We lived in a rural village about an hour’s drive from Banjul, the capital, and had restricted entry to many academic alternatives. The few we did have gave us a bonus over our dad and mom, who couldn’t learn or write — and even communicate English. Whereas our father was deeply suspicious of conventional education — calling it a assemble of the White man — our mom quietly supported our efforts to get educated and broaden our horizons.
However at the same time as we discovered in main and highschool, we knew we have been nonetheless deprived. We didn’t have entry to school or university-level schooling, and good-paying jobs have been scarce. The perfect positions went to these most linked to the boys already in energy.
In distinction, America was a logo of progress and mobility. And American popular culture solely strengthened our idealized notion of the US. Gambians all listened to American music — be it Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson or Mariah Carey — and we adopted American vogue tendencies carefully. We knew the names of most American actors and routinely argue over our favorites. Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris stay two of the preferred.
Based mostly on the American media personalities we got here to know, we considered People as among the most empowered folks on earth. In the event that they willed it, they might attain any academic or skilled heights.
America additionally seemed huge and various. Every state appeared like its personal nation — and but American democracy appeared to by some means maintain all of them collectively. We didn’t care about Democrats or Republicans or their political squabbles — we solely cared that American democracy appeared to convey peace, wealth and independence. And, extra to the purpose, we believed that wherever there was hassle on the earth, America would take the lead in addressing it.
Whereas our impression of America led my brother and I to dream of transferring there, it additionally led us to think about a greater future for Gambia. I didn’t but know the fragility of America’s personal democracy. However I did know that it was higher than what was passing as freedom in my nation, and I hoped we may replicate the mannequin.
I knew we didn’t should dwell this manner. America proved that residents can play a job in selecting their very own future, and so I began writing as an activist after which as a journalist — demanding extra of our authorities in every column I filed.
I continued to jot down for Gambian newspapers, when, in 1992, I left for the US to hitch my husband who was ending his education in Kentucky. Two years later, whereas I used to be nonetheless in America, Jawara was overthrown in a coup and Yahya Jammeh, a army official, changed him.
Even from a special continent, I nonetheless printed studies uncovering the abuses of the Jammeh regime. And but, regardless of my distance from Gambia, Jammeh nonetheless thought-about my writing a menace to his rule. When my father died on the finish of 2006, I returned to Gambia and was arrested upon arrival.
By then, I might already discovered of America’s faults: the mass shootings, social inequality and every day wrestle in opposition to racism. I additionally noticed how the typical American didn’t know the nation’s immigrant historical past, and I couldn’t imagine how widespread nativism was turning into. Merely put, I noticed the cracks in American society, and as an African immigrant who had believed within the American dream, it was a tough actuality to just accept.
However for all of the nation’s systemic issues, America was nonetheless every part to Gambians dreaming of freedom and prosperity. American democracy wasn’t good, however it was shut sufficient. In America, I used to be free to maintain writing about Gambia — a selection I didn’t have at house.
However Gambia is not the one nation combating democracy. Now I am watching with terror as American democracy falters, and I worry too many missteps may imperil world democracy, too.
The picture of America declines day by day in lots of components of Africa — and world wide. It is disappointing, it is scary and, to be frank, it is crushing our hopes.
Too many People who respect democracy imagine that the nation is so flawed it does not deserve to steer by instance. They imagine that for all of the nation’s errors and injustices, it is time for another nation or some excessive superb to exchange America because the image of democracy world wide. It isn’t so easy.
After all, People are proper to look at their failures and demand extra of their nation, however they can not ignore their obligation to foreigners residing underneath oppressive governments in all places. It wasn’t simply American affect that made me demand higher from the Gambian authorities — it was figuring out that America was there that made me imagine that I may succeed.
I do know that People at present didn’t ask for this duty. However now that they’ve it, they have to honor it. The image of American democracy remains to be probably the most potent world pressure for freedom, and with out it, the world — together with my house nation — faces a darkish future.