“Third World Country” Has Nothing To Do With It

No country is exempt from the fragility of Democracy

Image from the official Twitter page of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic

Regarding the Capitol's chaos, I feel too detached to have the same visceral reactions splattered on every corner of my Facebook feed and YouTube comments. Blame mental fatigue of waiting with bated breath for the next shoe to drop every couple of months this past year. Since I had nothing to add to the discussion, I read and digested the reactions. One particular set of comments about the attempted coup stands out to me, though. They are the ones relegating America to Third World country status.

It’s nothing new. Commentaries at the onset of the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic likened America’s handling to a Third World country. Third World countries have ironically faired better with the pandemic. Nonetheless, I doubt all these comments were objective observations not meant to shame the American government. In other words, they are condescending and — I try not to use this word lightly — racists.

So, what are people like me, a second-generation American from the poster child of Third World countries, the Central African Republic (CAR), to make of these comparisons? As if the stars aligned to prove a point, the CAR and the USA are currently sharing the same fate.

On January 4th, the Central African Republic announced president Faustin-Archange Touader as the winner of the December 27th presidential election. Weeks prior, rebel groups incited by exiled former president François Bozizé ravaged parts of the country to thwart the election. The countries military force accompanied by the UN, France, and Russia struck back to ensure a fair election. Bloodshed ensued. With a father as a presidential candidate and cousins fighting on both sides of the battle and no word from either, it’s a scary prospect.

A majority of the candidates are disputing the results because voter turnout was lower than expected, thanks to ongoing violence. One candidate, Anicet Georges Dologuele, declared, “It’s a farce. There were many irregularities and instances of fraud.” Even Facebook had to step in to remove troll accounts linked to France and Russia attempting to sway voters.

With a contested election, peace seems impossible at the moment. The unfortunate reality is violence will get worse. There are concerns that the rebel alliances are advancing to the capital city of Bangui to overthrow the president. Some are left wondering if the 12,000+ UN troops, French and Russian troops occupying the mineral-rich country is really about peace.

Meanwhile, I’ve remained in my safe little bubble on the other side of the world. And like, much of the world, I watched a mob rule wreak havoc on the US Capital building. Then, people like former President Bush make demeaning comments likening the event to something in a “banana republic” as I’m fretting over my family back in CAR.

I mentioned earlier that 2020 felt like — as much as I hate this word — a prophecy come true where the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. So something about the juxtaposition of a superpower and the lowest of the Third-World countries experiencing similar events around the same time feels oddly poetic.

The CAR events and its parallel with what unfolded in DC on Wednesday left me with a few thoughts. Democracy is heralded as the ideal. But in this idyllic view, we sometimes ignore the dysfunction it can breed in its fragility. In my short lifetime, I’ve witnessed that dysfunction repeatedly, from coup d’etats to military mutinies. We easily rely on a political ideology to fix all our problems while forgetting that humans are involved.

The most glaring problem is that we’ve assigned these dysfunctions to non-White countries as if they are exempt. But, everything from the past four years building up to Wednesday’s events proved how wrong that thinking is.

So, how about we forget this pointless comparison between the US and Third World countries. Rather than demonize countries that don’t fall in the realm of non-White superpowers who can’t get this Democracy thing right, let’s instead get to the heart of the issue that plagues us all: our complex humanity.

Learning to be human. Learning to love bigger.

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