Sunday, May 28, 2006

Homeland Security
(snapshot of life in Senegal)

- Most aspects of life remained tranquil in this Muslim, West African land. People treated us with respect, even as our appearances proclaimed our nationalities ahead of us. Mixed groups talked about politics calmly and rationally, perhaps with even greater candor than I remembered in the United States. Locals invited us to celebrate their customs and holidays, explained to us the tenets of their faith.

The only exception we witnessed unfortunately was a vivid one: the Osama Bin Laden bumper stickers.

“What’s going on? Why?” we asked Alhassane*, unsettled by the sight of the hollow-eyed, bearded, all too familiar visage staring back at us from the window of a taxi or car rapide. Needless to say, we walked the other way when one approached us bearing such a sticker.

The eternal diplomat, balancing the desire to explain with the desire not to offend, Alhassane hedged. “People see him as edgy, out there, radical. He wants to shake things up. People respond to that.”

Edgy? That was a word I’d previously associated with advertising campaigns, independent films. It seemed a bit… weak for this situation.

Yet the Bin Laden stickers were not the most popular in Senegal, Alhassane quickly reassured us. He pointed out the rear view windows and bumpers of other taxis and car rapides speeding by. Far more bore the likeness of a pouting “Borderline” era Madonna.

(* a "nom-de-blog" for privacy purposes)

Read more out of Africa


At 9:45 PM, Anonymous katjjames said...

We are so sheltered, we tend to forget how the world views us, or what we once bought into. How incredibly frightening to find America's No. 1 enemy staring at you without any fear. Then again, we have Jerry Falwell.


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