Sudanese voters set example for U.S.

Not more than two weeks ago, the international news community was positively buzzing with coverage of a vote for independence in Sudan. The nation has been plagued with devastating poverty, two civil wars and continuing violence since its independence from Egypt and Britain in 1956. Conflict is centered between the Arab-cultured North and the traditional African religion and social structure of the South.
The roots of the ethnic divide go back to the time of the slave trade. The First Sudanese Civil War, from 1955-1972 was fought against the southern rebel Anyanya group. The second raged on between a re-formed resistance under the banner of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement from 1983-2005.
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the SPLM and the government of Sudan. Compromise ended the war with a promise for countrywide democracy and equal share of oil revenues. It also set up a timetable that agreed to hold the votes last week and sets independence, if declared, for July 9, 2011.
The most definitive number on voter turnout from the BBC proposes 97.5 percent of voters showed support for separation. The Sudan Tribune reports voter turnout ranged from 85 percent in the state of Unity (Western Upper Nile) to an astounding 100 percent in Western Equatoria.
All evidence points toward the region becoming an autonomous nation in July. Freedom for a newly established African country where there is little infrastructure coupled with high rates of poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition could mean a great many challenges lie ahead.
The important thing to take away from this election is the exuberance with which registered and able citizens participated. In our last presidential election, US Elections Project reports 56.8 percent voter turnout. Does this apathy, this all-too determined lack of spoken voices point to a loss of understanding? A loss of interest? Or does it speak to the overwhelming sense of helplessness that pervades our society’s citizens?
We are our governor. Washington concentrates power of legislation on a national level and all the way down, but if the government is messing up, it is our responsibility. If the ship sinks because those in the shipyard were lazy or indifferent, it cannot be blamed on the captain they put in charge.
When awareness of the way things really work leads to an understanding of the monetary trail of connections between big business and government, between unhealthy industries such as coal and pharmaceuticals, genetically modified agriculture, factory farming and so on.
Add the increase in health problems, incarceration rates of minorities, and tax cuts for the rich. Sitting on the shoulders of each American, whether informed or ignorant, there seems to be an impending sense of “uh-oh.” What has gone wrong?
Sudanese women, many of whom, most especially in the south, are not practicing Muslims, were ruled by Islamic law as laid down by a traditionalist government. Denial of gender equality led to a lack of education, health care and job opportunities. Many of these women have been sexually assaulted and raped in exchange for food, or more often for nothing at all. Due to their gender, many young women are unable to attend school, afraid of the walk outside of their homes.
In the face of such inequality, the voters in last week’s elections were, according to IPS News, 52 percent women, many of whom see the referendum as a door to a more nourishing community of sustainable development.
These women are calling for equal representation in government and plan on voting in and supporting a balanced legislature in the newly named South Sudan. We had 78 percent turnout for the re-election of Lincoln in 1864, and the Civil War is the closest we’ve gotten to the horrors of Darfur. It is when times are bad that we care, but if 41 percent is how much we care under the 2010 stresses, we’ve lost touch with what our American Revolution actually stood for – the citizens being in control.
In the United States today, “the Constitution” has become a buzzword to rally patriots, while simultaneously being trampled upon by the Supreme Court. This happened a year ago when the branch designed solely to protect the people from government repression and overreach ruled that corporations have the same rights as the people.
Perhaps, rather than wilting under the systematically unfair proceedings of our country, we as a nation can look at the challenges of daily life for the millions of impoverished peoples across Sudan, Africa, and the entire world — and be grateful.
Take time to say thank you with ever-growing gratitude for the constant heat, water, electricity, abundant food and books, education and opportunity to organize and engage. They say it gets worse before it gets better, but tell me, my fellow Americans: How much worse can we allow our home to get?
We are a great nation because of what we stand for, and how we, The People, stand for it.


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