Saturday, October 14, 2017

Welcome To Tanzania!

Brace for impact, ladies and gentlemen, this may be a shock. I’m giving Herr President Trump a pass on his mispronunciation of “Tanzania.”

Sure, he did say, on tape, “tan-ZANE-ia,” and that, technically, is wrong. But do we really want to add this to the daily game of “dogpile on the rabbit?” We all, from media giants to grade school wiseasses, jump on Trump’s hurricane of mistakes, gaffs, and faux pas, and we have our reasons. Not only is it right to point out that this guy has no business being our president, but it is also great fun. This Tanzania thing, however, is the bridge too far of Trump mockery.

Tanzania! Could you find it on a map? Tell the truth now. If you found the word “Tanzania” in an article would you read it as “tan-za-KNEE-ah?” Or, more appropriately, “TAN-za-KNEE-ah?” Do you know which of those last two is correct? I don’t, and it’s likely that you don’t either.

And that’s okay! Americans are famous for not caring a fig about foreign languages or geography. Most Americans only discover the location of a foreign country when we start bombing it. African geography is low on most Americans’ lists of important subjects. It’s in the news, and I’m on my guard, so today I would say, “TAN-za-KNEE-ah,” but if it snuck up on me unawares I’d probably blurt out “tan-ZANE-ia,” just like Trump did. So I’m not holding it against him, even though he really should take better briefings about those things. I would, if I were him.

I could make that mistake and not care at all. And I’ll tell you, I’ve had the advantage of knowing two fine young men from Tanzania who were neighbors of mine in a Bangkok condo building for many years. They were studying engineering at a local international university. They were very gracious. I was glad for the opportunity to get to know them a bit, and to find out a few things about their country. One thing that I can tell you: neither of them would care if you mispronounced the name of Tanzania, as long as you were speaking of it respectfully.

And it’s an interesting place! In the early post-colonial period after World War II, Tanganyika and Zanzibar were two of the newly independent countries below the horn of East Africa. (South of Kenya.) I knew from the newspapers in 1964 that they had voted to join themselves into one country called Tanzania. I knew where it was, but that was the sum of my knowledge. I’m sure that I called it “tan-ZANE-ia,” like Trump did yesterday. I’m pretty sure that that’s what everybody called it. My condo neighbors told me that the two cultures were very different, something that I had had no ideas about at all. Tanganyika was on the mainland, and Zanzibar was on a series of islands off the coast. One culture was predominantly Christian; the other predominantly Muslim. I forget right now which was which. One of the students was a Christian, and he was very active in a church in our neighborhood, probably a Korean Presbyterian church. The other fellow was a Muslim. If they are any indication, Tanzania is a hospitable country with a gracious, tolerant culture. I wish them well.

Let’s take this opportunity to forgive Trump this one minor misstep. Do it just this once. Please continue to call him on all of his more crazy or more dangerous utterances, let’s continue to do that, please. And continue to draw attention to the heinous mischief that our current ruling elite are working every day on the American way of life. Trump and his running dogs are leading us down a path that ends where the range of options only covers the space between miserable poverty and post-apocalyptic horror, so the least that we can do is offer some push-back. 

Do it for the children! Like your own grandchildren, for instance.  Or mine, if you are not so blessed. I’d appreciate it. 

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