Understanding The United States


“Are you from Jamaica?”
“Are you from Sudan?”
“Are you from Trinidad?”
A cashier asked me about the last country yesterday at the grocery store, after admiring my accent.  I just said one word ‘debit’, meaning I was going to use my debit card.
There’s a lot riding on this accent thing, but the most pressing issue for this post is ignorance, or the deliberate refusal to learn about other people, despite online information, that is abundant as sand on the beach.
I am one of culprits.  I don’t know much about U.S. politics despite what I learnt in high school and college.  I have no excuse because of the internet, let alone libraries with whole sections on U.S. history.  I’ve decided to remedy the situation and dust off The Audacity of Hope, by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
I bought the book when he was first elected but didn’t finish it because it is a maze of information about Congress, or should I say behind the scenes playoffs, before the actual voting.  Now I have no choice.  I must re-read it, because what happens in the U.S. affects me directly or indirectly, as the African saying goes: when elephants fight, the grass suffers.
Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness, a South African novel.
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