Crossing Borders - The Tear of Returning to the "Normal"
There is a quote from Aidan Hartley's book The Zanzibar Chest - a book I highly recommend - that really sums up a lot of whay I am feeling at the moment. "In the midst of carnage, you will see the utter evil and the supreme good, side-by-side. We will rarely find it in so-called 'normal' life. I know that the privilege of witnessing the extremes stretches something inside the heart or the soul or the mind, so that there is a void we cannot ever hope to fill in again in ourselves."
My time in Uganda stretched me and will continue to stretch me. I cannot ever forget being sprayed in the eyes with tear gas as the police repressed peaceful demonstrators against Museveni's third term project. I will never forget walking through the horrifying IDP camps of northern Uganda that hold more than 1.6 million people, a forgotten people victim to a 19-year old hidden war. I shall never forget the vibrancy of the Kampala streets, the welcome of a people alive with spirit, the stars of the African night, Tusker beers, the music that booms in Old Taxi Park, the bumpy roads from Mbale, the boisterous Nile River, the fact that nothing ever works ever, the quiet Victoria Lake and the lush green hills of amatookye. And of course, it is impossible to forget the people I met, the many who I will forever consider my real brothers and sisters.
Returning to the United States has been a shock. First, it was so different to see white faces everywhere. Beyond the obvious, I have been struck by the beautiful women in skimpy clothing who adorn the covers of countless magazines, the shiny SUVs that dominate the roads (and consume massive amounts of petroleum, thus fueling civil resources wars in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East), the fact that people never greet each other, the traffic lights, the washing machines and more. Everything here is so ordered, so mechanized. I wonder where is the chaos and the madness that gave such vibrancy to Kampala? Or in other words, where is the human spirit free and creative? I fear our evolved societies have devolved inhumanely, stripping human autonomy.
I will write more in the coming days because I must. And I will continue to write in this web log of news about Uganda, and especially news about our campaign - Uganda Conflict Action Network - to push for an end to the brutal war in northern Uganda.
The challenge of connecting worlds and realities that are so easily disconnected by the constructed barriers of our world is perhaps the most noble and important in our globalized day. It is an endless struggle of the individual and the communal, which in the end believes that our destiny is wrapped up in that of one another. Together, we struggle.