Dissent is Patriotic

by Anaf Lello

In the wake of the Colin Kaepernicks of the world, debates on what constitutes and negates nationalism and patriotism are headlining more than they have in ages. Political dissent is nothing new here in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world, although it is certainly met with varying capacities. In America, public displays of dissent seem to be at an all-time high, with President Trump signing prejudice into legislature at his leisure. In the case of Ethiopia, however, those who claim that the diaspora’s armchair tourists and beguiled expatriates are hindering the nation’s progression with their “anti-unity” claims of foul play are missing one simple fact: dissent is inherently patriotic.

Dissent may look different in every era, but it is an inextricable facet of nationalism whose absence is only telling of a lack of transparent, democratic society. Several decades ago, when it was debated in the U.S. whether the Pledge of Allegiance encouraged patriotism or limited free speech, Bush Sr. found a platform in arguing the former. The irony? The idea of putting an end to reciting lines such as “one nation under God” – lines in direct conflict with the religious freedom outlined by the 1st Amendment – was seen as anti-American. What could be more American than the documents that make up the rule of law? What of the rights and freedoms the Constitution is meant to uphold and inform?

Unfortunately for many Ethiopians, the same is true for Ethiopia’s political affairs. Where even identifying too strongly with your ethnic group is seen as an affront to the Ethiopian identity – a strange allegation, considering the ethnocracy that has ruled for a quarter century – it is apparent that the threat of a united front against the government was the catalyst for the government crackdown on the people’s last few years of protests. In October, that same government went so far as to issue a state of emergency, citing the “damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centres, administration and justice buildings”.

What the government has not issued, however, is an accurate statement detailing the transgressions it has committed in carrying out the Addis Ababa expansion plan, the Irreecha Massacre or the death toll for any of the clashes between unarmed protestors and government officials. In Ethiopia, lack of transparency, consensus and government accountability are rampant. If not made obvious by the power the ruling party maintains with all 547 seats in Parliament, this is visible in many other forms of apparatus of control – the 99% election wins that Africans know all too well, the monopoly on media and the rising number of innocent people languishing in the country’s notorious prisons, to name a few.

Political dissent is holding your government accountable. Political dissent is voicing your constitutional right to disagree with edicts, laws, bills, policies and anything else that oppresses those whom are affected. It is no mystery – you should be able to speak out against your government. And as long as those on the ground are suffering, my patriotism will manifest in criticizing a government that has terrorized its people for many successive regimes and monopolized upward mobility for a select few, not in blind flag-waving. That is not negotiable. My dissent is, always has been, and always will be patriotic.

Anaf Lello is a student living in Southern California. She is interested in feminism as a liberatory discourse, exploring Oromo women’s narratives and understanding the Gadaa and Siiqqee instutitions. Her favorite style of Oromo song is geerarsa, because of its historical significance in expressing the plight of the Oromo people.

Meet Me Halfway


In her eyes, you had it all. Perfect build, killer smile, quite easy on the eye to that sixteen-year-old tomboy. You had ambition, direction and motivation. The words she needed to hear flowed off of your tongue like the sweetest form of poetry. Words so sweet she could taste them. Words so vivid, every time you spoke she painted a masterpiece in her head. Your speech made the world around her go completely mute. You knew you were becoming the center of her world; you allowed her to surrender her heart to the palm of your hand, despite the fact that you knew you never intended on giving her yours in return.

You made her think the fantasy you created was reality. You tugged at her heart strings until she lived, breathed and bled for you only. She was quick to come to your defense; she was a one-woman militia, ready to eliminate anything and everything that threatened your well-being. Whether or not you knew it, she tied her happiness to you. She allowed you to puppet her along for years, hoping that one day you would look her in the eyes and ask her to hold your hand and run off into the sunset. Truly hoping that one day, you would put her on the same pedestal.

You deserve an Oscar for the way you played the role of her Prince Charming. You were a natural on the stage of her life. So convinced, she told her closest friends about you. So inspirational, she prayed God kept you in the shade of His protection. So implausible, she gloated about how blessed she was. So believable, your act made her fantasy a reality. So rehearsed, you even said you loved her like you truly meant it.

Every time she would ask you to take a step forward, you would blame distance. It confused her because she was conditioned to believe that there is nothing that can stop true love. Still, she didn’t lose hope.

A few years passed and time progressed around her. She heard the whispers, but you trained her to never believe what she heard unless you said it. She was beginning to feel like there was something off about it all, but you stopped her before she got carried away in thought.  Although it was evidently clear to the rest of the world that you were flawed, you were still perfect to her. She did not realize that she was asking you to give her something that you were incapable of giving. She did not realize that the distance you were referring to was not literal, but in fact, figurative. So she went the extra mile. She bridged the gap and allowed for you to break her. She allowed you to change her until she could no longer recognize herself. Before she took the leap towards you, you started off in the opposite direction.

But still, you touched her. You kissed her and held her like she was the only one. You deliberately took a piece of her, knowing that it was just another souvenir. She did not realize that she would never get that piece of her back and trusted that you would cherish it. She was rudely awakened.

It was at that moment in time she realized who she had become. She finally realized her devotion to you was stronger than her devotion to God. She realized the many things she did for you, only to find out not only did you neglect her, but she neglected herself. She wallowed in depression and looked for answers, none of which you seemed to have. She thought she was doomed and the world around her would never make sense without you. You broke her but nevertheless, she fought to keep you around – if not as her lover, at least as her friend. Although she believed it was possible, time proved otherwise. You both trotted down the paths of your lives, moving in different directions, only to become estranged.

She’s come to her own realizations now. She now can see that she was asking you to love her, not realizing that you did not know how. She now understands the distance you were referring to was the distance between how she felt about you and how you felt about her. She was light-years ahead and expected you to catch up. You taught her lessons she never expected to learn. You helped her flip the pages into a new chapter of her life and gave her the push towards the start of healing she yearned for. Although you might believe there is nothing more for her to say, there is one last thing. In case you’re reading this, she wants to say thank you for not “meeting her halfway”.

Akkoo Waree was born in Hargeisa, Somalia and was raised in Dallas, Texas. She is currently pursuing a pre-law degree and hopes to use her degree to advance the current state of the Oromo people.