Still, I will embrace my new-found realization that, “I am a small god,” because I believe our conscious guides our every action or inaction, thoughts or pronouncements. Our conscious cannot let us rest happily, whenever we are not representing ourselves or our social relations as we should.

  1. If I refuse to smile, I refuse to see positive about myself, and deny to live the beauty of life. I get myself stuck in negativity, stress, depression and agony. [Well, I knew that, but I guess I simply refuse to practice it. That was my mantra in 2013 —time has taken its toll on me. Challenge 2016

Well, I learned a couple of more things

  1. Just because you are Hindu Indians does not mean you are not scared of cows. Quite like the common stereo type that, “Africans live in perfect harmony, with no fear of animals or bugs, because, “They are Africans, duh!” I was shocked on seeing our Hindu lunch-mates running away from cows, while COM and I got into their face, up and close, feeding and patting them!
  2. Cows eat rice, they eat watermelon, they eat carrots, they eat bananas. Cows eat the same foods at humans. They eat cookies as well! Oh! Do not feed cows, by throwing food on the ground or in the dung; it is dirty and will get them sick!
  3. When a cow grows old or dies, do not ask, if it is slaughtered for food. It is buried or cremated. I had to bite my tongue, and not talk about those yummy beef cows in Uganda, that also give us Mulokoni [soup from cow hooves], hide for mats, and accessories, horns for decoration and accessories too, and lots of milk.
  4. By the way, cows farms exercise preferential treatment of their cows! Those who specialize in beef or milk cows do not keep newborn calves, but pass them onto other farms happy to take care of them.
  5. Turns out, I do not have to schlep myself all the way to an Ashram in India for a mom-free retreat, when there is one in my neighborhood, called Aisha Vidya Gurukulam! They’ve got classes for kids, as well, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month. Me thinks, at my convenience! I might have to check that out.

I am re-living the fact that:

  1. Children bring blessings. Plenty of COM’s Christmas gifts this year were courtesy of my BFF, and golden Aunty Jude. And thanks to Cyber Monday, if at all there was any difference in price! Yes, I contributed, but I cannot thank my BFF enough for her kindest generosity; she always comes through! Living proof, you don’t need religion to do good, if you have a human heart!
  2.  Surprises are always welcome and greatly appreciated! Child procrastinated on writing his “Dear Santa List,”Christmas and thought he was not getting any gifts. Then Christmas morning he climbs upstairs, face to face with a living room full of gifts! He loved all his gifts, so he said, when I asked him. No special preferences!
    He was animated about plenty of the gifts, “No! No way! It’s a Wii U control [from his Dad]…Now I can play with Cole!”
    “Minecraft Legos! We can build together, mommy,” immediately co-opting me.
    But then he saw The Guitar, “This is all I ever wanted!”
  3. Live Life freely, wildly and be earthy! Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. In fact, take your child to venture out with you. If it is to feed animals on a rural farm on Christmas Day, go for it. Meatless potlucks, partake, and bring a dish! Hang out with retirees, like you are one of them; there will always be commonalities — running, gym, health eating, and vegetarianism. Experience is the best teacher!
  4. Always prepared to be flexible. Allow another person to dictate your schedule, sometime. Done with the Christmas Day, I planned to pat myself on the back and pop my collar for my “Santa Hat-trick,” settle down, sip my ginger tea, and read 109 pages of #JanetHalley’s Genealogy of #FamilyLaw.

Child of Mine had other plans, to drag me into building a Minecraft Lego City. I went in kicking and screaming, but in fact enjoyed becoming a “Minecraft Lego City Builder,” earned a “Stamp of Approval,” and very much enjoyed learning to lego- and Minecraft-away! Learning never stops!

I guess my biggest challenge is gonna be, returning to myself. Saying no to all the luring things that are not good to this body. It is gonna take 20 lbs under, to measure success — I literally need to tuck away that much! Yes, I am sick and tired of seeing this face, and have to drop it. I cannot give up on myself! Never!

And throughout all my experiences, I reconnected with the value of keeping positive, and letting positivity surround you. Yet, I still heartily believe that it is ok to share one’s sorrow and sadness, as a phase in life, a true testament of the human spirit and beacon of hope and optimism that things will always get better!

This is to hoping that everybody, near and far, had a fabulous Christmas Day. Let us continue to give, let us continue to love, and be loved. Celebrate!

I am sad, but I am happy —Year-Long Musings

I am sad, but I’m happy IMG_2412
I am lost, but I’m found
I am soft, but I’m a hard shell
I stumble, but I don’t fall
This is my Year-Long Musings!

