On Surihe Gaomas’ American Experience

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Dear Editor, Allow me to express some views on Ms Gaomas’ American Experience that appeared in New Era of Thursday, May 3, 2007. I am of the view that a journalist of the calibre of Surihe could have given an objective assessment of the USA than giving a rosy picture that equals only Heaven itself. I, however, have to admit that having her trip paid for by the State Department, Surihe could surely not speak badly of her host. But, even an idiot will not believe that there’s a place on this earth where everything is just good. Indeed, she has appropriately done what the State Department expected of her and her colleagues, namely, to promote the United States as something only good, nothing else but good! I wonder if even the Americans themselves will consider her article as being objective. I am a Namibian, living and working in New York City for two years now, and want to offer a critique of Ms Gaomas’ American Experience. She kicks off with “I got the feeling of being in another world where people from all over the world come to become citizens, mainly because of its liberating policies and sound democratic system”. What made her feel like that? I also wonder which liberating policies she’s talking about. Were she to live in the US for a longer time, then she would realize that the US has a lot of funny and at times draconian policies she has ever come across. These include immigration policies contrary to her view of “people from all over the world come to become citizens…”. It is true that America is a country of immigrants, but that does not mean it is easier to become an American citizen than to become a Namibian, for example. In Namibia, we have set laws that define how one could acquire Namibian citizenship. You cannot say the same of America. Sometimes American citizenship is acquired through the participation in a sort of a lottery. The lucky ones drawn will become Americans. You must then be able to speak English and at least sing the American anthem. Sometimes you acquire American citizenship through being prepared to die for America by agreeing to be recruited into their army. Like at the present moment when they are experiencing shortages of soldiers to serve in Iraq, young people all over the world are being enticed to join the American army in exchange for American citizenship. You will then become a citizen if you survive the war. “Sound democratic system”. How sound? Just take for example their presidential elections. The candidate that wins is not necessarily the one who obtained the majority of the votes. Secondly, to run for political office in America, one must be rich. Indeed, those who have observed American elections, especially presidential ones, will support me that the majority of American presidents were multi millionaires before they become presidents. And so are their sate governors, city mayors, senators and the representatives both at the federal and state levels. Living in harmony in one country? There’s a lot of tension in America, including ethnic tensions. There’s a lot of race and ethnic-related crime in America. Out of the blue someone opens fire in a classroom full of children, in a bar full of drinkers or even in a street full of shoppers. But still one is allowed to purchase as many guns as one can afford because it’s one’s democratic right. “Big dishes served in restaurants, leaving one much fuller than ever before”. Yes, they serve big dishes but I personally have never seen obese people like in the US. You will come across a person who no longer looks like a human being – incredibly overweight indeed! “Tipping those who serve you is compulsory in the States, and one can surely not complain about the great customer service too”. Oh, my God. Would it help to complain when tipping is compulsory? You tip whether you had a great – or not – service. Tipping is not linked to appreciation of the service you have just received; it is required by law. And you don’t just tip, you tip a certain percentage of the amount of your bill or “check” as we call it over here. Usually between 15 and 20% of the cost of your meal. “Who were very much interested in knowing more about my country – a place they had never heard about in their lives. This shows that American citizens are very much interested in what’s happening in the rest of the world, dispelling the preconceived ideas that they only mind their own business”. What a contradiction? They have never heard about your country but that still dispels the preconceived ideas about their ignorance? Mind you, those people are not ordinary ones. They might be people with university degrees, including those with PhDs in geography and history. Forget about Namibia and simply ask Americans where Iraq is. That is where their sons, daughters, husbands and wives are fighting. Do not be surprised if some will tell you that Iraq is in Africa. That’s why Al-Qaeda is able to move between Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan and was able to bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And these are people with university degrees and Iraq is in the news every day. The majority of Americans seem not even to watch or listen to the news. Those who read magazines, such as People and the like, will have heard about Namibia – Angelina Jolie’s country, as one of them once told me. Indeed, she wants me to bring her an autograph of Angelina when I pay a visit home! In conclusion, there’s no way that everything is just excellent in America, or in any other country in this world. On the other hand, we have to learn to appreciate what our own country has to offer. For me, there’s no place like Namibia! EEWA PINEHAS ALUTENI