Opinion

Why I became a Republican

Photo of Justus Lotade-Manje
Justus Lotade-Manje
Economist

“Il faut appeler le chat par son nom.” Literally, “Call the cat by its name.”

That’s what I learned growing up in Chad, a French-speaking country in Central Africa. Calling things as they are was dangerous but imperative in the fourth-most corrupt country in the world. Truth and honesty, regardless of outcome, were encouraged. But as I grew older, I came to understand that in order to have good relationships, to maintain a certain degree of safety, I had to tell the truth behind closed doors — or else the government and its satellites might retaliate.

In Chad, telling the truth about the government and political leaders is a sin against the king, and many Chadians “disappear” simply because of their words. Workers can lose their jobs for telling the truth; crime is not reported for fear of retaliation; and, overall, people fear being truthful. Sometimes when I am speaking to my mother on the phone and I ask her how she is, she hangs up. Later she’ll say, “Les murs on des Oreilles” — “The walls have ears.”

You wouldn’t think that this would happen in America, but to a lesser degree, it does. Here, having to call a cat something other than a cat is known as “political correctness.” Of course, Americans don’t disappear because of political correctness. But just as in Chad people can’t criticize political leaders without fear of retaliation, American conservatives can’t criticize liberals without fear of being labeled racists. Yet, liberals can say virtually anything about conservatives. And so a liberal television commentator is able to call Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson a “bow tie’n white boy” even though similar behavior from conservatives would never be tolerated. My distaste for political correctness is why I became a Republican after I moved to America.

Forget about techniques described by “experts” regarding how President Obama can win this November’s election. Just remember the cat. Those of us on the right cannot call out Obama for who he is, what he does or how Obamanomics has failed. We cannot mention Solyndra, Ener1, Evergreen Solar or Beacon Power. If we bring up unemployment, Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright or ACORN, we are labeled racists.

The most precious gift in the world is freedom of speech, something I could never even imagine before I came to this country. But lately I have discovered that as a black conservative, I am not free to call a cat a cat without being called an “Uncle Tom.”

At the moment, the cat is lying down quietly and watching. Watching and waiting.

Justus Lotade-Manje was born in Moundou, Chad, the second of nine children. He has a PhD in agricultural economics.