Monday, October 25, 2010

My Lie

To the average Mozambican, the country we call home is heaven. For many of the people I have met, if given a single wish, they would use it on getting to the United States. And borrowing the language of MLK, they tell me that they too 'have a dream' to one day visit the States. Usually I smile and say that one day they will get there, though probably I'm lying. It's hard for me to hear them talk about my home because sometimes they are wrong about America, but it isn't any easier to hear when they are right.

During my first week in the country I was walking through downtown Maputo when I heard a public demonstration coming down the street in my direction. People were shouting and waving the American flag. Not speaking the language, I assumed it was anti-American propaganda. Instead I found out that they stage this march every Wednesday to celebrate America and to ask American leaders for help. Well, I guess it isn't so much American leaders they are asking, as it is specifically Obama who in their mind is essentially African. And therefore who in their mind is the solution to poverty in Africa, an impossible role for any one person.

The other week, my Mozambican boss asked Jon and I why all Americans are skinny. We spent the whole car ride convincing him that it wasn't true. Telling him about the social-economics of nutrition and obesity in America. Really though, we need only look in the mirror to find out how he drew his conclusion. We are both skinny as rails. Indeed, we are part of the lie.

When my Mozambican friends talk about money in America they often painfully correct and painfully wrong. They still call it the land of opportunity. It is where you can earn your own money and find work that pays fairly. And I agree with them, but then I stop to think of how we treat immigrants in our country. I think about Arizona's SB 1070. And I remember living in San Diego and driving by groups of bored, rich conservatives protesting outside the Home Depot where Mexican day laborers awaited work. And how the rest of us normally treat non-english speakers. America is a land of opportunity it is true, but I can't honestly tell you that it's a land of opportunity for you.

Of course I never say most of what I want to say. I end up saying America has problems of its own. But mostly, I lie. I lie more often than I ever cared to in my life, because I don't know if it's too mean to do otherwise. When I try to speak truth, I say that God is in Mozambique, too.

Your brother,

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