Roger and Kate, friends of mine from Denver who are Christian missionaries in Mozambique, happened to be in Nairobi, Kenya, for a conference the first week in November, during America's election. Their report in an email to me not only illustrates the contrast of cultures and customs from there to the US. It also points up how not-Kenyan our next President is in some of his ways. Roger wrote as follows:
Everyone in Kenya wanted to know for whom we would vote. Where we were staying lacked television and internet, so our son had to text message us from elsewhere with news about the election. Among those at the conference who favored McCain, it created a pall over the morning, but the Kenyans were elated.
The following day was declared a national holiday - Obama Day. Obama poster-size calendars were passed out in the newspapers as the "Year of Obama." They all think that it will be easier for Kenyans to get visas to the U.S. and/or the U.S. will now solve all of the problems with the Kenyan government.
After all, in Africa, this is what family does. If one comes into wealth, he is expected to share that wealth and opportunity with the rest of the family. They don't see nepotism in quite the same light as we do. Now one who is considered one of their own has just "inherited" the wealth of the richest nation on earth and they are expecting great things.
It makes me both proud and sad - proud that they think so highly of the U.S. that we can solve all of their problems - sad to think that there is going to be great disappointment one of these days. Fortunately, by the time that I was leaving, cooler heads in the newspapers were trying to explain to the people that countries like the U.S. are subject to rules about what they can and cannot do.
So "in Africa, this is what family does... share that wealth and opportunity with the rest of the family." On the one hand, this would help explain the redistributionist views Obama has expressed, as well as the starry-eyed expectations of some supporters in this country -- notably Florida's famous Peggy the Moocher, who told a TV camera all the expenses she counts on him to cover for her.
But on the other hand, elated Kenyans need to remember the President-elect's cool disinterest in being a sugar daddy even to his own blood relatives, including the half-brother living in a hut near Nairobi on $1 a month, and the destitute aunt in public housing in Boston (who is apparently not even a legal US immigrant). He hasn't lifted a finger to help either of them. Good luck to everyone else in the old country.
It sounds as though Nairobi media were already starting to cool the locals' overheated hopes by the time Roger and Kate left in mid-November. But just to be safe, maybe Kenya should be added to the itinerary of those Obama press spokesmen who have been working to dampen stateside expectations about his administration.