"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


the course of human events

In the chaos that is my life during a new school year, sometimes I forget what we're really talking about. This week I am teaching the Declaration of Independence. I forget what a magnificent document it is, how eloquently it states the principles upon which our government is supposed to rest:

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...."
In Congo this summer, everywhere you turned, in taxis, at C & E's house, everywhere, people were listening to the broadcasts of the National Assembly, which is Congo's parliament. I'd step into a taxi in Bukavu to hear a debate about the budget, or the security situation on the Angolan border, or any other of a hundred topics. (It would be as though our whole country were glued to CSPAN, day after day after day.) The nightly news, which I mostly laughed at because of its proliferation of fluff stories about the daily doings of the president and his ministers, is a matter of true concern for my Congolese friends.
Democracy is a precious thing. And while the Democratic Republic of Congo is arguably neither democratic nor a republic, they are trying. My Congolese friends have suffered too much - they have seen war and experienced hunger and been thrown in jail - to take Congo's democratic experiment lightly. That government should function according to the consent of the governed is more than an ideal. It's their hope for the future that their God-given rights will be respected and honored, that their government will be their own, that their children will grow up not knowing so much pain. Here's hoping.


Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I remember watching people stand in line for hours at South Africa's first multi-racial democratic election, excited to be voting. A close friend had gone as an international observer. Meanwhile, voter turnout was at record lows for the U.S. and most voters never wrote letters to the editor or contacted their representatives (senators, etc.) about any pending piece of legislation and didn't pay attention to politics.

I cried.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007 11:35:00 AM


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