Another year, another 365 days going down. Plenty of soul-searching, reviews, pondering, and hope. What else would I have, if I did not have home?

I am feeling a little funky lately.
I have not been driving for a while. But I am back to driving.
I have also not drove the Mercedes August. But now it is back, and all mine. Well, hopefully!
The first day I got back to driving it last week, it brought me a little sadness. To the pile of sadness I have.

The Mercedes represents grandpa. It reminds me of grandpa. It replays the entire memory of the life I knew of him, especially this year.
It reminds me of witnessing the pain and agony of his life, straight up, in the same house.
I had never been in the same space, up-close, with a person so sick.
Yet feeling inadequate to help. Often feeling, it is not your place to show great care and concern.
Not sure whether I would be construed as “overstepping the boundaries” or “crossing the line.”

But I wonder, how could somebody ail so much! Yet not get well to enjoy life after that gruesome pain?
How could one go down too fast? It seemed it all came and went down too fast!
How could one hurt so much, yet remain strong for others, for those he loved?
He surely kept on taking care of those he loved — his wife, his children, his in-laws and his grandchildren.

I particularly recall him seated in the living room, groaning with so much pain in the abdomen. Especially, whenever he tried to get up.
He loved driving, to the mosque, to the store, to take school kids to school, to take his wife to work in the morning or to take his family on long trips.
But getting up to go drive, was the climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Throughout the ailment, he drove on other family trips: to Detroit and back to PA, down to Atlanta and back, to Toronto and back.
I recall so vividly his last long drive, a 500 miles roundtrip PA-MD-PA, while trying to contain excruciating pain.
He avoided eating, and barely drank, the entire trip. He did not want to have to get up and go to bathroom; it was too much hardship.
Yet, he stayed steady on the wheel, without a single incident. He did not knock off the steering wheel, and only took very brief rest stops

So, with such display of stamina and resilience, how could he not live through his ailment to full recovery? I still wonder!
Because, his strength did not burn out.
He often woke up in the wee hours of the morning, drove wifey to the NYC bus terminal in our PA-hood.
He drove two girls from their Muslim community to and from their school bus.
Because their mother, worked early and long hours, and left and returned home before and after school bus hours.
I watched how he splashed his grandkids and children in-law, with love and adoration.
But he is gone. It is three months later!

But that is not the central feature of my sadness. Though, it struck me as well.
I am sad, as the year draws to a close. Reflecting on what has transpired.
How much gained, how much lost. Of course, plenty gained —especially in the weight department!
I see me in my “new mother suit” again. And that makes me sad, and induce me to create more sadness.
It has to go, I cannot keep it around in 2016.
Can’t support it no more! Big is not always desirable.
But I will take big pockets, and big bank accounts!

Big, I will embrace, to rise again. Big dreams, to become big reality.
Big smile, big achievements. Big social networks. Big alliances
Yeah, I will even take a bigger contribution to the carbon footprint, then settle back into my “tree-hugger-ness”
I want to fly by, be big, celebrate big and sleep big.

I’ll take all that will keep me happy, I need big happiness of mind, body and soul.
I need the positive energies that come along with big feelings and big achievements.
I need my big confidence to rise and shine through again.

I miss my big old-self!
Santa baby, I want my big happy self back
I want a sing a new song
That, I am happy more than sad
I am not sad, but I am happy!

Non-Religious Celebration of Christmas

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I never thought I would willingly and consciously arrange for Child of Mine to celebrate Christmas at my own volition. Not since I quit organized religion umpteen years ago! But, that is before I became a parent.

Before I realized that parenting is a totally new era in one’s life; of undoing one’s beliefs and comfort zone. Before I realized that parenting is not about you!

This year, I am gonna let Child of Mine experience a Christmas celebration, as part of my parenting.

On one hand, parenting is scripted. There are tons of books for new parents – the indisputable What to Expect series, starts When You’re Expecting…going all the way into the Second Year. It is so influential, that it was ‘canonized’ into a movie released in 2012, starring Cameron Diaz.

The alternative new parenting scripts include lessons that mothers of the Expectant mother/parents eagerly share, either unsolicited or unwelcome. Plus, Old Wives Tales, passed on through generations to expectant mothers and the new parents. Not to forget that, if the expectant parent(s) was/were born around little children — siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews, or friends children, The Parenting Script is available through first-hand observation.

Parenting, we tend to think, is easy peezy, right? Plenty of resources —reading all the books, listening to ‘experts’ advice and watching other parents! You swear to an entire Parenting Script of NEVERS!

