Wednesday, October 15, 2008

outside looking in

I wish that every American could travel outside of the country to step back and see how bit it really is. Only now do I realize how big the United States is. It started by the common response of “Obama!” when I answer that I’m from the United States. At first I found it really strange, like, um, America is more than one man or one election. But now I realize that one American election really is that big of a deal. I’m finding politics and economics less prone to eye-rolling or yawning in my life, and seeing both as living, impacting forces that I never saw when inside my country. See, n many ways, Ghana pays attention to the states because Bush first paid attention to Ghana. A massive majority of Ghana’s foreign aid is thanks to the Bush administration, which translates tangibly into jobs, ARVs or electricity. And one American election has the potential to change everything. It has the potential to empower disenfranchised black Africans, or maintain previous foreign policy. As it turns out, it’s a big deal. And Ghanaians pay attention to it. Almost as closely as they watch the Western stocks fluctuate, while biting their stubby nails and wringing their weary hands. If an economic crisis would mean fear for well-to-do Americans, it means absolute terror for those who are developing and depend on Western funds. And again, everyone here is paying attention. It’s not that politics and economics are casually talked about around a water cooler, it’s whispered in the markets, spoken in the universities, and shouted about by Ghanaian presidential candidates. It started to strike me when Esther, who’s studying accounting, asked me about the current U.S. financial situation for a paper she had to write for class. I pondered how absurd it would be at Calvin if the roles were reversed. I guess it all changes when I’m on the outside of the U.S., looking back in.

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