Orangaroni and deficit ideologies

Earlier this afternoon, I posted on Facebook a question along the lines of, what should I call our current president other than his name?  I received a slew of answers:  Twitler, That Man, Chump, the Orange Man, Orangaroni, Donnykins, Apricot Hellbeast, Darth Tangerine, Die Twitter Führer, and others quickly arrived.  In less than two hours, I had over 40 names on my feed and another 40 or so provided via an early link.  Though I have many favorites for ridicule, #notmypresident remains the most pointed and true.  
I didn’t vote for that man, and I am nervous for the times to come as it is so very clear that the brief light that we could almost see towards equity, dignity, integrity, and the triumph of human rights, that light was the light of a train.  Behind it, there certainly may be bright days, but right now, the train speeds on this way.  
Just now, before I ascended the breath-stealer hill to the guest house at Daraja, I told the students in the Transition Office space to take a break from their computers and NGO projects to enjoy the sunsets.  They were in Kenya and they would never see sunsets like those just outside the door.  The majority went outside to take pictures.  They left their computers a moment to enjoy a scene that even the most erudite painters I doubt could fully capture.  
We are here in Kenya where the skies were just now washed in tones of rust, copper, pink, and blue.   They were the colors before night’s blanketing and the seemingly wild spray of pulsing stars.  Over a vast land and raging waters, our country is on fire.  
Yesterday, we visited Saint Mary’s Nyeri were the Christian Brothers have a primary school and secondary school.  Over 700 young boys live on campus.  They are children across the nation of campus, seeking to rise to the motto, “You give us the boy.  We give you the man.”  We were learning what a school can do to raise a man of integrity and excellence.  
After that, the group went to the burial place of Sir. Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell.  He was the founder of the Boy Scouts.  The guides there spoke of the movement of children’s scouting, and the community organization and engagement that comes from participation in the scouting movement.  Stephen had risen to a trainer of trainers and knew a great deal about the organization in Kenya and abroad.  After the stop there, we went to Paxtu, the second home of Baden-Powell, where he spent his twilight years, with a view of Mt. Kenya’s peaks.  Only a few steps from there at Treetops was where Queen Elizabeth II learned that her father had died and that she had become the Queen of England.  After learning a little about youth education (in formal schooling, technical programs, and through co-curricular/extracurricular programming), we headed for a lovely late lunch at Karibu Trout Restaurant in Nanyuki where we all had incredible meals.  
There were times, in a sudden burst of incredible pain, I would realize that #notmypresident had been inaugurated and that my world was suddenly changing for the worst.  
Later that night, my husband and I texted about farms in Kenya or Ireland or Italy again.  We have dreams of living a simpler life, one as off-grid as possible.  In each conversation, building towards such dreams becomes a closer reality.  At one point, we batted such an idea around for an early retirement.  At present, we dream of being in our early 50s when we make this move.  In drawing closer, such rumination become more likely, more rooted in a foreseen reality.  
How does one raise a person of integrity and excellence?  Does this person stand in a country’s flames?  Does this person seek to put them out?  If so, how?  And if not, does this person resist through exodus?  Can one be a person of integrity and excellence and a citizen from a distance?  
I’ve also been thinking a lot of deficit ideology on this trip, guilt, and judgment.  In the debriefing from the weekend last night, guilt came up again as did judgment on the lives of others.  For example, one of the students noticed a group of Kenyas burning trash and thought of all the chemicals within that trash and the lack of education one must have to do that.  Another student brought up our trip to the Permaculture Research Institute and how the PRI offers significant training (local and global) on sustainable development.  I pointed out that we have seen two instances but cannot make any judgment, because we don’t know the whole story of the place.  We have questions to ask and information to gather.  Another student brought up the recent history of the independence of Kenya.  It was only in 2010 that their newest constitution was ratified.  Of course, it stands to reason that some of the logistics of trash pick-ups and disposal among other things would take some time to organize in an environmentally sound way.  
Guilt has been brought up a number of times in our debriefing sessions.  In the larger conversations, others have brought up that no one needs guilt or pity or sympathy.  Rather, people want and need to be listened to and partnered with.  I brought up several times that the path to paralysis is paved with guilt and depressive inaction, the feelings that everything is so bad that nothing can be done.  This class attempts to resist that.  It seeks to encourage empathy, one that does not lead to numbing to the realities due to emotional overload or carrying too much weight rooted in judgment of the lives of others.  I even told the group that they should consider, “Nikki-Rosa” by Nikki Giovanni, and how it speaks to being liberated from the judgment of others, that no matter the difficulties of her childhood that the speaker was quite happy.  I want the group to seek out the cultural wealth of the communities with whom they are partnering.  I want them to challenge the deficit ideology that they carry themselves, particularly for people from the continent of Africa, people in Kenya, and for Black people in general.  But self-reflection is difficult for some.  
I am seeing that difficulty in reading the blogs of my students, blogs that focus on a recounting of what happened (where they went) rather than how they felt in the moments of going.  I want them to find a consistent message or theme and follow the tendrils through the places that they have been, examining how those tendrils and their own backgrounds color what they see in the world.  The other day a student spoke of a a racist grandmother that she has and how she tries to interrupt the grandmother by calling her out in a loving way.  Still, the reality is that the racism with which we grew up cannot be stopped by calling it out alone.  It is incisive, infectious, and pernicious.  These blogs need to be a space for those explorations as well:  what we carry, how it colors what we view, and how we challenge presumptions of others.  
Maybe if all people did some of this work I might not have to refer to my president as #notmypresident to specifically note over and over again that I did not elect him, and I do not support any of his actions.  

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There is still so much work to do… and there are also sunsets to see.  

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