Growing up, my cousins and I always joked about how our parents always talked about politics. We never understood it, we just knew that they would become emotionally invested in the discussions, and they would take sides based upon their beliefs, and certain people that subscribed to similar beliefs always sided together. Whether the political conversation surrounded Ethiopian Politics or American Politics it didn’t matter, the debate was always a heated one. Passions would rise, and their core beliefs would be revealed. At the end of the day everyone laughed and hugged and we were still a family.
As I have grown and matured I have learned something: I share many of the same passions as my family. I have found myself becoming increasingly interested in politics. I have taken sides in many discussions, and as I have reached adulthood, I have realized that I am more and more drawn to the discussions that they have. Where I once rushed quickly away from the conversations or “debates” they carry on, I now sometimes find myself slipping into the circle listening, sometimes expressing my opinion where I can, but quickly shying away from engaging in any serious polarized discussion.
Often times their discussion surrounds Ethiopian Politics. Well although I am an Ethiopian American, I have not found myself taking any particular “side” when it comes to Ethiopian Politics. Why not? Well why should I? I know this sounds a bit ridiculous because what kind of Ethiopian does not voice their opinion about the political happenings in Ethiopia. The Regime of Meles Zenawi, the horrifying history of the Red Terror with Mengestu Halemariam, the Reign of the Emperor Haile Selasse, and the Historical Rise of the “Tikur Sew” Menelik rising against the Italians in the battle of Adwa.
Please do not get me wrong. I am certainly interested in politics. But my interest lies in where I can actually affect change. My interest in politics lies actively within the domestic issues of American Society, Where I live, where my children will likely live, and where my children’s children will also likely live. The reality is Ethiopia, my mother’s home, my father’s home, where my roots lie, the cradle of ALL HUMANITY, is actually not currently my home. A vast majority of my immediate family is actually here in the United States, (with only 1 first cousin left in Ethiopia). So I may ask you, why should I care? Well I do care, I care greatly about what happens to the Ethiopian People , to my Ethiopian Brothers and Sisters, BUT does raising my voice, shouting at the rooftops, really make a change in Ethiopia? In my personal opinion, it does not. What I can do is help my Ethiopian Brothers and Sisters domestically. Thousands of Ethiopians live in the DC area, and are taken advantage of in Employment, can’t find decent housing, don’t know where to send their children for school. As we look across the world to our homeland, we forget about our brothers and sisters right here. Did you know there are homeless Ethiopians right here in the United States. Did you know that there are Ethiopians that are being disenfranchised in education and employment right here, in the land where they came to be free, they suffer from even greater oppression.
So, I apologize for not being too concerned with what is happening thousands of miles away. I’ll stay right here and fight for my brothers and sisters in the United States. Rather than debate constantly about political issues that none of us will really impact or are even willing to stick our necks out and tackle. I believe that we should definitely do something that can actually impact our Community. I say we should give and support organizations that do actually HELP people. I say we reach out, stand up and help those Ethiopians here, that may not have had as great of an opportunity as many in my family for example have had. We should mentor the young, support the old, and teach the new Ethiopian immigrants. Rather than debate the political wows of a third world country, let us do something that makes an actual difference. It is then that I truly believe that we will see overall change within the Ethiopian Community.
4 thoughts on “POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS”
You make a great point ethiopianamerican girl. I never really thought about it like that. So how do you plan on helping these disenfranchised Ethiopians who live in the United States? How can we?
Well, the how part is something I haven’t gotten down to a science. But, what I do know and think is that if we each do our part to help someone, OR we work to impact our community in a positive way by either working with individuals, joining community service, sharing our own experiences with one another, then we will be able to help others within the Ethiopian Community here in the United States.
First of all I would like to congratulate you by saying Enqwan Des Alesh! for being able to follow your heart and getting your law degree.
I found your blog while searching in the hope that I might come across to blogs which might help me to gauge the thoughts of second generation Ethiopian Americans in relation to the many challenges faced by Ethiopians especially the acute need for affordable health care for the great majority of the people of the country. I have found your blog both very informative and entertaining. Especially the picture of the lovely little girl in her Ethiopian dress praying has made my day. She is so sweet and I hope you will treasure her for years to come.
You are so right when you spoke about preferring to apply your expertise to make a difference to those who are faced by many challenges closer to home. Besides it is only natural that those of you who were born outside Ethiopia, to feel that your first loyalty being to your country of birth. . I wonder if I share with you my recent experience in Ethiopia if I might be able to persuade you to consider that there might be a role for you and other Ethiopian Americans like you to play. There are some things nothing major that all of us can do which makes a huge difference to so many Ethiopians back at home.
My husband and I recently spent three months in Addis Abeba initially for my brother’s funeral who passed away in Alberta Canada and while we were there my father suffered a heart attack which brought me in contact with the Ethiopian private medical care system which has left me with the shocking reality that only those who are able to pay hundreds of thousands of birr or those who are lucky enough to find somebody who is willing to lend them are able to have access to medical treatment, the rest just die while their family watch helplessly.
