U.S. ELection, Nam Style

If you ask my learners who Barack Obama is, they’ll tell you: “He’s the President of America and he is black.” They might think the earth is shaped like a diamond, but they definitely know who Barack Obama is. And what is even more significant, they recognize what a huge milestone we reached in electing an African American president into the White House.

 

Yesterday, when I told my learners that Obama had to defend his place as leader of our country in a new election, they were scandalized and upset (they’re literally obsessed with Obama). Then I asked them: “Without knowing anything about the candidates, who you would vote for?” The class was unanimously for Obama.  So I decided to explain a few simple issues to the class and see if any of them would change their minds…

 

SO I was prepared. I knew that my learners were socially conservative, and that their ideals are shaped by a literal interpretation of the Bible and their parents/grandparents’ traditional values. But still, their reactions were interesting to watch, and I thought I’d share them with you.

 

When I told them that abortion was legal in the US, they responded: “Nah! Nah! Nah! Nah!” “How can you kill your own baby?”  They were totally shocked, but I tried to explain that the issue isn’t whether or not abortion is “right”, its whether the government should decide, or whether the pregnant woman should decide. I don’t think they had ever thought about it that way. I also asked whether it was better to have a safe abortion in a doctor’s office, or an unsafe one alone. I tried not to let my own opinions show, but rather to ask questions to get them thinking about implications they had never thought about before – which then brought some interesting commentary. Throughout the conversation, I learned that illegal abortions are actually not uncommon here, but rather teenagers go off alone so they can illegally abort their baby in private. My kids explained the two main methods: 1) Go to the bush and push a stick up your vagina, or 2) go to the bush and drink as many liters of juice as you possibly can.

 

When I suggested that a same-sex couple could be in love and be married, they reacted by laughing hysterically, and then straight up not believing me.  I couldn’t calm them down for at least five minutes. I knew they would be against it, but the dramatic reaction was as if they had never heard of it before. I think they had learned the definition of “homosexuality” in class, but didn’t think it was a real thing. They asked, “Can two men reproduce?” and “How can gay people show affection?” And inevitably: “Miss, are you gay?” Even after class, learners were coming up to me to ask questions – still in shock.

 

Their ideas on the role of government in health care were relatively pro Obama, and their gun control opinions were split down the middle. I wish I could have gotten into more issues, but I stuck to the simple, straightforward ones for time’s sake.

 

So at the end of my experiment I asked them to vote again keeping in mind what they learned about the views of the two candidates. The result was Obama: 13, Romney: 10. So I guess I converted almost half the class to the Romney side. But the interesting question was: Why would more than half the class still vote for Obama, when they all vehemently disagree with his stances?  I think in the end, the issues really don’t affect my learners – but I think they’re really inspired by the fact that the leader of such a powerful country is black. And as a teacher, anything that makes them proud, or starts them thinking, or gets them motivated, is OK with me.

 

…Bringing me to the REAL election. Before Matt came to Peace Corps, he predicted that he’d read about the presidential election on a Newsweek article shipped in a care package, two months after the election. But in the end we were fortunate enough not to rely on that. Instead, we found a lodge with wireless internet that we could stay at overnight and follow the race. Then to our surprise, the room had a TV with three channels – and one of them happened to be BBC covering the election all night.

 

So we threw on red, white and blue clothes, made posters, and brought snacks and Red Bull, ready for an all-nighter. It ended up being a really great 12 hours; I probably followed the details of the race better than I would have in the US. And on top of it all, I loved to follow the race from the perspective of Britian. We always get to listen to America’s issues; but to hear it from an outside perspective – and to see how much the BBC network cared about the outcome, was very fascinating. All night, I felt proud to be from the United States of America.



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