I have never found it so hard to wrap my mind around the phrase ‘Happy New Year’ before. The sun is shining outside my window. I am on my way back to the rest of my life overseas. I am glad to be alive. But somehow, in another locality, the locality where my heart lives, I am distraught, I am alarmed, I am looking out into unrelenting darkness. I feel naked in all this, stripped of many things that made me Kenyan. I am a stranger to what is becoming familiar on the news. I keep wondering what country that is where flames are rising on the streets, where the government is making every day is a public holiday, as a way to keep us cocooned in an endless haze that pretends that tomorrow everything will be normal again. The word holiday has never seemed so strange–our holiday has ended, and now a new work has began–the work of trying to understand what is happening.
In the councils of power, what was stolen was not an election–it was our right to live lives as people whose existence was greater than the sum of my parts; who walked in friendship with people who were not ‘like’ me; who knew myself as a person who was connected to many things in many ways. And this is repeated in countless varieties of human experience in Kenya right now. We all were Kenyans, and now we are something else–flotsam and jetsam, hurtling along in a current of displacement, unable to hold on to something that seems bigger than ourselves. My government has reduced me to a crude representation of power politics, a blank ballot whose ethnicity makes me complicit in the actions of a man who was powerful and is now weak. Give me back the freedom to be a Kenyan again. Give me something to believe in that is not the death of a dream. Give me the courage not to turn away. Give us people who can hold the line, no matter the cost, and keep us from being swept away. It might be too little–but let it not be too late.
I cannot say Happy New Year. Not yet. So I will say–Don’t let this new thing grow old–let it remain strange, let it remain abhorrent, let it remain something that has no place in the place we call home. Evil prevails when good men (and women) do nothing. So Do. Do something. Live a life that imagines that we will mourn together, we will bury our dead together, and we will plant a tree of life and water it with our hope.