Liberalism is just an illusion

I guess all of us communicate to try and get the other part(ies)y see our point of view. To allow others read part of our mind, and understand our viewpoint and outlook on life. We do not necessarily seek to convince or convert the receiver of our communication. Some among us are comfortable just ‘being understood: the way we think, reason, live our lives, learn, or conduct ourselves amidst others. At least I am ok with that! Which explains why I have refused to be pigeonholed.

I once tried out belonging to a group that claims to have free -thought….until I realized that they are a bunch of wannabe liberals, cum atheists, cum scientologists…They try to convince others that, religion, African and traditional] culture is devoid of reasoning but emotive. They conveniently deny  that, like religious or cultural groups  [read traditional or Africa] which they be-mourn, they too subscribe to a dogma….or try to build one. Yet, their allegiance to a western-led cultural, religious, social and political culture is merely another form of revivalism…not necessary free thought. For, they worship “Jean clothes”, as a portray of “freedom to be”. They defend English as the global “language of development”, they reject and westernized science is the only justification to existence or logic. To me, that is another dogma of organized religion NOT liberalism, tolerance or free will. Anybody who seeks to challenge them, is quickly thrown out as illogical, emotive or bigoted….

I am uncomfortable with any form of communication, especially verbal or literal, that tries to claim sanity over another. That ranks and labels ‘the other’ based on one’s looks, dress, belief, food, sleep pattern, language or geographical location. Which is why I protest at all these “SI Units” for this and that – “political correctness”, liberalism, literacy, poverty or wealth, civilization, knowledge, plenty of those. I hate the “isms” or “ists” especially! I do not want to be anything – No! I do not have to be a feminist to believe that “women are people”. I do not have to be a monarchist to love and defend my Kabaka (King for Baganda in Uganda), I do not have to be a federal statist…to defend “federalism”…nor a culturalist to defend “culture” nor bigoted to defend blackness. Don’t call me a “humanist” because I said, I believe in humanity. I just want the right of everyone to choose their course of life to be respected.

That’s why I take issue with anyone who says to me that exposing parts of the body undermines the glory and pride of a woman. So, you mean women in cultures that do not cover their breasts have no glory and pride? Or little kids who run around naked, or with just a thread (thanks to missionary infiltration in their ecology) have no glory whatsoever? I appreciate the fact that you are a “clothist. But why don’t you respect my right to be a nudist?

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I am not a big fan of clothes!  Any opportunity I get to strip them off, I embrace  heartily!  Sadly, I lost my liberty to nudity once I got birthed into a society that had already run to clothes. But I will exercise it, whenever I have a chance. I am not an exhibitionist, I just love my freedom…especially because it comes with NO intention to hurt anyone.

Which explains why I quit organized religion. I was born into a Protestant or Anglican family. My maternal grandma was a Reverend – Member of the Clergy, so my mother went to church every Sunday, and participated in all church activities whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Matter of fact, she is still active, teaching Sunday School and all sorts of other church activities. And I was once active in church: sang in my teen days, prayed seriously, spoke in tongues and attended night prayer. That was a phase in my life. I did it all. But I also think I took the bible as literal as I read it, and as it was taught to me. I read the NT cover to cover….I practiced all the Bible said I should. I would not lie, not fornicate, not commit adultery, not hate. and not drink. That is the ten commandments. I tithed to, even when I had no income…

Until I came to America. Then I realized that religion can be used to bless those going to war to kill each other. The religious drink, they sell their brand of religion as different from others, same thing that scientologists do. Oh! and the religious commit adultery and fornication. Yes! I was once a victim of the pastor’s sex advances…Shock of my life! Slowly I began to disentangle myself from organized religion, even though I embraced religious communities like the Mennonites, the Mormons and Muslims. Not because they all start with “letter M”,  but they operated as a family, a community, more than a religion. They did not ostracize me, like my experience growing up in religious and Pentecostal Uganda. I could still join them in fellowship, if I wished, or for dinner or for any kind of celebrations.

