‘Remember, remember, the eighth of November; of gunpowder, treason and plot.’
Benjamin, do you recall 16 years ago how we sat all night before the black-and-white (with hues of light green on a warped electronic day) Great Wall television set, set against the cracked wall of that desolate farmhouse in Ngong and watched the Al Gore/George Bush election go down to hanging chads and that bad joke I cracked about them knowing how to swing ‘em down in Ndjamena but you still laughed hard and long?
And do you remember, how, eight years later, on another November night – the fourth of 2008, who can ever forget? – after watching the Roma versus Chelsea FC game earlier on, on DSTV (Roma won three to one), we changed the channel to CNN and stayed up all night to see history made as Barack Obama, born of a Kenyan father, became the 44th President of the United States of America, and a loud roar went up from many flats in our building block as Wolf Blitzer said ‘Barack Obama has just been elected ...’ and we dashed out of our flat to go drink beer with our bearded neighbours whom we had never said ‘hello’ to before?
In a Time interview a year later, Obama would make it clear that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’ and indeed it seemed that arc always began in America and I imagined it arching across the world, ocean and land and ocean again, until its bent settled somewhere in the middle of the Tasmania Sea so that residents of Wollongong would look East and denizens of Wellington would look West and see a rainbow from sea to shining sea.
You know what I mean?
- 1 Lawyers spurn Trump campaign in individual donations, including from Jones Day
- 2 Final Trump-Biden debate will feature 'mute' button after chaotic first clash
- 3 US gun sales soar amid pandemic, social unrest, election fears
- 4 Obama congratulates LeBron James, applauds leadership 'on court and in public arena'
Talking of Tasmania, there was a popular cartoon programme in Kenya (KTN) back in the early 1990s called ‘Taz-Mania’ starring a crazy Tasmanian devil called ‘Taz’ and a typical episode, this one from the early November of 1993, featured Taz going to terrorise his Platypus Brothers neighbours after a thunderstorm cuts off TV cable in his cave.
Surely, the Americans, however manic, could never elect this caveman, this real life Taz devil on television, this modern-day Neanderthal, this arrogant man and international vaudeville villain president of the USA, could they?
Afghans, Belarusians, Chadians, Greek Turkish Cypriots, East Timorese, Emiratis, Farorese, Gambians, Guatemalans, nationals of Guinea-Bissau, Guyanese, the French, I-Kiribati, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, Palauans, Sindhians, Togolese or Tobagonians, Uzbeks, Ugandans, Yemenis, Zambians or Zimbwabweans, I could understand; but Americans would never vote such a fellow to the White House.
So as Trump took the swing State of Florida I was not overtly worried and I went out to the balcony of my sixth floor loft variously called ‘The Penthouse’ and stocked the refrigerator beyond the old beer can and the odd solitary tomato.
I looked up to the skyline and took in the dawn passenger airplane slicing this November sky as the world tilted on its axis and the surreal sight of cars racing over a bridge built just above the tree line at my eye level so that it seemed as if the vehicles were driving on treetops above the buildings in the distance.
A loud honk from a matatu brought me back to reality. One of the gaily coloured ‘Tel Aviv’ passenger PSVs that plies our South B route careened around the corner. The magic of the morning broken, I returned to the warm interior of the house, waiting to switch from MSNBC to FOX News to celebrate Clinton’s win.
The whole of Kenya, with the exception of Barack Obama’s embittered half-brother, Malik, was rooting for Hillary. America had given the world the first black president of the USA, and now they were going to give us its first female president.
But Trump won and I heard the world’s collective groan that morn, right there in my living room.