Half of a Yellow Sun & NY Times Article: Democracy v. National-Global Economic Advantage

In the New York Times article, “In Arab Spring, Obama Finds A Sharp Test,” published September 25, 2012, I found the dilemma that the article asserted that President Obama faces, an uncertainty on how to support foreign protest situations or the current leadership of that nation, as related to the issues outlined in the part I of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, set in the early 1960s.

In the following part II of Half of a Yellow Sun it will be interesting to find out if Britain will side with the leadership of Nigeria or with the protesting sector of Nigeria that seems to be forming with the “revolutionary lover” Odenigbo.  Also, as the reader, I find that the form that Adichie uses with the point of view switching between those who view revolution and status quo differently, for instance the presentation of Olana’s opinions and the presentation of Kainene’s mocking opinions, I am placed like a foreign entity to root for one ideology or the other. Who should I support and what are my interests?

Although America sided with the Egyptian populace’s protest of Mubarak and the overthrow of Mubarak was often labeled as “inevitable”, America did not intervene in the peoples’ protest situation of Bahrain (on an island near Saudi Arabia) and later patched up initial American criticism of Saudi Arabia’s cracking down on the protest there, choosing not to upset the wealthy leadership and oil connections of Saudi Arabia’s current leadership.

The New York Times article notes that William M. Daley, President Obama’s former chief of staff said, “We realized that the possibility of anything happening in Saudi Arabia [democracy springing up next door in Bahrain via revolution] was one that couldn’t become a reality. For the global economy, this couldn’t happen. Yes it was treated differently from Egypt. It was a different situation.”

Thus, the tug-of-war between foreign backing of protests and current leadership seems to be torn between standing up for democracy abroad and what the article defined as, “long-term American interests in security and cheap oil,” –  economic advantage. It seems like a paradox, that you either stand up for democracy or support economic advantage and that going back and forth implies wishy washy policies.

From the descriptions of British involvement in Nigeria in the novel, it seems like Britain would not back the revolutionaries, particularly if they have views that would not promote the capitalist oil business between Britain and Nigeria, with mention of Odenigbo’s ideas for socialism.

Thus, the main connection between the article and the novel is the tension between revolutionaries and current leadership and the significance of the foreign power’s connections with them. These ideas I think are embodied with the character Odenigbo/Olanna, Kainene/Kainene’s father, and Richard/Susan.

The fracture between the citizens and current rule is evident when Odenigbo says,

“Nobody is saying that burning government property is a good thing, but to send the army in to kill in the name of order? There are Tiv people lying dead for nothing. ”(pg.115)

The role of foreign influence in national affairs, the reliance of national leaders upon each other in a global economy, is evident when Odenigbo notes,

“You think [Balewa] cares much for other Africans? The white man is the only master Balewa knows.” (pg.140)

Thus, just as America did not support the protests in Bahrain because of alignment with the rulers in Bahrain and the oil-rich Saudi Arabia, it seems that the bond between Britain and Nigeria’s Balewa in part I of Half of a Yellow Sun is so tight that Britain siding with the protesters in Nigeria is highly unlikely.

I wonder if a theme of human freedom across and despite of boundaries and liminality will surface in this book.

It is interesting, the way reading modern “history” in the NY Times can shed light on my projections of what will happen in older history (presented in a novel) that I am not familiar with.


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