Wednesday, November 5, 2008

U.S./Somalia Links, Associative Meanings

Nuruddin Farah has complicated ideas about the U.S.'s role in Somalia, and he forms associations in his novel that bring those complexities to the fore. He sees the difficulties of international intervention in his country, as well as the necessity. Farah, however, makes a distinction between helping the other and helping one's self. Farrah points to the difficult relationship between the effort on the ground in the U.S./U.N. intervention, and the media portrayal of the situation that has the ability to sway public opinion. Farah posits the idea that American foreign policy is as much a TV show as anything else, "a circus for the benefit of prime-time TV back home." The link between the media and American identity makes it hard for motives to be seen as altruistic (all the more appropriate that I use an image from a movie to begin this post).

The complexity of the situation is also written in religious terms. One of Farah's protagonists explains his "misgivings about saints and angels ... especially as I fear that people describe the Yankees as 'good angels' come on a humanitarian mission, to perform God's work here. Do you think Yankees ceased being angels, because of the conditions met here, conditions that wouldn't permit them to perform any work but Satan's? When do angels cease to be angels and resort to being who they are, Yankees?" Farah embeds religious terms in the political questions in an way that draws the two together.

The links he forms ask the crucial questions. How does the media influence foreign policy and subsequently the lives of individual Somalis? How can humanitarian goals be forgotten so quickly when things begin to go wrong on the ground? And then link the two - the media, humanitarian ideals gone wrong - an ethical imbalance?