My cellphone with Mullah Mchungu’s name flashes about a minute after CNN calls the duo of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden as victors of the 2020 US presidential elections. I am glued to the idiot box the last three days, breaking only for salaat, sleeping off and on, using the loo, or working out; I eat, drink, live, and work by my laptop the rest of the time, streaming CNN, Fox or Al Jazeera channels. Why, I follow them on my cellphone even when I am in the loo, attending to nature’s call. The results are awfully slow in populating the sprawling US landmass map on the screens. The flashing / changing colors between blue and red, not unlike the neon street signs of New York and the repetitive shifting narrative from the anchors swirls my undies into impossible kinks and almost gives me angina.
Ay Kisukaali, aree ghadeero, yells the Mullah into my ear. Kamala Ben won! Kamala Ben won! And Joe Bhai too! Mubaaraki! Desi blood in a Vice President of the USA!
It takes a few seconds to dawn on me that the clown is referring to Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, adding the respectful Ben and Bhai titles in jest. Since events are fast enfolding everywhere in the country on the tube, especially the euphoria in the streets of many US cities, and I want to watch history in the making, I hang up on the Mullah, rather rudely, telling him I’ll call him back soon. I go back to paying attention to the idiot box.
I first set foot onto the land of the United States of America some forty-one years ago. For a twenty-three-year-young vulnerable man, I was immediately taken to this blessed vast and varied terrain. The ever-generous people, food, culture, and, more importantly, my acceptance by co-workers at work was overwhelming, bewildering, new. Especially since I was a novelty to them, an outsider, and a practicing Muslim. Someone much younger and a newcomer to the department of the oil-service company that had sponsored my move from Dubai, UAE to the USA. There was initial wariness, naturally, yes, but ready acceptance of my abilities and merit, especially by the management. Once I was digested and understood as a fellow human being, I was one of them.
The first election that I witnessed was between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. It was wonderful! I was exposed to a novel way of choosing a leader of a country. Not that I had voted before, since I left Tanzania, my country of birth at age eighteen, too young to vote. Also, I was a hopeless racist then, a mindset I had acquired and aped from birth; I would not have voted even if I could. I followed the duels between the candidates in the US in awe. They could, with impunity, resort to polite insults, label each other liars, and land verbal punches on TV ads. In much of Africa, an opponent would be cooling his heels in a dingy dungeon for even thinking of running for the top office. Or fed to hungry crocodiles in the River Nile. This election process was so much fun. Until Carter, who I supported, lost. Big time. Doh. It hurts so bad.
I’ve voted in every election since I became a citizen of the United States. This gives me a sense of participation, of belonging. It is an amazing, uplifting feeling, this ability to steer for change, even if the result does not end my way. The electoral method and winner-take-all by individual State results confuse and made little sense to me, then and now, but this matters not. It’s what the founders of this country wanted and I respect that.
The two wins for Clinton were euphoric wins since I consider myself an independent centrist by conviction. Then came Bush Junior and the anguish of an unjust war in Iraq ensued, riling many. When Barak Obama swept into the White House, I was wah aree wah! Non-stop. A Black man, who I used to shamefully and sinfully pooh-pooh in Tanzania was now the main man at the helm of the USA. I truly believe this was Allah’s way of slapping away the last remnants of racist doodoos from my mind. Traditional political compulsions and considerations aside, Obama was genuine. Solid. I was so proud to be called an American and let, unabashedly, dissenters know.
Trump Saheb becoming the 45th President of our country was a sobering shock. Everything that I love about the United States of America and am proud of and will defend tooth and nail against criticism and harm, turned upside down. I tried to understand the man, gave him space and time to steer the country’s policies to a more temperate direction but this was stubbornly elusive. It has been almost four years of Twitter dread; what next? As a citizen of this great country that has given me unequaled opportunities, I was anguished to see my religion being maligned. It was hard to understand what I had done wrong. When Trump Saheb went bobbing with some of the vilest rulers in the middle of an Arabian desert, I was heartbroken.
Then the Doodoo came knocking and the already topsy-turvy world of ours did a summersault once more. Sheesh, how much more turmoil can we take? When Joe Biden outmaneuvered his Democratic rivals and chose Kamala Harris as his running mate, I did a double-take. I was elated, of course. I can relate to Kamala. For my daughter Maaha Zainab. Just as Kamala’s mother migrated from India and made the USA her permanent home, Maaha Zainab’s mother too, is from India, a pure Gujarati Khoji as they come. With their unique inane desi mindsets and paradigms. And I, an immigrant from Africa, with lineage to India as well, from both sides of my genes. Wow. Endless possibilities?
I follow VP-elect Kamala and President-elect Joe’s acceptance speech and the considerably dulled pride and hope I have for my beloved country is much rekindled. Aree wah! Everything I experienced as a proud American comes flooding back. Acceptance, tolerance, inclusiveness, empathy, compassion, and freedom to be truly free. To practice my religion without fear and pursue economic independence and experience pleasure. Halal, of course – I write this only to preempt some airhead alaamahs who will inevitably email me a rude reminder. This is the United States I want for Maaha Zainab and her progeny. And me.
Trump Saheb and company are understandably unhappy with the outcome and are looking to contest the results in the courts; I genuinely wish him well in his quest for justice. Of course. In the meanwhile, I am hopeful the historical and enviable process for the transfer of power will ensue and the future is full of possibilities once again.
I have yet to return Mullah Mchungu’s call since he rang, in what now seems to be an eternity. Let me call him back before he pops a vein and goes to sleep permanently. I’ll never be able to forgive myself. He is raging mad at me, as expected. So, I apologize for being tardy in returning the call.
Oh, can it Kisukaali, I don’t want to hear your insincere apology. You are no better than the rest of today’s crop – haughty and rude. As if you are the only busy ones alive. Anyway, so you think Kamala Ben can be the 47th President of your country someday?
Before I can open my mouth to respond, the old crow continues.
Hear me out before you respond, ghadheero. The possibilities are endless. Biden Bhai is 78, the same age as me. Now, I wish him the best of health and vigor and I’ll pray he completes his tenure with all his marbles intact. However, if a tragedy were to happen, God forbid, you’ll have a semi-desi as a President, no?
Since I can’t and don’t want to argue with his seemingly sound rationale, I keep my trap shut and patiently wait for him to end the call. It takes a while.
The views and opinions expressed in this Blog are entirely mine and do not reflect those of Comfort Aid International or her Trustees.