- You vow never to repeat the ‘mistakes’ other parents commit against their children. 
- You will not allow an unruly child in your household. 
- You will not bend your rules to accommodate your child’s needs or demands. 
- You will not introduce your child to any systems of socialization that you do not adhere to, including religion, entertainment, schooling or relationships. 
- You will not babysit a five-year old child!

And many more!

Until one day, you actually become a parent! And wonder, whatever happened to your self-avowed script, the script passed down unto you by parents before you, the script you wrote when you were expecting, and the script you re-wrote as a new parent. Some among us even wrote our own What to Expect: The Birth Plan.

We also had our post-birth parenting scripted in our heads, laid out well-tested rules and regulations to maintain order, transmit culture and ‘good moral character’ into all children in our household.  Then, one wonder why you are making so many compromises to accommodate your child’s comfort over yours!

But none of the tolerable comforts include intimacy with organized religion or becoming indolent.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not have any problem with the religious. In fact, my best friend – RIP was religious. She is one of the very few people I know, beside my mom, and my mom’s father, that practiced the humanity of religion. She was more human than religious. She was never judgmental, yet she subscribe to the new religious revivalism. The pentecostals, baptists, and the whole nine yard, who scare you and ostracize you, that if you do not convert to JC, you will go to hell fire. Or that Allah is the only true path to afterlife, and there is “Judgement Day”, when everybody is gonna be judged according to their religious practices.

See, I come from a family of multiple religious beliefs. My mother’s father came from a Catholic family, but converted to Protestantism, growing up with a Protestant family. He went on to become a Reverend, serving the Protestant Church. Two of my sisters are married to Muslims; one of my sister’s ex is Catholic; my paternal family has plenty of other religions that I can only relate to old school protestantism and veganism. So, religious pluralism was never an option for me, nor religious tolerance a luxury; it was the humane way of life.

Religiosity is rife in Uganda, where I come from. There is a prevailing expectation that everyone is religious, and anyone who says s/he is not religious —that is— does not subscribe to any of the Judeo-Chiristain or Islamic religions—is often frown upon. Yet, there is a laissez-faire approach to religious tolerance.

It is not uncommon to hear the Catholic church bells toll at the top of the hour, or the Muslim call for prayer every morning and evening. Yet, the loud noise from these places of worship has not caused a societal revolt, but taken for granted as part of social living. To some, like my mother, the morning call for prayer from the neighborhood mosque has served as her wake-up alarm clock, since I was a child. Similar to the morning cock crow in the villages.

But in America and other western societies that count themselves as “civilized,” such loud ‘noise’ cannot be tolerate, as part of social living! Or perhaps there is selective tolerance of noise in different parts. For instance where I live, the church bells doth toll, yet it is unfathomable to imagine a tolerance of the Muslim Call for Prayer!

Exposure is fundamental to nurturing tolerance of others. My siblings and I attended Catholic schools, even though we were raised Protestant. We went along with the Catholic rituals at school—going to mass, reciting the rosary, observing lent period, and anything catholicism required of us.IMG_3347

None of us grew larger or smaller because of practicing a religion outside our beliefs, None of us felt indoctrinated and coopted, because outside school, we were still Protestant and went to Protestant Church. Plus, to reiterate, I have catholic family, whom I love regardless of their religion, and who I do not have the luxury of discriminating against.

Coming to America changed my relationship with religion. I ran away from religion, as soon as it started confusing me. I had never imagined that one can be religious, yet pray and support dropping bombs on others.

I don’t understand religion that welcomes strangers, yet excludes those who do not profess the same religion. I do not understand a religion, that also preaches love, then practices hate and prejudice. I do not understand a religion, where “sisterhood” is built on the notion of religious belief, not family connection or our common humanity!

Although I must say that I have been embraced by some religious communities — among the Mormons, Mennonites and Catholics—whose religious convictions is informed by a sense of community and a shared humans. I have felt very comfortable among them, never felt judged, ostracized or evangelized to, but welcomed and supported as a human being.

Coupled with my upbringing, I have remained open to embrace the religious, and allow my child get a glimpse into the various religions. We participate in religious festivities with family and friends.

But, I am not about to push him into any form of religious indoctrination. I realized that his family was not willing to incorporate him into their religious festivities because of his non-religious status, and stopped trying to get him introduced to their beliefs. On the contrary, my family takes a laissez-faire approach to him or myself, recognizing that we are more than our religious proclamations!

Still, religion is not too far from Child’s mind; he is learning about various religion from school teachers. Forget about separation of church and state, in public schools! We are talking about PA, not in NYC, where a school principal recently banned Santa, The Pledge of Allegiance, replaced Thanksgiving with “Harvest Festival,” and Christmas Celebration with “Winter Celebration!

