Independence Day in Rwanda. Independence Day and the celebrations around the significance of this day in America makes this one of my favorite holidays. Today, it is has a very different feel. It's not about the BBQ, although a succulent pile of pulled pork would be close to heaven for me. It's not about the picnics, the parades, the fireworks. Today, being in Rwanda, I have questioned the idea of Independence. Are we ever really Independent?
Rwanda is not independent. It is not run as a democracy. It is a police state controlled by President Paul Kagame. There are no free elections at the moment. He has been the President for the past 15 years coming to power after the genocide. However, he has made Rwanda a "free" country. It is free from the hideously violent past. People can travel freely within the country. Free enterprise is at work through the Rwanda Development Board. This is Independence for Rwanda. Ironically they celebrated their Independence Day on July 1st.
Paul Kagame is truly a remarkable man. He was able to unite a country that had been under the control of others for decades. He was able to reconcile the people of Rwanda so they would be able to enjoy the independence and freedoms denied by the sadistic, methodical plan of genocide born from years under the control of Belgium. He freed Tutsis from certain death and elimination. He freed Hutus from the evil of destroying an entire tribe. Together they are now free, under the control of President Kagame. This is Independence. This is the only option still for this country. The prayer is President Kagame does not let power corrupt as in the case of so many other African countries. Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, a perfect example. The prayer is that one day there will be free elections that can be held without violence. I pray for his safetly from his enemies that silently exist within this country.
I think about being an American, living and celebrating the freedoms being from the United States offers. However, is America truly free? Yes, our President, Congress, other government officials are elected in "free" elections. However, are they really independent of the influences of lobbyists, money, and the desire for personal power? This is not to be a political discussion. Do not post your political opinions. These thoughts and questions are for you to really digest. On this Independence Day, is America truly free?
I believe we are becoming less "free". The last Presidential election was played out considerably in the media. Media I believe failed to report the "truth" and became too personally intertwined with the person and not the issues. Americans were left with trying to weed through the myriad of papers, mostly backing a candidate without reporting the views and plans for each candidate. I believe both candidates, in their desire to be President, continued to spin the truth for the audience, the media, and for the votes of the people they professed to represent. In the end, when I would talk to people about either candidate and why they voted the way they did I would hear, "I voted for Obama because he gives me hope." Or, "I voted for McCain because he was my only conservative choice." My question now is why didn't America have a choice to pick a President that could answers the issues directly, honesty and then implement their plan without the influence of all the people he "owed" in the end. This is not freedom in the purest sense. We are independent, we are not free.
Again...these are my thoughts, the beauty about America is that we are "free" to openly express our opinions.
Personally, independence comes with a price. My desire to live independently has consequences. The more I taste "freedom" the more it will impact the ones closest to me. How then can I be truly "free"? I struck out on this independent dream months ago. Every day I get more confident in my abilities. It is hard at times for me to feel excited about the freedom to make my new life choices when I understand there is someone at home who wants me home. I feel like I am tied to two worlds. It is frightening to look into the unknown of this pursuit of freedom. I could end up alone. Is being free to do exactly what you want to do at any time worth losing the tie to someone who understands my need for "independence"? I do not anxiously count the days until I get home. I do not think about going home. Can I just be "okay" with being independent?
It seems to work for America, it seems to work for Rwanda, will it work for me?