Then I went to Senegal, and fell in love with the practice of Islam as a culture, not a religion. For those who do not know, Senegal  is one of a handful of African countries…which has never experienced a military coup.  All political regimes have come through the ballot. Senegal’s first president was a catholic elected by 98% (or more) of muslim population, plus, he had a white french wife.  Unthinkable in a country like mine, Uganda…that the christians would elect a more as president OR accept a presidential candidate with, for instance, white British wife! So, I got engaged to a Senegalese because they reminded me of muslim friends, growing up in Uganda, who always invited us to break the fast and share Eid with them. Well, then I got side-tracked and left a really good man…

But another opportunity presented itself with my son’s father’s family. The parents converted to Islam, and I loved their togetherness in prayer and faith. It was very attractive and reassuring. I thought my son would try that out. After all, I decided as an adult to leave religion…even tho’ that memory never leaves me. I left that claim that there is ONLY one path to the after-life through Christianity….but I do not denounce anybody who does. In fact, my best friend (RIP) was a practicing christian…and I always told her that my blessings rubbed off her strong faith…I have plenty of religious connections, many who have blessed me and my son along the way. I do not have a problem with them, as long as they do not bedevil my way of life.

But a little interaction and I am wary, already. The beauty of a woman is in covering herself up…Oh! Halloween is demonic! Yeah! there is a lot to take in. I am fine with my son, just getting the experience of religion as a community. After all, I have been out of religion for ages…and do not get him into church. But when you tell me that celebrating the dead is demonic or that I am not glorified without covers…or that there is only one religion that encompasses all faiths….Or that christ is the only way to eternal life….uhm or science is the only form of logic….uhm! THINGS FALL APART. I guess we’re gonna keep it our way. We do not need much help getting more confused. No matter how “tolerant” you will say you are….You acts and stance against others tells the real story.

You Bet, culture does REALLY Matter!

ImageIt might be hard to define my culture…but I think I can lay a claim to culture, as the belief in and love for humanity far and near.

And I strongly believe that “Culture Matters“, the title of a book by a professor from my graduate school, something Harrison (well, he had some kuku colonial ideas, so I did not give him too much attention. That was before I met “Bil[E] The Riler” aka “Bill O’Reily”, who taught me to accept crazies…

Back to my culture. I define myself as a Black, African Muganda. All these three elements are dear to my being…

Black makes me a borderless citizen

African identifies me with Ubuntu  or “global communitarianism”

Muganda defines my origin (…well, my father’s origin is a different story..but the Baganda are known to be accepting of anyone who “comes among them” you become:)

Now, I hope you are not saying that I am beginning to box myself into places because I do not see it that way. I tend to believe that each one of us has an identity. We belong to something or someone -be it a football club, a running club, a mother, a sorority, you name it. We are something.

Yet, I also think that my culture easily traverses borders and wades across waters with ease. It is all encompassing, too. 

Being a black person is universal —since we are all scattered across the universe, and our hands have blessed, supported and nurtured the lives of every living creature. We know of stories in apartheid South Africa where the Boers/Afrikaans resented any black person (Yes! still true today), yet still used them as maids, shamba boys, cooks, nannies and had them breastfeed their children -so the white women’s breasts would not sag. Same is true in Slavery America where all the resentment and sub-humanization of black people did not deter white folks from sleeping with black women and making babies with them.  Food for thought

The Hendersons of Scotland

The African lives among us all

To evolutionists, THE AFRICAN is anyone who traces the origin of human existence and civilization from “The Africa

To me, THE AFRICAN is anyone who identifies themselves with the notion of “Ubuntu”, wherever on this globe or extraterrestrial you might be located. 

Of course, this is a loaded notion and one that is both highly contested and aggressively guarded. In fact, there are two loaded notions that I perpetuate here: That THE AFRICAN is synonymous with or symbolic of UBUNTU. 

