Indeed, some people argue that our reaction to threats of terrorism may create more terrorists than it eliminates. This is not just about drone attacks that anger people by killing the innocent along with the guilty. It also has to do with the belief that Americans are only interested in our own well being, are indifferent to the rest of the world. And in fact terrorism can easily make Americans so afraid of "people different from us" that we make bad and cruel decisions. Today most every historian and legal scholar concludes that the internment of Japanese-Americans curing World War II was not only inhumane and illegal, but also did more harm than good to the war effort. But very few voices were raised against it at the time.
So, what does this have to do with Yo Ghana! and Ghana, a place were terrorism and other forms of violence are rare?
First, many of our Ghana schools provide hope to families who might otherwise give up. Turning to violence and crime is commonly a last resort, when working hard and playing by the rules seems like a fool's game. Hope depends on institutions that offer hope.
Second, administrators, teachers, and students in Ghana also tell us that having a friend in the U.S. and being visited by Yo Ghana! is a sign of respect. America is often viewed as a sort of utopia, where everyone is rich and happy--but also as a place that does not care much about the rest of the world. Letters and visitors from America challenge that stereotype.
Third, American students' fears of the unknown, the alien are dissolved by the warmth and consideration communicated through the letters they receive from Ghanaians, many of whom are Muslim. Hollywood and our news media often portray Africans and Muslims as threats. It is hard to feel threatened by someone who writes to tell you that he is praying for your family or that she hopes you can visit her home some day.
When we visit classrooms in Ghana and the the Pacific Northwest we tell students that we need them for important work not after they graduate from graduate school, college, high school, or their present grade level, but right now. We need them to tell each other what life in their country is really like and to show the rest of us how to know and respect each other.