200506120815 Okay, that’s it. I can’t stand it anymore. I’ve been reading Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux. It is the narrative of his recent travel through East Africa from Cairo to Capetown. So far, I’ve gotten to Kampala, Uganda, with him–about half way. Uganda is where he was stationed while in the Peace Corps in the mid- to late-sixties.
Break. I take Madeline to her friend’s house, and from there she is going with all her school friends to Valley Fair, the local “big” amusement park. Then I go to Bon Vie for breakfast, Sunday New York Times inhand.
Now I am back home. I am sitting in the shed at the “Free” little computer desk that I got the other day. Stella is playing with a baseball, which is causing bumping and rumbling sounds against the wood floor of the shed.
Well so anyway. Onto the point that originally got me to writing this morning. Theroux, in Dark Star Safari, has two points (among many others) that stick out–sore thumb, squeaky-wheel, neon-light like. One is that in country after country, he meets people who have been imprisoned without charge, and tortured. The other point is that foreign aid benefits the those in power, not those for whom it is intended.
Now, I am pretty sure that he made this trip before Abu Graib and Guantanamo were in the news. He speaks of listening to the BBC at night on his portable shortwave radio, and the news is of the stock market declining, not of the United States torturing prisoners.
So it seems especially prescient, these descriptions. that is exactly what is happening here. And all we get from the leadership is excuses, excuses, excuses. No “The buck stops here.” People, swept up pretty much indiscriminately, are being detained without charge, incognito and indefinitely.
Just like in Africa.
I am becoming an Africaphile?
Then in the news today, the Group of Eight, or whatever they are called, has agreed to forgive $40 billion of debt of the poorest 18 countries. (Ironically?) several of them are countries that he is traveling through– Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambis. Missing–Sudan, Somalia. Fancy that. Just the meer statement from John W. Snow that “this is a historic moment” makes me skeptical, simply because he is the United States Treasury secretary. Also on the list, and in Africa, but not part of Theroux’s itinerary, but countries that I know of because of my childrenn’s school are Ghana and Senegal.
I would venture that Theroux’d say that this debt forgiving would be like Bush giving tax breaks to the rich. Indeed, the paper lists Jay Leno’s Tuesday monologue comment as “Bush’s plan is to give everyone in Africa a tax cut.” I edit to “everyone who is wealthy” and we’ve probably pretty much got it.
Theroux was in East Africa when he was in his mid-to-late twenties, and went back whenn he was just about to turn sixty. I wonder if that is about when Dorothea will go back to Ecuador?
I have one more newpaper thing. One moment, I have to go get it. This is a Washington Post piece run in the Star Tribune about lynching. And actually, there is an AfricaTheroux connection here, too, because lynching is mob violence, and he describes that as a African thing too.
In the book, during a taxi ride in some town, he witnesses a mob chasing a naked man. A thief? Adulterer? Who knows. It is uncertain and doesn’t matter. What is certain is that the mob will kill the man.
So anyway, the context of the lynching article is that the U.S. never made lynching a federal crime. Never. Even though it was brought to the Congress as an issue three times in the twentieth century and passed the House, each time it was killed in the Senate by a filibuster.
Even creepier is that the current issue of The Onion has a frontpage headline, with an all-too familiar picture of a smirking Gearge W. Bush; “Bush Lifts Ban on Vigilantism:’Let’s See What Happens,’ Says President”
I guess what I see in Theroux’s descriptions of East Africa, is where we, the United States, are headed under current direction of leadership.