With all the news about Covid-19 in the last six months, it probably past your notice that in mid-March, due to the pandemic, the US Peace Corps terminated all its 7,000+ volunteers worldwide and sent them back to the US. The volunteers then landed in the US when people were being laid off by the millions and so had great difficulty finding a job. What I found ironic about this withdrawal was the fact that most of those volunteers would have been saver in their country of posting than in the United States. This observation made me realize how fortunately Gladys and I are living in Kenya. We had planned to visit the US for a few weeks in April, but conditions by that time made travel difficult and we would have been unable to return to Kenya when our vacation was over.

As of now Kenya has had 217 cases and 4 deaths per million of population while the United States has had 11,160 cases and 426 deaths per million. So far I do not known any of the people who have died from Covid-19 in Kenya, while I know of at least four people in the US who have died including, again ironically, one Kenyan living in the United States.

Since I am emphasizing “ironic” situation, I also find the following ironic: When I was first coming to Africa in 1964, before we left for Tanzania, my group, called Volunteer Teachers for Africa, was given a lecture on health issues in Africa. The doctor listed all the dreadful diseases that we might encounter in Africa. She also made the statement that we should not shake hands with Africans because we might get worms since African never washed their hands!!! Even though I was only 20 years old at that time, I realized prejudice when I saw it. In all the years I have been in Africa I have shaken the hands of thousands of Africans and I have never had worms. The irony now is that as far as Covid-19 is concerned, a person in the United States is 51 times more likely to catch Covid-19 than a person in Kenya and 107 times more likely to die from the disease. So Gladys and I are much safer here in Kenya.

The following chart gives a visual illustration of the large difference in deaths per million population between the United States and Kenya.

As you can see, comparing per million people in the United States to Kenya, Kenya’s rate is barely off the bottom axis. Since Gladys and I are both elderly, have diabetes and high blood pressure, if we should happen to catch the disease, we are in the highest risk groups for dying from Covid-19.

*****

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 I was an election judge in Maryland for the national election. I wanted to do this so that I could compare what happens in US elections with those in Kenya where I had often been an election observer. I woke up at 5:00 AM to get to the polling station by 6:00 AM to open the polling place at 7:00 AM. I returned home around 9:00 PM that night, but stayed awake to hear the results of the election. About midnight it was clear that Trump was going to win the election. A few days later Gladys and I flew back to Kenya.

I had become aware of the world in the 1960s and 1970s which was a time when many Americans thought that the US could be drastically improved as racism was being attacked, militarism seemed to have gone out of fashion, women and gay rights were on the upswing, income was being spread out more evenly, environmental awareness increased, and the country was open to all kinds of people. Although some of this had been attacked and rolled back by President Nixon and then President Reagan, the United States on the whole seemed to be moving forward, albeit very slowly. Trump’s election negated all of this as the United States government became the anti-thesis of all that I had hoped for in my youth. While nothing that Trump has done has surprised me, in total, he has been worse than I had anticipated that late night of November 8, 2016.

I was glad to return to Kenya where I didn’t have to live through all the backsliding. Of course I have always kept up with the US news and that has been depressing enough. It is not that Kenyan politics is a bed of roses as I learned after the 2007/2008 post election violence. While corruption is rife here in Kenya, it pales in comparison to what is now happening in the United States. Moreover in the US much of the corruption has become totally legal.

In my opinion, Trump has brought the United States world empire to its knees. I think that this is beneficial since the US, during my life of 77 years, with the backing of its military might, has been promoting its own interests to the detriment of the rest of the world. I am not sure how the American public is going to react to this end of empire. I am afraid, though, that a wounded animal is very dangerous. With his falling popularity, I would not be a bit surprised if, before the election, Trump starts a war somewhere so that people will rally around the flag to support him and he gets re-elected. If he loses the election, I am fearful what he and his supporters including his highly armed vigilantes might do to stay in power.

*****

OK, this Report is heavy so let me end on a personal, light note. In the early 1990s, under the leadership of Annette Breiling, I was the first Clerk of the Board of Directors of Friends Meeting School in Frederick County, Maryland. Little did I dream then that my son, Tommy, would get married to Lorena Yamasaki; they would have a child, Matias, who would become an excellent soccer (football) player; that his indoor soccer team would play in the Friends Meeting School’s gym, built long after I was no longer involved with the school.  I have attached here Lorena’s nine second video of Matias scoring a spectacular back heel goal. I hope you can open it.

Somehow this got posted in cyberspace and soon it had over 30,000 views. Then someone posted it online in soccer loving Brazil and it quickly received more than 300,000 more hits. Wow! The lesson is that you can never imagine the consequences of something you do.

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David Zarembka

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