When,

To some, THE AFRICAN is anyone who lays a claim to anyone of the 56 countries that make up the geographical landmark called Africa.

With the latter,  folks like myself who have since resettled outside the 56 (adding Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and de facto Somaliland) that make up the area considered continental Africa, are easily excluded from belonging, by the guardians of “authentic Africa”, who are scattered in anyone of these 56 countries. 

But I guess what encompasses my culture, as I define it for myself is the belief in humanity in any sizes, shapes, looks, locations, orientation, identity. This comes first to me, and is vital in my human existence and interaction. Perhaps this explains quite clearly my choice of relationships. My best friend is Scott -white Scott –perhaps no way close to the  “typical African”…often defined as black…No! she was not born in any of the 56 countries…but Aberdeen….and she is all things black to me….and more…she is very human! She is my best friend!!

Now before I become confused with bigotry…this is NOT a story about “Black superiority”….But I am playing around with all “commonly dispensed wisdom”….about the: 1) origins of humankind; 2) the geographical existence of blacks around the world; and 3) the tags to Black people as ‘traditional’ and ‘communitarian’ aka Ubuntu. I trust, many other people who might not think of themselves as “Black” could identify with all three notions I list here…Keep reading ahead how I sort-of dismantle my own thesis:)

My son is America of black origin. Yes, my son’s daddy is African American, not a Muganda….Yes! It matters in America that your identity is tagged onto your “origin”. Perhaps my son might grow up to see himself differently, but that is secondary to how society sees him and what they think of him. Which then brings me to the real issues I set out to deal with here. 

I would have imagined that, “the blackness of color and origin” that joins us as continental and Diaspora America, would imply an ease of cultural navigation and understanding. Not true! African Americans are as American as “Joe the Plumber”. They love their big cars, big lawns, big space, the “paper-chase”, and they too believe in the might of America around the globe. They also enjoy dining at “Friendly’s” or Waffle House, going on road-trips across the country, in the comfort of their SUVs, munching on Pringles or sipping Coca Cola. Of course this is a broad-brush….because plenty do not do all the “mainstreamed American culture”. Some, like me love vegetables and fruit, no fries and no frying. Like Africans, they love big celebrations and family reunions (but so do Greeks and Greek Americans and Jewish).

So, when my son and I got reinserted into America mid this year, and back to my son’s paternal family, it hit us much more that, “culture still does matter”. We became more cognizant that, for instance, life is not all about screaming on top of our voices when others are enjoying their sleep. We also realized that childhood is celebrated and accepted, mostly when it is your own child…Not “the village’s child”…You know the African saying that, “It takes a village to raise a child”?

Interesting, my son’s American family -whom btw he looks like more than I think he does me or my family, see my son as strange, and say he “has a lot to learn”! [I wonder what that implies?!] Never mind that they have not mentioned a thing they are learning from him! Of course, he is bubbly, carefree and “mama’s boy”. Yes! He might be spoiled…but he is also used to a society that is too open..and “in your face”, where life is not a rush or a fine line —laiser faire

Resultantly, my son is beginning to resent being back to America, even though he pushed me repeatedly to move our departure date closer from Edinburgh where we were vacationing.

“Mummy, when are we going to America?”, became his daily question till we jetted into the US of A

He has already made him father and his grandma know that he does not like none of them….because “they are always tell him to do something”….I don’t wanna sound like a defender of my son’s “not wanting to obey”, but I get it.

Something equivalent to being lectured to all the time, without listening to him or letting him “just be”, I think. Back in Uganda, at home, school and among mom’s friends, he was let to just be. I agree, he can definitely use some learning of new environment and new people. Yes! including his own family. Though, I know very well that, even as adults, we do not take very kindly anyone who is always pointing out our shortcomings. It does not work for us, it should not work for kids.