Recently, curiosity caught the best of my Child,

COM: "Mommy, what is my religion?"
Me: "You don't have a religion."
COM: "Why don't I have a religion?"
Me: "Because I do not have a religion."
COM: "Can you check my DNA and find out what my religion is?"
Me: "So, I can know your religion from your DNA?"
COM: "Yes."
Me: "Child, you are clearly a Pennsylvanian."
COM: "Noooo! I want to be Ugandan."
Me: "Ok, you are that, too!"
[Thinking to self: Oh! It gets worse...Religiosity gets worse in Uganda!"]
😶😶

Still, we will not be subscribing to any organized religious gathering or denomination soon! But, we will accept any invitations for celebration. What better time than now in December, when we welcome Santa and his the elves, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, al bearing gifts on Christmas Day! While we do not put up any trees, decorate or sing carols, he gets opportunities of making trees with his Cub Scout Pack and makes Christmas wreaths and talks about JC in school.

At home, we are making gingerbread cookies, dressing up in green and red, and eagerly await Santa’s gifts under the chimney. I have already taken him around our neighbor to watch Christmas decorations and musical shows stationed in yards. No religious recitals! No religious talk!

And we will spiritually join our family in celebrating Christmas, as they do every year, and the years he was in Uganda. I doubt he remembers the celebrations in Uganda when he was three and four years. I want Child to learn that some people celebrate Christmas because of their religious beliefs. I strongly believe that exposure to religion, or other social experiments/systems, breeds understanding, and breeds religious tolerance.

The religious intolerance, witnessed among some Americas, is symbolic of when religion is treated as an “exclusive club” open only to the believers. Religion in America is largely about exclusion than inclusion of those who do not profess the same faith. Those who convert from one religion to another tend to ridicule the religion they left. Some religious groups are not receptive to curious non-religious, nor encourage partaking in the celebration of customer of other religions.

Contrary to my experience growing up with religion in Uganda. Eid Christmas and Easter are all designated as public holidays. Unlike America, only Christian holidays are accorded public recognition — Christmas is conveniently scheduled as “Winter Break,” and  Easter as “Spring Break,” celebrated as days-off from work, and big shopping weekends at commercial establishments. A few establishments, employers and cities would grant “a day-off” for Muslims to celebrate Eid; in New York City, Jewish holidays and recently the Muslim Eid are designated as days-off in the school calendar. Of course the atheists and satanists aint celebrating all these religious display, in their faces!

But I want my own child growing up, with an understanding that, while mommy is non-religious, some people celebrate religious holidays. I also want him to understand that there is nothing wrong with the religious and non-religious, and none is better or more knowing than the other; they all belong to the same global society.

In fact mommy’s family is religious, and mommy friends who are religious. Mommy’s best friend who died was religious. But Auntie Jude and mommy are not religious.

I want to know that parenting involves setting goals, and exercising flexibility when raising our children as social beings. Most importantly, I want Child to know that what binds us together is our common humanity. We should be good and strive to do good to others, not because we are bound by some religious doctrine or conviction, but because it is the human thing to do.

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Being Tiger Mother

I was just putting down Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother, when another equally exciting book—Things Around Your Neck—arrived in my mail. Yes, it has taken this long to read both books; notwithstanding my great longing for both books! I have read plenty or reviews and contributed to the storm that ensued since the publication of Tiger Mother, and the praises heaped on Things Around, but put off reading either book.


Finally, thanks to the urging of my good friend, I borrowed “Tiger Mother” from our local library. My friend had just read the book, and suggested that I read it too, and share with her my take on it. Arguably because, “She [the author] reminded me of you in a sense that you are both extremely disciplined”[sic].
I said to her that she was being too kind, but I would take it as a compliment. Funny, I did not find Tiger Mother as crazy as with her [and her hubby’s] The Triple Package.

Things Around, is my “Santa came too early from the North Pole”—literally—gifted to me by my Scottish BFF via Amazon. Funny enough, I had just stumbled upon a review of American Embassy—a chapter in Things Around, yesterday, while binging” on “All Things Chimamanda Adichie”!

Come to think of it, I am noticing interesting similarities about both books: 1) written by strong, controversial women; 2) authors have a relationship with Yale —a professor and a [former] student; and 3) authors belong to “The“Triple Package”, Chua-Rubenfeld’s “Exclusively Superior Club of the World’s Most Successful Cultural groups” – Chinese and Nigerian. Was it Sidney Sheldon or Robert Ludlum who said, “There is nothing like a coincident?”

