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Egret and crab

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Omar

I had intended to have gone into Africa incognito. But the fact that a white man, even an American, was about to enter Africa was soon known all over Zanzibar. Henry Morton Stanley 

There was a west african man from Senegal selling across the aisle from me in Santa Fe, Omar Keinde. Omar sells african masks and artifacts and I think that they are probably mostly real, although the business is replete with fakery.

I had never met Omar before and he was a little bristly. He is a muslim and it was Ramadan so he had to fast every day. I tried not to slurp or enjoy my food too conspicuously in deference to his condition. He had to feel weak after the long days. Has never drank alcohol, or munched on a memphis style spare rib in his entire life.

Putting a muslim man across from an agnostic jewish man, especially a boisterous zionist, was a brilliant stroke of planning or sheer coincidence and I decided to try a few preliminary sorties and see what made the guy tick.

It was readily apparent that we were coming from a different space. I don't hate peoples, only individual people, but it soon became clear that I wasn't going to get any quick invitation to join him on the next haj to Mecca.

I have always had an interest in geopolitics and having traveled in africa myself, tried to get an understanding of the problems that beset his continent. Unfortunately Omar was having none of it.

I asked Omar about the problems in Sudan, where the northern muslim population is terrorizing the christian south. America's fault, for selling weaponry. Ditto Mobutu, Idi Amin, Arap Moi, Zimbabwe. All the problems are a direct result of white colonialism.

I asked him to name me a stable african country with a functioning democracy and he could not. He defended Mugabe, because did I think it was fair that 8% of the population that was white owned most of the land? Well the country certainly seemed to function more effectively in the old days. Without the brutal oppression of the native opposition party, so effectively enabled by their cohorts in South Africa.

He took great pleasure in the arrest of the Israeli wackjob who was apprehended last week in the stabbing spree, I am sure he was quite disappointed when he turned out to be a christian from Ramle. Couldn't play the old moral equivalence card.

I know that colonialization brought enormous grief to the continent, the french, belgian, british, dutch and italians all getting a piece of the african pie. But there are times when people must draw a line in the sand and move forward. Stop blaming and take responsibility. See the perils of tribalism and stop the hutu, tutsi, kikuyu tribal bullshit. Whole continent is dragging.

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Omar didn't want to talk about honor killing or genital mutilation. He said that I was a troublemaker. How would you like to sit across from me for a weekend? He took umbrage from the fact that men can marry each other in America but that he could only take one wife. (He lives in New York.) African muslims are notorious homophobes, advocating for execution of gays in many countries.

I asked him to imagine all of the wives getting on his case at the same time but he countered by saying that it was about pleasuring himself. And there you have the classic african, muslim attitude towards women, wrapped up in a pretty bow.

I don't think we found a lot of common ground besides both suffering through a slow show. We choose to think a certain way and then cobble together experiences that reinforce our particular worldview. Omar and I both have a long road to travel before we can communicate and live in the same world.



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are so mean. Poor Omar.

NYSTAN said...

we had an expression back in scranton... "that's funny-he speaks highly of you."

Anonymous said...

The Blast cometh not to bring peace but a sword.