So, I have decided to change gears. I am adopting what my sister in England shared with me from her teen son’s school teacher. Apparently, the school administration normally gives new immigrant children a break, a time to “live and let be” or “act out”, on the understanding that they are coming from different cultures and different societies, and getting immersed into a new and strange culture.

I am letting my son get acquainted with his American family on his terms, with very little lecturing. Kinda a montessori style of learning. He is a great and quick learner! And I know, once he starts school, it will be much easier for him to understand this world. Remind me to tell you what he is like, around this time next year. Bet he will be theAmerican boy, struggling to keep up to his Ugandan culture. And I will work hard to make sure he keeps up my cultural origin as much as we can. Because, culture does indeed matter!The penguin pose

This is where “The American Dream” gets blurred….

I wrote this note yesterday, while at the Social Security Administration office somewhere outside Metro-Atlanta, trying to apply for replacement of our lost SSCs. I did not realize that this office gets so busy! But the irony is in the name of this institution, “SOCIAL SECURITY

…………

ImageA senior white woman comes for help with her SS benefits….all she needs is HELP!

Guard tells her, “come outside and calm down. I”ll go in and talk to them on your behalf.

WW: “I don’t wanna talk to nobody. I am tired of talking. All I need is to get paid. I worked so damn hard!”

Guard: “You are too upset. Nobody is gonna talk to you like that.”

WW: “Yes, I am upset. I want my money.”

G: “I suggest you take a walk and calm down. Have a nice day.”

WW: “I cannot have a good damn nice day.”

She sobs, hits the walls, and sobs….
Nobody pats her on the shoulder, or wraps their arms around her or asks, “Are you ok.” and I am standing the closest distance to her…perhaps now i miss the “nosy neighbor” in Uganda and Edinburgh”!

She goes back in and is out again with the guard
……..
WW: “I need to talk to my case worker. I need to get my medication. I gotta use CVS. I do not have any money.”

G: “Today did not go good. You gotta go home.”

WW: “I am gonna go.”

Elderly man interjects…..”Excuse me miss, will a dollar help?”

WW: “A dollar won’t do no damn good!”

……

She walks off screaming. “Sons of bitches. God damn it….. I worked at that nursing home for 15 damn years!”

I worry if she’s gonna make it home? Will she get hit by a car? Will she kill herself? How is she gonna get home in this neighborhood that visibly has no public transport? My son and I just parted with $20.00 one way to get here…

………

How I miss my lavish life in Uganda! It had shielded me from this for the last three years…I am too far from retirement…but i didn’t ever wanna have to experience this trauma again…of the “other” America: underserved, underreported, un-undercovered, underprivileged, spat-out….but for my son…I gotta do what I gotta do! So, we are here to stay, in our other home…called America….and try to reclaim and recreate “the American dream”, with our might….before it jettisons us too!

Ramadan 2013: We are ALL Africans

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Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim friends and family!

I find myself actively taking part in Ramadan 2013, with 14 days of fast. This is not a conscious decision; it is totally by coincidence. And it is not so easy, since I am surrounded by all the foods I like -fruits and vegetables- that I cannot touch until after the 14 days (my fast is coming with a twist). Moreover I am babysitting two little kids…whom I have to feed during the day…without touching or tasting their food.

But  I am glad it is happening, and I can share this special moment with my friends and family. Those who know me have had that, if I were to attach myself to any [dis]organized religions we are bombarded with in this world, I would be a muslim. I know you might be thrown off with surprise that I DO NOT subscribe to any religion. You are not the first; my family cannot believe it either! Nor my friends!

“How can you not have a religion?”

Well, it is possible, I often say

“So, you do not believe in God?,” the questions continue

“Well, maybe I do not believe in God as you think of him/her. But that does not mean I have no faith or belief system. My religion 

is humanity.