Where do I start? Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother or Tiger Mother is as gripping as it is unsettling. Which explains why it has taken me longer than acceptable to finish reading it. It is a “one-sit-down read” book, but I had to put it down three times, just to resuscitate myself, to catch my breath. I loved it as much as it terrified me. Perhaps it is true with me, as with my friend, “It [the book] reminds me of myself!”

First off, Amy Chua’s characteristics of a “Chinese mother”: (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagree with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold. [p.5]

Here’s why Tiger Mother intrigued me. 1) She reassured me that, I am not deranged, and gave me the confidence to keep ‘drilling’ my now 7-year old. Just when I was starting to slip into “Western parenting”, to “allow my child have a happy balanced childhood, and avoid him hating me in future, or become alienated from the social world.” 2) She reassured me that children are more resilient than society may prescribe them, and in fact, society tends to dwarf children below their capabilities.

Tiger Mother also reminded me that, we can never be certain how our children will turn out as adults, whether raised through Chinese or Western parenting. Or as I often ponder out aloud, whether our children love or hate us now, or will appreciate or regret our parenting, in their adulthood. Regardless, we should not be afraid to be the parent, and/or apply what we wished for, or appreciated from our own parents. Parents who knows what’s best for our children! Parent is boss, too!

Tiger Mother makes perfect sense to me, from personal experience with African Mothers. Like Tiger Mother, I am raising a hybrid child – African and American, in a hybrid culture – of Uganda and United States. Or perhaps we are both raising tai-breed or mixed breed – Chinese, Jewish and American? Unlike her [or my upbringing], I am a single mother, I was not born in the United States but Uganda, but my child is US-born. Perhaps Tiger Mother and I are also different, in that I am raising more than hybrid, but a tri-breed —African, American and African American child!

While, I am not American born, I have spent close to two decades in America, and have been infused with as much Americanism as my own Ugandan-ness. Plus, my child’s father is American of not the “new” but “old” African Diaspora descent —categorized as African American, sometimes Black American vs Uganda, African American and American children?

In parenting my child, I borrow a lot from my Ugandan upbringing in my family household. A child is raised for the world, as a member of the larger society beyond your immediate household comfort and gratification. You want your child to stand upright and respectable in society, and represent your household, and the society in which s/he finds himself, identifies or is identified.

That means, a child can be scolded for poor behavior, does not talk back to parents or elders, and respects elders at home and in the community. Generally, whatever parents do is out of love, support, and in the best interest of their children. Same thing I say to Child of Mine,

“I am your best friend in the whole wide world, and everything I do with you is out of love and belief that you are the best.” 

Perhaps that explains why, even when I am hard on my child, he still comes back to me with joy and love. He swears his love for me repeatedly. When he is disappointment in himself, he confesses to me, promises and strives to do better. And he always does.

Similar tactics Tiger Mother used on young Lulu, demanding perfection in playing violin or “she would take and burn all her stuffed animals”[p.28]. Yet, grown up Lulu is quoted as, not resentful, but ’thankful’ to her mom, for drilling her to play the violin [p.227] for six hours a day! In fact, both Tiger CubsLulu and Sophia— have praised and defended their Tiger Mother in several interviews and writings, and confessed their plans of replicating the Chinese Parenting with their own future families.

The Tiger Mother in me, is not afraid to hone into my child, how lucky he is to have his mother around, fully focused on him: ironing his uniforms, making him breakfast and lunch everyday, walking him to the bus stop, sitting down with him to do his homework, and reading with him. Because not many kids have similar opportunities, of living with their parents, spending precious moments with their parents, and constant parental attention.

I have observed how those children without constant parent attention suffer tremendously at home, in school and in society. I have seen many acting up and underperforming, while working within public schools. It is not by coincidence that most students in the  “Gifted and Talent” program are children who receive extra parental reinforcement in their academics and extra-curricular activities. They are children of teachers, stay-at-home or work-from-home or hands-on parents.

Almost all US-born children I met in “Intervention Classes” said they lived with their grandparents, guardians or foster care, while their parents work out of town or out of state, and only come home two or three days a week, or were separated from them or are serving prison sentences. In some cases, they children lived in the same household with their parents, who came home late night from work, too tired to look over or work with them on their homework.

Like Chinese parenting, children under African parenting are assigned responsibilities from a young age. Children have the responsibility to wait on, not to expect to be waited on by their parents or elders! Tiger Mother says she dug a swimming pool at fourteen, and built birds houses in her childhood. I had chores growing up in our family household —washed dishes daily, planted, weeded, and harvested food in our family garden, and babysat for my older siblings.

