Tuesday, July 5, 2016

This July 4th, I'm Thankful For My Blue Passport

We have some good friends here who are citizens of Zimbabwe, a country to the south of Tanzania.  Our friends are of European decent, whose ancestors colonized Zimbabwe generations ago.

I am also of European decent, and my ancestors colonized north America generations ago.  However, my colonizing ancestors brought with them European diseases that wiped out 90% of the native American population, whereas the colonizing ancestors of my Zimbabwean friends were held in check by African diseases.  Which meant that even though their ancestors established a government in a foreign land (just like in North America), they never became the majority population.  (Okay, so I know it's not actually that simple and is certainly quite ugly, but the comparison is interesting.)

Our Zimbabwean friends, like us from America, bear no responsibility for their ancestors' choices, and yet reap the consequences, whether good or bad.  Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has now been ruled by a tyrant for almost 4 decades, and the country that used to be called "the breadbasket of Africa" has had a complete economic collapse.  So our friends, descended from ancestors much like our own, are left with citizenship from a country that they dearly love, but has nothing left to offer them.  Their children have no hope of attending university or finding jobs in their own country.   They are, in many ways, exiles.  How differently their story of colonialism has ended.

We celebrated the 4th of July yesterday at a friend's house who threw a big bash and invited people of any nationality.  It felt normal, though, to celebrate America's independence with non-Americans, since that's what America has always been about.  And even though the United States still has deep-seated problems with racism and immigration, it has still been the most open country in the world to outsiders.   Every year, even though only several students in HOPAC's graduating class are American, the majority of our students attend university in the States.  America consistently seeks after international students and offers them the best scholarships--hands down.  I've sat in the U.S. embassy in Tanzania and listened to visa interviews.  Everyone wants to go to America.  And a lot of the time, America says yes.

Living here has helped me to have a greater appreciation of my blue American passport.  Unlike many countries in the world, I was able to acquire a passport with no trouble at all.  Unlike other countries, my country allows me to freely come and go.  By giving my children that blue passport, my girls will be given the opportunity to go to college (unlike many in Pakistan or Afghanistan); my sons will not be automatically conscripted into the military (unlike Israel, South Korea, or dozens of others).

It was a fabulous party, but I felt sad yesterday, did you?  These days, it's hard to know what's in store for our country.  Could we be heading in the same direction as Zimbabwe?  Living overseas has often increased my frustration with America, but also my appreciation.  It's never been perfect, but we sure have a whole lot more than most of the world--in opportunity, freedom, and possessions.  I am apprehensive for America's future.  But for now, I'm still thankful for that blue passport.

A kid with a kid.  

Gil with one of the pastors in our program.

Bet you didn't drink out of coconuts at your 4th of July celebration.

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