Friday, August 04, 2006

City Declares War On Ethiopia

Dear Readers,

The Good Intentions Paving Co. wrapped up its most current roadwork project at the July 31 Takoma Park city council meeting. The intentions used in this work were the finest: outreach to the city’s Ethiopian-immigrant community and service to human rights and democracy. The workers laying the pavement were the city councilmembers themselves. The road led to a simple resolution in favor of US House Bill 5680, which calls for human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. It was intended to be a quick and quiet sidetrip from the usual business of the city council.

In case you do not follow the news from Ethiopia, dear Readers, the current regime is currently in favor of rights - it’s own - over those of the dead and imprisoned bodies of its opposition.

The resolution was introduced by councilmember Terry Seamens, whose heart is always in the right place, though in this instance his heart was in a cab on the way to the right place, but the cab driver took a meandering route and got lost in a bad neighborhood - all the time describing the terrible things happening in his home country.

It was one of those quick “courtesy” resolutions, the sort of thing the city likes to do to buff the shine on its reputation. A few Ethiopian immigrants showed up during the resolution’s phases: the introduction, the first hearing, and the second hearing, and they expressed gratitude to the city, to the United States, and democracy. It was a scene Norman Rockwell might have painted and titled “First Taste of Free Speech”, as these folks stood before the council and in sometimes halting English described the terrible things happening in their home country.

Your Gilbert got the impression the council members were thinking that, sure, this was taking a few moments out of their already tedious meeting schedule, but it was a worthy cause and they were a little touched by it all, and even a bit proud of themselves. Council eyes were misty.

Then came the July 31 council session, the final vote on the resolution, and the audience was PACKED, dear Readers! It seems not all Ethiopian immigrants agree on this issue. Some of them think the government back home is getting a bum rap. As speaker after speaker arose to make pretty much the same points and counterpoints over and over it began to look as if this particular road of good intentions was headed straight for Meeting Hell. The councilmembers’ misty eyes took on a more steely glint. The mayor, with increasing sternness, appealed a number of times to the crowd to refrain from repeating what previous speakers had already said.

The crowd was slow to take the hint. Your Gilbert supposes there are not many public venues in America to discuss Ethiopian politics, so these people, bless them, had driven in from all over the region to say their piece and that’s just what they were going to do, by gawd, even if the nice lady at the front of the room who kept glancing at the clock felt she had to say something-or-other in between their speeches.

Finally, however, the hint was taken and crowd ceased speechifying to the council. Instead they started speechifying to each other. Eventually, they took the loud discussion outside because that lady kept interrupting them and she wasn’t being quite so nice any more. Strange Americans, they act like they are your friends, then they act irritated at you for no reason at all.

The resolution did pass, by the way.


- Gilbert

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