As a teenager, I carried on washing dishes, plus cleaned the entire house, cooked for my the whole family, and any other everyday chores assigned during my school holidays from boarding school. As one of the youngest in my family, and among the last ones left at my parent’s household, I took on a lot of solo responsibilities around the house.

I am carrying on the same lessons learned with my child. I introduced my child to chores, systematically, after he turned five years of age —putting away [and sometimes washing] our dishes after meals, putting away his toys, to cleaning his workspace and play place, and wiping the bathroom sink after brushing his teeth.

At six years old, I scheduled weekend chores in addition to his daily list  —cleaning the bathroom sink, mirror, toilet and storage space, organizing the shoe rack, helping out with laundry, and folding and putting away his clean laundry – socks, PJs, shirts and pants.

Now at seven years of age, he knows without question that, every Sunday, after breakfast, it is time to do his “routine” – that is brush, floss and rinse his teeth—followed by his “chores”. Thereafter, it might get playtime or “Mommy School” or anything else we might have on schedule. If he is sick, he gets a break from chores. Beside, we bake together, he helps out with the dishes from time to time and setting the table for meals.

Similarly, Tiger Mother gave her children responsibilities —carrying heavy objects, taking out trash and carrying their suitcases on family trips [p.23], to avoid raising decadent children.

That is education, not torture, as many reviewers of Tiger Mother have suggested. And the Tiger daughters did not complain, but clarified on their childhood, and defended their Tiger Mother’s “Chinese parenting”:

Battle Hymn—whose self-parody was lost on many readers—has been profoundly misunderstood by many Westerners who confuse “tiger parenting” with “helicopter parenting,” Lulu explained: “My mom is never the type of person who hovers over me to make sure I do my homework.” The essence of tiger parenting, instead, is in believing that a child can succeed, and pushing her to go all out. What makes the Tiger Mother truly happy is not that her child gets all As, but that the child is  able to look back and say, “I couldn’t have worked any harder.” Her mother’s tough love has taught Lulu that blindly showering a child with praise without seeing actual results will not enhance self-esteem, and that, “It’s important to push kids to reach their full potential.”

Amazing, some think the Tiger daughters are brainwashed! It is the kind of parents, whose kids take over the dinner table at home and restaurant, with play toys and electronics, throw tantrums when toys are taken away, and cannot fall asleep on their own at night, unless they are driven around in the neighborhood. Their kids get out of bed without making them, litter their clothes on the floor, jump over them, until mommy picks them up and puts them into the washer. They cannot cook for themselves, but let their parents wait on them, and clean up after meals as they lay on the couch. “Western parents” depend on a “pseudo salt-shaker” to turn off all their electronics, so they can have a bit of “family time”.

We are talking about adulscents stuck in “waithood,” with a preponderant ‘indelible right’ to voice their opinion about how awful “Tiger Mother” and “Chinese parenting” are in grooming responsible happy, well-balanced humans! Offering unsolicited ’cautions’ to ensure that children have a memorable childhood, that will translate into a blissful adult life!

Call it “Chinese Parenting” or African Parenting,” I, to, push my child beyond his comfort zone. I do not want him encumbered with unnecessary insecurities he manifests, sometimes. That, “His classmates do not like him,”…”they did not play with him at recess,” when in fact he did not ask them to play with him. I do not want him trapped in a “popularity contest,” because he is not as cool as everyone else at his birthday party, who has two glow sticks,” when “he has only one.” I tell him to ignore, and remember, “They are mere material possession, which the holders will abandon as fast as they fall asleep. Then, he can pick them up, and keep all of them all to himself, or throw them in the trash can. Better to be grateful for all the people who came to his birthday!”

Child of Mine is not encouraged to sulk, feel incapable, or justify underachieving, because the teacher said, “It is not good to win all the time, or you might start bragging, and become a bully.”

I remind him that I do not mind him winning all the time, but I would not let him brag. “In fact, winning is great; it proves that you worked so hard and did your best,” I emphasize to him. I remind him of the times he cries, because he did not win, when I run faster than him in a race or when he does not break the board on first attempt in Tang Soo Do. [Moment of silence, he internalizes that deeply!]

“Plus, winning gives you many opportunities, you will not have to pay for your college after High School.” [Yes! Him and I are thinking of college, already!]. Because that was my nursery school rhyme growing up in Uganda: “I will study so hard and make it to Makerere [University] Hill, – The Harvard of Africa, as fondly referred to in world wide intellectual circles, and the only epitome of higher learning to the imagination of all young children of my era in Uganda!

