It is only nineteen days to the history-making day in my fine (adopted) country; the final presidential debate is over, and I’ll soon return to not hearing ‘he said she said’ rhetoric and all the excitement and vigor of a robust and relatively free democracy. Not ideally free and democratic, but still one of the few options under the sky. Regardless of my choice, the winner will be my next president, and I pray for kheyr, not only for all of us here in the US but worldwide, insha’Allah.
So I am watching the aftermath of the debate and every TV channel’s expert opinion when Mullah Mchungu calls on WA from Dar, I can see his name flashing on my cell phone. As I am technically ‘busy,’ working on my novel and watching TV, I am within my akhlaaqi circle to ignore him. But the guy is as persistent as an agitated Afghan fly and calls back; I have to pick it up the third time he calls.
Sallam Mullah, I say in an insincere gay tone.
Sallam my foot, ghadheera, he retorts angrily, why are you ignoring me? You are becoming as insolent as my son Ali. Is this how you treat a dying old man…
I let him blow off steam. He has been ‘dying’ the last few years, so I am not too concerned; this is one way the lonely man can get sympathy and attention. So after complaining about everything under the sky he suddenly asks, Hillary Clinton is a Muslima in taqiyya, like Obama, you know nai?
My heart kicks violently, and I groan audibly; where is all this leading to? This election has made some already eccentric people even more radically peculiar than I imagined.
Don’t be condescending, Kisukaali, and have some respect for an old man. I have seen many more Diwali’s in my lifetime than you. Yes, I tell you, she’s a Muslima! Did you observe her yesterday? She did not shake Donald’s hand! And Obama’s half-brother was there as well! A practicing Muslim, don’t you see? And she…
Was he? I didn’t see Obama’s brother, whole or half, and what has he got to do with Hillary for crying out loud? I want to argue that Hillary could be seen shaking hands and even hugging other men after the debate, etc. but it is useless deterring the old geezer, so I let him rant out his take on the debate and election, muting the TV, putting him on the speaker phone and doing my work. After about thirty minutes of rambling, the old man tires and signs off, promising to call in the days ahead with more takes on the election as the day nears; I shudder.
The Mullah can be excused for being eccentric, but I am bewildered at many who share my background, apparently young and educated, with seemingly sane marbles, act so naïvely, especially on Facebook. They bellyache about any and every US faults, more imagined than real, with the country that provides them with freedoms and liberties they or their parents migrated for. Nothing pleases them, no matter what the US does; I guess it is easy to shoot from the keyboards. The US is not the paradise in janna that we have been promised. It is one of the very few countries where I can live in peace, with liberty and justice and dignity. Is it flawless? Hell, no. But I’d rather be here in the US than any other country in this world. Trust me, I state this with great confidence. I’ve been to many, many where I could be squashed like a fly for no reason.
This election has been made apparently remarkable, what with building a wall and mass deportations and ban on Muslims threats, etc. And the curry has been made unprecedentedly more pungent with fantasy masalas of Obama being a Muslim and not a US citizen and accusations of groping and forcing tongues down lips and WikiLeaks and election rigging conspiracies and election frauds – enough steam in here to make any Hollywood / Bollywood producer salivate. Why, even my usually sedate teen daughter Maaha Zainab gets animated and energized in the process and discussions.
I remember being as excited and roused, watching Reagan and Carter and Bush and Clinton and Obama make their claim at the helm. Born in Tanzania and entirely apathetic to the political process in my birth county due to my community and parental paradigms, I was equally indifferent to the anything political when I set foot in the US way back in 1980. But the competitive nature of the electoral process here and the seemingly open debates between candidates fired up, in me, the urge to get involved, at least in casting the ballot and making a difference, however minor, in determining the future of a country that has given me so much; in professional and personal successes.
I have already voted, like millions of others and now await the outcome, a bit anxiously. Being a Muslim in the US is not as carefree as it used to be ago; I face many challenges, obviously. Not in the practice of my religion, for Allah is my witness, I am more worry-free and assured to worship in complete security in this country than I am in many ‘Muslim’ countries. But these are trials out there all right, for my daughter and me and the larger community. From those who, due to innocent ignorance perhaps, perceive me as a possible threat to this wonderful country.
Maaha Zainab wants Michelle Obama to make a run for the presidency after Hillary Clinton. Boy, Michelle is one fiery mama, her speeches would want the dead to rise in arms. Listening to her many speeches, why, I am more fired up than after one of my seven-mile runs. To the critics of the US, especially from within my community here, sit up and take note. If Michelle and Obama can swim with the system and reach ashore, we have no excuses and plenty of hope and abundant opportunities.
I will sincerely miss President Obama at the White House from next January. He has been an outstanding leader in recent American history, especially in the context of his ancestry. He’s not perfect, for sure, who is? But considering the very many challenges, in particular on the economic front he inherited when he assumed office in 2008, he has come a long way. So thank you, Sir, for steering us safely through some very rough seas.
So let’s see if Hillary Clinton makes history and we have our first female President. Kareebu sana mama. Or Donald Trump perhaps? Mungu atujaleeye.