August 27–Lions, Elephants, Giraffes and the Aha Moment

by Pat Bean

Before this country went to war against Iraq, and while I was still a journalist, I wrote four editorials against such an invasion. As we all know, my efforts were for naught. In 2003, America attacked. It was an action that was not seen kindly by much of the rest of the world.

Four years later, on August 27, 2007, I found myself bouncing across a savannah in Tanzania  in a Land Rover, looking for lions and giraffes and elephants and ostriches, with my friend, Kim. Our driver and safari guide was Bilal, a native African who spoke English. We three had been together for five days, and so had  come to know a little bit about each other.

He worried about us two ladies, and asked who was going to take care of us when we were old. I guess he didn’t notice that I already was, although he did call me “Mama” as a sign of respect. Kim, who is quite a bit younger than me, didn’t get the same honorific.

Bilal, whom we finally figured out was divorced, said it was the duty of his oldest son to take of him when he was old. But we noted that it was his daughter he called on his radio at every opportunity, always asking if his grandson was being a good boy.

This particular day, for the first time, the subject of politics was raised. So why,” he asked, “does America fight in other countries?”

My outspoken friend was first to point out that not every American had been in favor of attacking Iraq. I added that as a journalist I had even publicly written newspaper columns against the invasion.

The three words that Bilal spoke next shocked me. “Who hid you?” He asked.

This was the day I realized how blessed I was to be an American woman.

Pat Bean was a newspaper journalist for 37 years. Today she lives and travels full time in a small RV with her dog, Maggie. Her passions are writing, travel, birds, nature, hiking and books.  Accompany her on her sojourns at Pat Bean’s Blog: Traveling with Maggie.

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3 responses to “August 27–Lions, Elephants, Giraffes and the Aha Moment

  1. While we, as Americans, are indeed blessed with the freedom to express our dissatisfaction with the choices our government makes, we are not always effective in shaping those choices. Some would assert that all our words of protest testify to the impotence of the wishes of the general public. We could open a new (and lengthy) discussion on the merits of democracy, but your point is still well taken; we do have the right to express ourselves freely, and sometimes, that right saves lives.

  2. I attended a program on global warming a couple of weeks ago at the library. Toward the end a discussion ensued about things we can each do to alleviate the problem. Eventually the talk elevated to national and global efforts, and someone asked a radical question: “Are we just going to accept things (the way they are going)?” I was stunned to hear my own voice ask an equally radical question: “Do we have a choice?” Nobody had a good answer for that. Pat, I so agree with your friend that we are not always effective in shaping those choices. But then it only takes a match in the night to show your direction — if any are inclined to follow, they will.

  3. Wonderful post. Being able to speak our mind without fear of immediate death or dismemberment is something that I think we sometimes take for granted. Thank you for the story.

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