And while Chinese Parenting seeks to instill confidence, handwork, discipline, humility and hope in her children, it is also scary, filled with a lot of uncertainties, frustrations and self-doubt. Not just to the “Tiger Cubs” but the “Tiger Mother,” as well. There is no guarantee that the children will pull through or get to a point where they will enjoy all the dreams and lessons from their parents.

“No certainty that they will fit into society,” loathers of “Chinese Parenting” point to the suicide rates among East Asians as the evidential side effects. Yet, ‘conveniently’  oblivious that the mass shooters, drug addicts, adolescents, are part and parcel of “Western Parenting”!
Perhaps, my only quarrel with Amy Chau, the author is her labeling of other parents or parenting styles similar to hers, as “Chinese Parenting”.

True, she starts with a disclaimer,

"I’m using the term ‘Chinese mother” loosely.” [p.4] 
 
But then…. 
"I know some Korean, Indian Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian parents who qualify too.” [as Chinese Mothers] [emphasis mine] [p.4]

My question to Chua is, “Why don’t you just let them be “Korean Mothers,” “Ghanaian Mothers,” ….? Why do they have to qualify, or do you qualify them as “Chinese Mothers?” Anyway!

And no! I let my child have a playdate, play sports for enjoyment, and have a sleepover — ok, one sleepover so far…and that had to happen [I much confess I am wary of sleepovers!], plus, he does not practice six hours a day, and enjoy some TV restricted to PBS, and we watch together Shark Tank – because he has to learn to found a business, pitch an idea and attract investors starting early. Plus, any family TV he might catch a glance at while I am watching. But we are going back down on TV-time.

BTW, I should mention here that something about Chimamanda Adichie. I I disagree with her version of Feminism. True 1) we should all be feminist — her definition makes sense to me, “A man or woman, who says, yes there is a problem of gender, as it is today. And we must fix it, and do better.” The label “Feminist”, I desist. Plus, I do not quite agree that, 2) by linking “masculinity of boys” to monetary provision, we are stifling humanity, and nurturing ‘pickpockets’.” Plenty of men who take on the role of providing for their female partners and families, without feeling the urge or resorting to pickpocketing, or feeling unequally and unjustly treated.

Please do not kill chivalry! Plenty of men take pride in the “small cage” of masculinity” that Adichie is worried about, and they should. Otherwise, what would be their purpose, if they cannot biologically carry a baby, just yet! I want my child to know that, it is ok, to take care and provide for a woman, and your family, like my father did.

As Tiger Mother, it would not matter if it is a male or female cub. I would still instill in my child/children that life is not necessarily about your comfortable options, but things you have to do —inconveniences now might be your source of future happiness. Evidentially, single parenting is a huge inconvenience no many of us take voluntarily, but plenty of us learn to embrace it and keep learning, and aiming to excel and win! Because we do not know what the future brings, but we can try to prepare for it now, as Toni and Slade Morrison’s Who’s Got Game? The Aunt or The Grasshopper? (2003)

Trailing the Goodness In Facebook (T.G.I.F)

The weather is still good out here—between high 30s and mid 40s F. Still weather thanksgiving_Fotorsafe from “The Coming Anarchy” – white, cold, frozen and gloomy! But who knows how long it will last! After all, we are in the Northern Hemisphere, on the North East coast of the good US of A. Not too far from British weather!

In fact, child of mine assured me today that, the United States and Europe touch each other, some where; don’t ask me where he is learning his second grade geography! For what I know, tomorrow might snow, or rain, or sleet or fog, or whatever…it might just…

Dear winter, could you please wait a little longer? I thank you, in anticipation. But, as long as the snow comes before the month ends, we’ll be fine…or Santa’s sledge will have trouble getting to us!

Talking about “The Coming [winter] Anarchy,” I have learned the same about Facebook. Sometimes, it can be a mixed bag, of unintended anarchies!

See, I joined Facebook for the ease of connection with family and friends on Facebook, whenever I am unable to pick up a phone, send an email, text or snail mail [yeah, “snail mail” is so ‘90s!]. I enjoy the quick regular updates on family and friends scattered across the globe.

Through Facebook, I have reconnected with friends not seen or talked to in ages. I have added new Facebook friends, via friends, social networking, and other social media. Here, I make a distinction between “friends on Facebook” and “Facebook friends”. The latter are those I met and friended on Facebook, probably never met all in person. The former are/were my friends before Facebook.

Facebook also gives me a chance to ’smear’ the world with my opinions, my craziness, and my family life and routines. It allows me to participate in intellectualism, and to salvage the world from itself!