See, as I grew up, I made a conscious decision NOT to subscribe to any religious group, after my experiences with, especially Christianity and all its relatives. I grew up around three main religions – Protestant, Catholicism and Islam – within my family and among friends. My mother is of a double religion in a way – father’s immediate family is predominantly Catholic, although her father was Protestant. Apparently, her father grew up with a Protestant family, and went on to become a Protestant Reverend (Preacher). So  my mother and her family took after he daddy. Of course, within my own family are inter-religious marriages, bringing us a variety. As I grew up, I went in and out of the revivalist evangelist religions imported into Uganda from, especially North America – Baptist, Pentecostal, methodist, ….

Talking about friends, my best friend in elementary school was muslim. During Ramadan, she would invite myself and a couple of her other friends to break the day’s fast at her family home. I remember us feasting on rice (the origin of my LOVE for rice) with beef, fresh fruits and juices! It did not matter that we were not muslim, we were allowed to eat to our fill. Similarly, area mosques would feed anyone who came to eat at the mosque during the “break of the fast” every evening at seven O’clock.

That and other experiences have shaped my outlook on Islam. Plus, I was once engaged to be married to a Senegalese, and I lived and conducted graduate research in Senegal.

Senegalese are one of the best people the world has ever blessed us with, that I wonder if it is the African in them or the religion. In 2007, family and friends still eat together on one large plate, like we did as kids at my grandmother’s place. If one’s family brought him/her lunch food at work, they would park for more mouths to feed, and five or more of us would  eat together. Senegalese also have this level of contentment with who they are and what they have. I do not know if that is derived from or shapes their belief system? Perhaps that explains why they have NEVER changed political power through a military coup!

Now I have a moslem family, not only among my sister’s marriages, but my son’s grandparents who are practicing muslims. I respect that and I enjoy watching as they commune together, in food, worship and sharing. To me, Islam manifests itself as a communitarian bond not a religion, contrary to the Christian religions I grew up with. The way they were pushed to me was exclusionist, “if you do not believe in JC, you go to Hell.”

Why I am saying all this? Well, because as I was reflecting on Ramadan 2013, it appeared to me as the opportune tagline for “We are ‘ALL] Africans, the name of my blog. The communitarianism that comes with Ramadan, when we are all invited to feast and share in

the celebration is a key branding of the African spirit of Ubuntu or humaness. That we, Africans care and lookout for one another more than any other grouping in the world. Although I have strong reservations about that.

First, if human origin is in Africa, then all humans are Africans with the spirit of Ubuntu. Secondly, do we Africans really have a monopoly of Ubuntu, when we are branded the world over as the center of senseless killings, human sacrifice, wars, hunger, famine and mal-government? How is it possible for all that to exist with Ubuntu?

After spending about a month (May 21 to June 20) visiting Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen), I am inclined to say that, perhaps Scotts have a thing to teach Africans and the world about Ubuntu. They, like Senegalese are some of the most POSITIVE spirited people I have EVER encountered. and YES! they live almost their entire calendar year wearing sweaters because of the cold (similar to northern America and European), which is often an excuse for “why people are cold to one another”. But they are pure spirited, positive, kind and loving. They voluntarily offer to be good, to speak to strangers, to help out a stranger and to talk to one another. It was odd  (though shocking to “the American” in me) to hear my best friend, we had gone to visit, strike up a conversation the cab driver, even in a city like Edinburgh. In New York City, you sit in the cab, shut your mouth until you are paying to disembark. No conversation, no contact with the cab driver.

While plenty of restaurants are bars where kids are not allowed, once you find one, sitting is not allocated based on “color of your skin” -at least it appeared to me. If a seat is available, anyone will take it. We talk to one another at the bus stop, in a shopping or grocery store and on the streets. A stranger will waive down a taxi for you because he overheard you talking about finding one. The spirit of the Scotts is absolutely golden and beautiful that it makes me wonder, if our focus should not be on humanity in our midst, rather than subscribing to those religions whose home is NOT here…but in some imagined place! Perhaps the Scotts are the true Africans and home to our promised land – of free giving and Ubuntu!

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