My father was treated in three different hospitals, admitted in two and on arrival at the reception desks where the first question we were confronted with was (Akemacehu Yifekdale?) Are you able to afford? I don’t blame them for the amount they charge as I am mindful of the cost involved in setting up and running such establishments, but what I found horrifying was the cold heartedness of the way it was delivered. Especially in the last hospital where he stayed in ICU for 14 days, every morning when we anxiously tried to find out how he has been through the night, we used to be met by a nurse whose role is passing on a message from the Cardiac Surgery Coordinator demanding for more money. Before even she responded to our queries about my father’s wellbeing, she used to scare us out of our wits by telling us about other patients who have had surgery, how the families had to find more money while their loved ones were lying on the operating table as the patients happened to be needing more to be done to them than originally thought as a result costing more than what the families were told it was going to cost and paid in advance.
Throughout his stay in that hospital it was heartbreaking to witness the sheer terror on people’s faces and their tears not only out of concern for their loved ones but because of their inability to meet the cost of the treatment.
Despite the hype about the ‘economic growth’, somehow basic necessities such as shelter, health care, clean water and sanitation are still out of the reach of the majority of the people. What I find baffling more than anything is how the high cost of living in Addis Abeba makes life unbearable for the vast majority of the city dwellers. These are not the unemployed and the homeless; on the contrary they are well qualified people with respectable jobs.
Prior to moving to the UK, I used to work for one of the British Aid agencies, which has given me an insight into the day to day struggle that my fellow Ethiopians in rural Ethiopia face just to stay alive. Although I live in London, as Ethiopia is never far from my thoughts, with some like minded people who know and love the country, we established a small charity run entirely by volunteers which allows us to collect used but perfectly serviceable medical equipment, computers and furniture from hospitals, businesses and educational establishments here in the UK and send them out to Ethiopia for the use of hospitals and health centres as well as schools.
My recent experience in Addis Abeba has intensified my belief about the need to support the state run hospitals where the majority of the people go to seek medical treatment and a lot end up dyeing needlessly as the hospitals lack even the very basic medical equipment.
Another area of concern for me is the education system. Children in Ethiopia are very keen to learn, sadly though the shortage of text books and other materials makes it difficult for them. It is hard to imagine that English is the medium for learning as even university graduates these days find it difficult to communicate in English.
Although we are able to get hold of used equipment and furniture and despite securing rent free access to a 6,901 ft2 warehouse from one of the major real estates in London which enables us to collate, sort and pack used equipment and furniture, my effort to attract financial support in the UK for covering the shipping cost of donated items to Ethiopia has not been fruitful.
As you know fundraising is very much dependent on connections which unfortunately I seem to lack. As politics seems to be a preoccupation for most Ethiopian Immigrants which I find very divisive, I keep out of it and lead a very recluse life. I admit by not being part of a community there is a huge price to pay. However being involved would have cost me far more and I don’t have any regrets about the choices I have made. I also believe neither creed nor colour should be the defining factor for humanity to relate to each other. Sadly though, immigrants desire to belong to the wider community is not always fulfilled. In my case even being married to one of them doesn’t seem to make slightest bit of difference as people inevitably tend to relate to what is familiar, feels natural and comfortable.
I am now trying further a field and appeal to the second generation of Ethiopian Americans if they would consider supporting our work, as I believe their views is bound to be untainted, unlike us the first generation Ethiopian Immigrants whose outlook is shaped by the baggage which we have brought with us and find it difficult to differentiate the needs of the people from the actions of the political elite.
Although much has been made about philanthropy, to me philanthropy is nothing more than making a small sacrifice such as going without a cup of coffee at Starbucks or don’t buy a favourite news paper or magazine and instead make a contribution of the amount we spend on those things. It might not sound much, however when it is done collectively it will make a great deal of difference to so many people’s lives back in Ethiopia. There is also the possibility of sharing the wealth of expertise which Ethiopian Americans possess by volunteering on the ground which undoubtedly will be a very valuable and life enriching experience.
I am now writing to ask if you would kindly consider spreading the word in case there might be some who might look favourably to my appeal and join us in supporting the people of Ethiopia in their effort for self sufficiency.
My very best wishes for your future endeavours and looking forward to reading more of your blog posting,
I completely understand where you’re coming from on this, and I know I’m MONTHS late, but nevertheless I have some comments. I think being part of the Ethiopian diaspora gives us a huge influence on Ethiopia. There are African nations right now working with the African Diaspora Program (ADP) in unison with the World Bank that works to enhance the human and financial capital contributions of African diasporas to the economic development of their home countries.
It’s a really interesting effort that is even being taken on independently by diaspora groups without the interference (as is can sometimes be) by institutions like the World Bank. So I challenge your claim that there’s nothing you or I can do to affect real change in Ethiopia. I still agree with your assertion that we can likely affect more change in the United States where Ethiopians are being taken advantage of in many ways but let’s be real, American politics has its fair share of issues that make the government extremely inefficient.
Just don’t knock the idea of being able to affect international change, because I definitely think it is possible…provided you have the social capital and financial means to do it!