As a first generation Ethiopian American I see my community aligning themselves not with the Ethiopia of the present but with the refuse of the Ethiopian Monarchy. Beyond donning the Monarchy’s flag, most of how it plays up is elusive, say our lethargy to understand current Ethiopian political system to our subtle disregard of the non-Habesha regions and peoples of Ethiopia.
Our expressed admiration for the Ethiopian Monarchy isn’t a premeditated allegiance– but a default response to a lack of
1) legitimate Ethiopian institution; and
2) knowledge of a comprehensive history of Ethiopia.
To most Western born Ethiopians, exposure to feudal Ethiopia is relative to Haile Selassies demise by a military Junta, the Derg, led by the notorious Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu Haile Mariam hijacked the momentum created by Ethiopia’s young visionaries demands for democracy and equality to unleash Leninist rule tempered by his own concoction of draconian laws. It captures the imagination: Fabled Emperor who Finessed his Diplomatic Clout to Depose Fascist Italy Indignantly Ousted by an African Stalin Cell. Storybook characters- a timeless martyr and his antithesis. The ruthlessness of Mengistus’ 30 year rule experienced firsthand by our parents was painted vividly in our consciousness. In turn, the Ethiopian monarchy’s unyielding autocratic rule (which flouted a manifold of horrifying famines) was callously omitted. From there, aggregated by our parents disapproval of the current political system and the West’s curiosity with Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian Monarchy became our only vestige of an Ethiopian state to coalesce behind.
Romanticizing Ethiopian dynastic rule is not just factually incorrect, it disparages the majority of the historical inhabitants of the Ethiopian Empire. People- our people if they were lucky lived in conditions similar to that of serfs. This is why the true patriots of Ethiopia- the students and teachers, broke 2,000 years of dynastic history in efforts to change the cyclical pattern of how Ethiopians understand our past.