I call Facebook the real United Nations, besides HONY —Humans of New York. Facebook is the school of International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, equivalent to an IR class. Am I being overoptimistic, presumption or simplistic?

I tend to think that Facebook is a good representation of the real world we live in, with all its discomforts, disagreements, verbal fist-fights, verbal and visual artillery, along with inconvenient truths, facts, great love, laughter and enjoyment.

So, I have learned not to take postings from Facebook friends personal, unless they intentionally seek to denigrate me, character assassinate or ridicule me on a personal level. Even then, I make exceptions!

Like one of my Facebook friends, who has no decency to bite his tongue, even when interacting with me. He has called me scrambled egg brains, delusional, namby-pamby, befuddled, any name under the moon and stars, whenever my view do not please him. At times, he is outright impudent, callously attacking people who have not engaged him. Sometimes, he is plain evil, projecting his inflated sense of entitlement to opine at anything/one that crosses his eyes!

Yet, I have not unfriended him, nor will I. In fact, we have constant exchange of opinions, with plenty of disagreements, but lots of laughter, too. We engage each other’s FB posts, and tag each other in our posts. Beyond the disagreements, verbal fights and mutual disdain for some of opinions each posts, we enjoy learning from each other. We enjoy the unique outlook on life, each of us projects, and have places of mutual convergence, interests, concern for social issues, and love of knowledge.

cropped-img_6577-e14121594949072.jpgBut that is not a unique case. Some of my Facebook friends post pictures of white people, putting their bare naked ar$e against Obama’s face on TV! Or religious scriptures and writings lampooning the president, as America’s worst evil. Yet, I still have not unfriended, blocked or berated them. Others post excessively derogatory and generalizing remarks against muslims. I often counter them, by reminding them that I have muslim family and friends, whom I do not recognize from their character assassination. Most importantly, I remind them that we are all members of the same global society.

Still, I have not unfriended anyone on Facebook; “blocking” is the worst I have gone. And that is only four people —two for being a misogynist, another for called me names, and another for repeatedly calling all black folks indolent.

I do not have patience for folks posing as intellectuals, when they cannot cite an academic writing or socially researched piece of writing to justify their arguments. Perpetually pandering personal opinions as “observed facts,” grounded in popular stereotypes drawn from the media and society. I do not wish to entertain anyone who builds a clout by dispensing personal views as facts and truths!

I am absolutely fine with opinions at par with mine. My personal conviction is that, our views and knowledge are largely shaped by our personal experiences, social relations and life trajectories. I am comfortable with counter arguing, defending and justifying my position with evidence. I do not believe that any of us possess the penultimate argument nor hold monopoly over the truth.

On my part, my vested commitment to reading, learning, listening and social networking, have opened my mind to a wealth of knowledge, diverse views and experiences about life. I do not take personal, any back and forth exchanges we have on Facebook because in my opinion, they are responses to my views/opinions/arguments, not personal attacks against me.

So, I was caught off-guard when I learned, sometime last week, that a “Friend on Facebook” had unfriended me! I tried to tag her on a newspaper article published about her in the Uganda dailies, but her name did not come in my friend’s list. My initial reaction was, perhaps she was reorganizing her Facebook account or creating a new account, and forgot to add me back. So, I FB messaged her to ask, when she had unfriended me.

A few days later, she responded that she had unfriended me a year ago, to paraphrase:

“I could not stand the arguments we were having on FB."

Arguments? I was totally shocked, because I could not recall the arguments she was referring to. I did not even imagine, she could unfriend anyone whose views are contrary to her own!

She and I know each other from that not-so-square Cambridge, where we both attended school. As a celebrated “square” for scholarly rigor and intellectual stimulation, we both engaged in animated academic debates, not kissing up to each other. There were moments of discomfort, encountering strangers with opposing viewpoints, alien experience, hard talk and contradictions. Every engagement was not for the faint-hearted, but a battle ground for advancing one’s ideas. You had to be capable of taking in uncomfortable arguments, as well as stand by your own, similar to the everyday FB experience.

But, that’s life too! To each her/his own. No hard feelings toward her, nor anyone else “who got away” because they wanted to get out of the fire! For those who are still hanging out with me, I appreciate, knowing that we can still hangout together, probably for keeps. We will agree, disagree and agree to disagree; and that is how we roll in this world.

The only people surrounded by only their kind, or listening only to their type, are watching Faux News, listening to Lush Limbaugh Radio, breaking religious bread or fast together, and, as my mother told me, did not leave the hospital!

The rest of us will keep Trailing the Goodness of Facebook!

Happy Facebooking!