Every now and then I see something in the news which makes me very happy to live in the greatest country in the world. That country is the United States of America, and it isn’t perfect. However, it is absolutely great.
Recently, I read a report about an Ethiopian runner who gestured as he crossed the finish-line in the men’s marathon at the Olympics. He has been described as “brave” in media reports.
Some might call the simple act of running more than 26 miles brave. I’ve run a lot in my life. I’ve completed 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and some interesting races up mountains, but I’ve never had it in me to sign up for a marathon.
That stated, it was this Ethiopian runner’s gesture which has caused many to call him “brave.” What seemed like just throwing his hands up in the air to celebrate his silver medal finish, was actually a way for Feyisa Lilesa to show his support to a cause in his home country.
Now some are saying he could die for this gesture.
“If I am not killed maybe they will put me in prison. [If ] they [do] not put me in prison they will block me at airport. I have got a decision. Maybe I move to another country,” said the runner in a press conference.
I don’t exactly consider myself an expert in African politics. I took an African politics class in college, but I did just enough for my B in a less than demanding course. The class ended, and I still wasn’t exactly sure what it was about or where Africa was on the globe.
That stated, somewhere along the way, I did learn to read. It seems the Ethiopian government has been attempting to expand the capitol city. The forceful annexation has been happening against the will of the Oromo people, the nation’s largest ethnic group.
The annexation is happening in Oromo territory, and the Oromo people have been protesting the expansion into their lands since 2014.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Ethiopian government has killed more than 400 people in its forceful takeover.
I guess it’s a little mind-boggling to me that a person could die for a gesture he makes, but that’s because I live here.
Every week I write this opinion piece. I’ve stated one candidate for president is absolutely unfit to hold that office. Another candidate probably ought to go to jail, because if I had done what Hillary Clinton did, the Army would have likely tossed me in Leavenworth.
I’ve stated the current president is unbecoming of the office he holds and has failed to make America safer. Indeed, he seems more concerned about offending the world than keeping America safe.
However, all that gets me here in this great country is a nasty comment or two on our website and maybe a few emails. That’s pretty neat, because elsewhere in the world freedom is not so absolute.
In Ethiopia, apparently, the government can march in and take a group’s property. Here it may only happen for very restrictive purposes and after a long journey of due process.
Then, even if the government gets its way, one can say whatever he likes about the way it all worked out.
Here in America, we can protest. We can complain. We can even give the president the finger if we like. The thought one could be jailed or killed because he or she protests the government might seem a little foreign here in the United States, and it should.
However, we shouldn’t be blind to the fact many parts of the world don’t operate that way. There are places where people practice their religion in secret. In some countries, one wouldn’t dare utter a word of dissent against the government.
In some of these places the penalty for speaking out against something is death. It sounds like Ethiopa might be one of those places.
In a world filled with problems, I think this runner’s problems underscore just how trivial the issues our nation faces are.
While we debate healthcare, others fight to retain their property. While he argue about bathrooms, entire groups of people face genocide.
Lilesa’s situation underscores just how free we are here. It is proof of how great a country this is.
The contrast between this Ethiopian runner’s situation and the situation in which an American protester might find himself is proof America is great. In fact, it is the greatest country on earth.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.