By Dan Morris Tumusiime
Dykema Gossett PLLC, which is among the Top 5 Law Firms in Michigan, USA, was my legal representative for my political Asylum case of 2008 – 2012. I would often travel by bus and train from Freedom House, the refugee shelter on Lafayette Boulevard in Detroit city to Dykema offices in Ann Arbor city. As a researcher, I surely enjoyed those bus & train cultural-shock journeys through the many States I toured.
Now, Americans just like the British, Koreans and Iranians, they worship Men-in-Uniform! Men-in-Uniform is a term for men and women who serve in the military and police.
When one or more of these men enter into a bus that is already full and are supposed to travel standing, the seated civilians literally feel pride as they stampede to offer seats to them. Such gestures of honor are a common sight in the cultural fabric of most developed countries, especially the US.
At first, this bus stampede scene appeared weird to me until when I inquired from one of the Samaritans. While explaining, a young lady said, “What on earth can you offer to show honor and gratitude to someone who daily risks his/her life for you and your country?” She added, “apart from my life and my peace, I know that the wealth and the superiority our nation has over the world are entirely built by these guys.”
Later when I moved out of the black dominated Detroit to reside in the countryside dominated by whites; I also discovered this Men-in-Uniform glorification in restaurants and other social centers. In fact, most restaurants and bars offer 30% discount to Men-in-Uniform including the veterans.
Most interesting is the special favor employers (both private and government) give to applicants who have ever served in the military. Many times I witnessed fellows who just had average qualifications but out-competed the better qualified civilians simply because they had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This entire honor and worship isn’t a law but a culture.
I had married a white lady whose father and grandfather had served in the US military. My ex-in-laws were very friendly and my ex-mother-in-law had a special sense of humor. She loved me more when she learnt that I was an artist and had also coordinated an armed rebellion in Africa…so, we would chat a lot together.
“Why did you marry the soldier in Mike?” Mike was her husband.
“If he can be trusted to protect a nation, he can probably protect me,” she answered,
Psychologists think that women descend towards men-in-uniform because their uniforms denote purpose, bravery and commitment. Personally I think that soldiers are the modern-day knights in shining armor, able to face all danger and deal with life’s troubles, leaving ladies to feel like the fairytale “damsels in distress.”
As a boys scout during my secondary school in Rukungiri district, we encountered many NRA soldiers, we would often imitate them and try to assimilate in all manner and style. That was then when the liberation pride was still fresh. This honor & respect is vanishing in Uganda primarily because we have either forgotten or we’re unacquainted with the NRA/UPDF continued contribution to our peace and development.
It is said that after the 1770s American Revolution through 1800s and 1900s, it was on vogue for women to date soldiers and policemen. I had never thought about it too much until recently when I drafted the Seven-Points for the Mindset Revolution and I chose to make “honoring men-in-uniform” the number-one-point before honoring God or Jesus whom majority have never encountered or simply don’t believe.
Some peers have tried to rebuff this point until I explain how psychologists affirm that “if you give respect to someone who doesn’t respect himself, soon that person will respect himself also.”
Probably that’s why Uganda is increasingly trusting to channel important development projects through the military for no other reasons but discipline, loyalty and allegiance which are vital values in reducing corruption. History places catholic fathers and nuns behind soldiers in terms of loyalty and allegiance.
It takes a whole militia to annoy me. Recently however, just one bodaboda young man [motorcyclist,] triggered the dead nerve. It all happened on the Mawanda road junction near Mulago in Kampala city. I was walking along as I usually do when an exhausted traffic police officer signaled to the young man to stop but instead this sh*thole with all dishonor intentionally rammed into the helpless officer not once but twice before speeding off the scene amidst cheers from fellows.
Volunteer researchers of my kind don’t have money but I thought I had to offer five thousand shillings to this police officer for both his therapy and my therapy too, because, my eyes had turned red after seeing that scene.
Related to this incident, I pray that our nation develops faster to a level where we can afford every traffic police officer a pistol in addition to an electronic pocket-garget that has all data of every Ugandan ID, the one we call “endangamuntu,” Amen!
Dan Morris Tumusiime is a researcher, artist & security expert at Cube Nine Ltd