Monday, August 5, 2013

Billy Shakespeare, Sarah Palin, and me

I came to Africa with an above average American understanding of the Dark Continent. What makes me above average? My parents traveled Southern Africa a couple of times, I lived with a woman that tried to save a little piece Niger, and mom told me so. I knew about the kid with the flies on his nose that Sally Struthers wouldn't give a sandwich, the photo journalist that killed himself less than a year after winning a Pulitzer for a pic of a vulture, that Robben Island wasn't where cowgirls got the blues and I've asked an African-American working at Borders bookstore in Seattle to help me find a book called, "Nigger, the strange career of a troublesome word."

Once I made the decision to move to Botswana, I did little more than look at a map to refresh my memory. I didn't want to color my thinking before I arrived and settled in. But now I've been here a while and have read several books(from the history of elephant hunting to detective novels) and re-watched a movie about a coke bottle falling to earth.

So now I have a problem, I can't quite find the right word. Any writer knows that there are limits to what a language can do, that's why ski bums and eskimos have so many words for snow. Cream ain't corn and that's all there is to it.

For every German you show me that's jovial, I'll show you a thousand Brazilians late for dinner. Zulus don't steal because they're evil, they do it because one can't become a man by purchasing cows from his neighbor. Boys are better than girls at just as many things as girls are better at than boys.

The word "Racist" first appeared in 1936, referencing Nazi Germany. It has negative connotations and is horribly limiting. It doesn't revel in the differences between cultures, the reason to travel. We explore peoples, foods, and languages to find out how what a group holds dear makes them special. You are unique just like everyone else.

Korean Airlines crashed the shit out of several perfectly good airplanes before someone made them speak only English in the cockpit. There are good and bad things about peoples everywhere that need to be recognized, appreciated, celebrated. A discernist does that.

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