“This country would not have been the same had they lived.”

More of a history lesson about Ethiopia on the patio of a cafe than an entire lecture by a representative from the Ministry of Education.

“I tell you, this country would not have been the same had they lived.”

And I am humbled and silent whenever I think about it.  Though I shared coffee with a man who works at the desk of a Baltimore Marriott and felt my front tooth dissolve in this place, this is the shay-bunna coffee break memory I relive most often.

“The roads, the schools, the government…had they lived, it would have all been different.  We might not be considered third world with them.  They were the leaders, the thinkers, the dreamers.  Killed at their own universities.”

And I wonder…was this just another African war I never learned about in America?  One too messy and complicated to bring up to tenth graders concerned with boyfriends and cars, college sophomores trying to choose a major?

“Anyone who wasn’t considered a Socialist was killed, in Addis and everywhere.  Fathers, mothers, children–killed.  And their families made to pay for the bullets that pierced them.”

In a short conversation with my Amharic teacher, that was the first I learned about the Derg–the socialist government that ruled Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s following the downfall of Haile Selassie.

And it is the fourth of July, or a little after.  I have never been the most patriotic, but I find myself more thankful now for America than ever before.  I hated people telling me that going to Africa would make me thankful for what I had at home.

It was all that stuff I wanted to escape.  The need-to-haves, the can’t-live-withouts.  The salaries.  The benefits.  The places.  The stuff that drowns out life.

But I have understood freedom differently in the past month.  The freedom to learn, to speak, to lead.

I do not like that as Americans, there are wars we don’t know about out of convenience.  Sometimes I do not like the pressures of capitalism on American society.  But I am thankful, now more than ever, that I can at least discuss this.

There is suffering everywhere, I know.  But there is a difference between needless suffering and not.  I am learning that protecting ideas means protecting everything else.

So I will be celebrating freedom today!  Thankful for the freedoms promised to me as an American and hopeful for future freedom in other places–even the hard-to-understand ones–too.


One thought on “Freedom

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