Together We Can
The late Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local." That's quoted an awful lot; I'm not sure most of us believe it. After the last posts my better judgment tells me to leave political writing to others. Truly there's some great political writing on blogs, and so many places to find it. This blog is supposed to be about "service to African people" but that doesn't sound particularly local and neither does my ranting about national politics here in the USA. Nevertheless, writing blogs posts are a way for me to get my thoughts in order about how I can contribute something good in a world with too much suffering. My actions are so local, they're personal. It all get confusing when I imagine that what I write here is available worldwide.
I lost my brother to gun violence and today a verdict was reached of "not-guilty" in the retrial of one of the culprits. I'm not sure what to think, except that I'm thinking about it.
On Tuesday I went to a meeting of the African Student Organization (ASO) at the University of Pittsburgh. Conveniently, the protests in advance of the State of the Union was outside the building where the ASO meeting was held. The trouble with peaceniks is we tend to be peaceful. Oh well, there's no excuse, after standing in around for a little while, I got bored and left for the ASO meeting. I've always felt a little odd about going to the meetings. It's the business of being a middle-aged guy hanging out with college students that seems somewhat creepy to me. The members have always made me feel welcome, nonetheless, and I feel such positive affection for them.
The meeting was interesting. The program was about a doomsday cult in Uganda whose members were self-immolated in the Kanungu tragedy of 2000. A Catholic Monsignor from Uganda who has been in Pittsburgh for the last couple of years working on project for Solar Lights for Africa investigated and wrote a book about it. The first thing he did was to encourage the students there to do something good for Africa. I felt a little overcome looking around the room and knowing how earnest these students are.
The most pressing reason that I went was because of the murder of David Agar one of "the lost boys" of Sudan here in Pittsburgh last Saturday. The second murder in a month's time of an African living Pittsburgh has hit the community hard. Gun violence makes me full of sorrow. And I well understand that it's tangled together with many other knotty problems. There's not much I can do, but the joining others in the community seems the least I can do.
I know a little about the circumstances of some of the people in that room Tuesday, about how they came to live here. Some of them like David Agar are here because they escaped political violence at home. Many of them care very much about trying to make things better. They're of course busy with school. College has the great advantage of putting a bunch of people together in one place and the members of the ASO are taking advantage. It's a very diverse group from many countries.
The picture today was lifted from a German Web site that trys to bring together Germans with Africans living in Germany. Something very useful is the attention they pay to a common interest between Germans and Africans in Germany with the conditions of life in Africa. An organization with similar aims might be quite useful here in the Pittsburgh region.
Of course we're all busy. One of the stumbling blocks to Bazungu Bucks, aside from the name, is that the people I know are doing they're best to create something good. There doesn't seem to be much overlap with the projects I'm working on.
In a card with a nice donation for Nathan's computer, a friend wrote:
To you as the Bazungu Bucks banker I offer the "Time Dollars" I earned by volunteering 8 hours a week with the Forbes Hospice.I was overwhelmed by the generosity in that, because I know how long a committment this has been for him. The hidden prize if I could only find it is how an alternative currency could help us in our efforts to build community.
I haven't puzzled it out yet. Many of us like to do our good deeds without the sounds of tinkling cymbals and trumpeting brass. Having my friend hand over his time dollars to me made me feel rich. On a tangible level they're not worth much, but on another level his gift was empowering. I think maybe we could do with more cymbals and brass about our efforts.
When we get together as friends, we want to talk about our gardens, our children, our loved ones. It's rare that we talk about what we do for others, not because we aren't doing anything. It's something we take for granted and it seems a little political. Local politics would be stregnthened by our shining our light a bit more. We need to remind one another more often that together we can create something good.