I Bet I Can Make Your Eyes Glaze Over In Five Seconds
Today's subject: Kenya.
There. That took about two seconds.
Stick with me here.
The world is watching anxiously as Pakistan implodes. The murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the bloody aftermath have been page one material since the gunshots and explosions (and, if the government is to be believed, the lethal sunroof bump) that ended her life Thursday morning, Milwaukee time. Admittedly, a lot of us had to play catch-up on the story, having been lulled into a holiday news malaise fueled by non-stop yearenders and lists of top YouTube videos. Our short attention spans needed a crash course on Pakistani politics, the vulnerability of it's government and the fact that whoever runs the nation has nuclear weapons at his/her disposal.
As if that wasn't enough to worry about, there's Africa. Particularly, Kenya.
Here's the part where you start getting sleepy again Hang in there.
Kenya's sitting president won a new term over the weekend amid allegations of voting irregularities. Announcement of the controversial results triggered widespread rioting. The incumbent is part of a tribe that's had power in Kenya for years, with foes claiming that his administration is corrupt, screwing other tribes out of their piece of the action in one of Africa's few democratic and economically successful nations. Adding to the tensions: Islamic fundamentalism, with it's prophets blaming U.S. intervention for keeping the current administration in power. What happened this weekend--the apparent jobbing of a minority tribe member out of Kenya's presidency--will no doubt give those claims new heft. The post-election violence doesn't portend well for the controversially re-elected president, and the grassy-knoll claims of his foes (jihadists included) will only get more credibility as the anger over the outcome grows.
We're told time and again that the war against terror is global, yet how many of us knew that one of those battlegrounds was Kenya? Chances are you didn't know there were presidential elections happening there last week. Only the most loyal New York Times reader was able to follow the story, or find background on the Islamic angle. I only knew of it because I podcast the BBC. Admittedly, it made my eyes grew vacant when I first heard "Kenyan elections" during the Beeb's rundown of stories, but I stuck with it. Doesn't make me a better person. Truth is, I was too lazy to change to a different I-pod playlist. BBC won out over Big and Rich.
I don't know if this story made any of the electronic U.S. media. I watch a lot of cable news when I'm home during the day, and I never heard the word "Kenya" mentioned once in the past week. I DID hear a lot about the suburban Chicago cop and his missing wife--a fascinating story, to be sure, but one that has few if any global ramifications. Of all the criticisms leveled against the American media, especially the kind we watch instead of read, one of the most legit is the one that involves it's total lack of interest in the world around us. There are things we need to know internationally that aren't quite as sexy or easy to report as the one about this-week's-missing-hot-blond, but they need to be reported, nonetheless.
Pakistan is a huge story for obvious reasons--a nation with nukes and an unstable government that could fall into the hands of Taliban and Al Qaida sympathizers. Oh yeah, did I mention that Osama Bin Laden might be living in a cave there, too?
Kenya doesn't have quite that many news pegs, but it IS a major African democracy with an embattled administration and internal jihadist pressures. It's another country where the U.S. is again being decried as the devil incarnate for backing a sitting president--a leader who, after this weekend, might be the wrong horse in still another international race. In a cable news world that runs hot 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you'd think there'd be room for at least a passing mention. Instead, we get breathy updates about a missing American tourist in Aruba. Or live copter coverage when Britney Spears takes a drive to Starbucks.
2008 looms, and with it the Iowa caucuses, the presidential primary season, and eventually, an election. It will also be the year of the Beijing Olympics. Let's make ourselves a promise to learn some more about the world around us in the months ahead so that the next time we hear about Kenya, it isn't during the Parade of Nations as the Summer Games begin.