Man, the title of this post is official sounding! But rather than an in-depth study, complete with polls and statistics, an informed eye on the past, and a prognosis for the future, this really just going to be my own sense of how Ghanaians see America, based on the interactions we had with people during our short time in the country. Don’t expect too much of us, please!
It’s safe to say that, in general, the USA is still the country held up by many Ghanaians as a model. Probably half of the taxi cabs we took proudly displayed a US flag in the window, or at least used a Stars-and-Stripes air freshener. Nearly every time I mentioned I was from the US, people’s eyes would light up. That’s where they’ve always wanted to go! New York, Miami, California! They have a cousin there! They want to drive a taxi there! They’d hope to study there. And so on. Simply put, it’s where they dream of being.
The dream takes on a darker tint, though, when they start discussing how this might actually come to pass. For a regular Ghanaian without powerful connections, the idea of getting to America is preposterously difficult, even for a visit. Visas are difficult to secure, and if they could manage that, the flights would be prohibitively expensive. We’ve had conversations start super-optimistic, but soon become tinged with bitterness. “Easy for you to come visit Ghana! Why can’t I visit your country?”
This has an answer, of course (the low probability I’d remain in Ghana forever vs. vice-versa), but it’s not easy to say that in conversation. Besides, it doesn’t feel fair. A lot of Ghanaians want to travel, simply for the sake of seeing something new. It’s an ability they want, which I take for granted; honestly, I’ve come to consider the freedom to roam the world as a God-given right. But talking with frustrated people from Ghana has reminded me that it’s a privilege. And it’s one I should be grateful for.
And then there’s the matter of our current president. Donald Trump says something horrifying every couple days, and it’s hard to remember the outrages of weeks or months past. Shocking statements like, for example, Africa being full of “shit-hole countries”. Well. I can tell you who hasn’t forgotten that particular gem: the people of Ghana. Such a disgusting thing to do, to spit in the face of a struggling country which looks up to us! A country whose people aspire to be like us! And now our president (have mercy) says something like that. Most people in Ghana still like America, but our standing has definitely taken a hit.
So those are my official findings, I’ll put them in a dossier. If you’re a visiting American, you can expect a super-friendly reception, because the people of Ghana are incredibly hospitable and friendly to everyone. Besides, they love us, and know not to equate Americans with the nonsense their leader spouts. At the end of the day, they still see our country as a beacon. Turns out that the idea of America is pretty durable… it’ll take more than an idiot in office to totally erase that. I hope.