This time eight years ago — I bought the lie that America could be great again. I allowed myself to bask in the Hollywood ending that never really ends well once the director yells “Cut!”
Barack Hussein Obama II came out of nowhere. I mean who was this guy? He looked like a movie star, sounded like a prophet and his arrival couldn’t have been more impeccable. It was as if the heavens had opened on command to deliver the answer to a prayer that I never even asked for — because I wasn’t aware that the option was pending.
When you’re offered a good thing, you take it.
I’ve always felt guilty when good fortune strikes. It’s a systematic reaction that has plagued me for years. Perhaps, you can relate. The idea is that if something this grand can choose you as its recipient — than you better believe that payback will be a bitch.
Why? Because there’s always a catch.
Before Obama became president being an American was a birthright and a factual declaration that never really inspired feelings of appreciation or comfort. I grew up with parents that were so psyched that I had been born in a country where dreams come true and everyone dips Oreo cookies in milk while lip-synching to their favorite show tunes.
As an impressionable kid , America was the place that gave me Star Wars, Wonder Woman, Sesame Street, The Cosby Show, A Different World, Madonna, Michael Jackson and a host of other pop culture references that filled my childhood room in Lagos with bloated expectations.
“America was supposed to be the place that would not only rescue me , but also fuel my artistic vibe, by granting the freedom to indulge with pleasure.”
Like most Nigerian-Americans , the goal of my citizenship was to maximize every opportunity that floated around my peripheral vision. The majority of my peers didn’t waver in their mission to fulfill what was promised. Degrees in chemical engineering, law, medicine, accountancy, economics, civil engineering, etc. They were way ahead of me. They now own their own homes, businesses, and anything else that you naturally accumulate when your math and science skills are above average.
I am just average.
I was never a whiz kid or a genius or even a gifted pupil. I could write for days and my imagination scared the shit out of me growing up but, when it came to the Nigerian standard of excellence — I was woefully lacking.
America was supposed to be the place that would not only rescue me , but also fuel my artistic vibe, by granting the freedom to indulge with pleasure.
It can’t be a coincidence that after President Obama’s immensely historic victory I began to aggressively bark up the tree of creativity. The week he won every step felt like I was floating on air. The unbearable lightness of being is my favorite expression, because it really is a trance-like state that disturbingly overpowers you.
You don’t want it to stop, and yet, you hate how good you feel.
The truth is that having a Black First Family in The White House was an extraordinary gift from a country that operates on the premise that anything can happen — if you want it bad enough.
Obama wanted it bad enough. So, bad that somehow he managed to get a job that he had no business applying for.
Witnessing his blessing and being invited to participate in such a primal way cracked the code and released me from mental bondage. I was inspired and overwhelmed with the assignment of being an American , so much so that the words just came pouring out.
I wrote about the day after the elections when I reported to work at the Private Bank of JPMorgan — and all the bankers were morose and ashen — while I couldn’t get rid of the smile that was planted from the night before.
I kept on writing.
“I had adjusted to the flow chart of white men in power who don’t like black people and strategically demonstrate that hatred without blinking.”
It was all hopeful shit. The stuff that flows out when you get an idea for a sitcom about three Black girlfriends on the eve of one of the most prolific events in American history and how it switches the trajectory of their lives.
I kept on flowing with hope and the words kept me jiving long enough for me to actually believe that maybe — just maybe — the good times were here to stay.
Hope is dead.
I hate Obama for ruining a bad thing. Things were familiarly shitty before he came along. I had adjusted to the flow chart of White men in power who don’t like Black people and strategically demonstrate that hatred without blinking.
I hate Obama for being the savior we needed.
He exceeded our capacity of what we were ready to accommodate in such a way that there was nothing else to do but succumb to the joy of watching a Black man astutely direct the administration to the chagrin of those who couldn’t wait to deflate the bubble.
I was so good before he came along.
Now, I will watch the final curtain call — morosely, and with all the color drained from a body that is weary with hopelessness and anger. I blame him. This affair was hard to resist and now that it’s over — there is nothing but regret and betrayal.
This will eventually convert into the normal stages of recovery over time. Nostalgic glee will be the top layer as I recall the seduction phase and allow it to pulsate me back to life.
I know I will hope again. And Yes, I Can, accept that change will come around to override the bad White guys — that are eroding everything I trusted when I began my writing career.
I just can’t do it now. But, when I do, you will read about it.