So this week, I wagered all my Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on a Donald Trump triumph. Come on, he’s the poster boy of fearful men who lead their nations. Prowling piranhas masquerading as statesmen. There is personal agenda, there is ‘layered’ subtext, there is double speak with smiles that don’t travel to the eyes.
There are momentous decisions being taken in closed rooms, but they come out of a dark space, an ether of negativity, often a singular lack of moral fibre. Crucially, these Darth Vaders have made it legitimate for the imploding majority to now explode openly about the ‘immigrant’ minority — the Mexican, and the Muslim, all bracketed together as ‘unwelcome outsiders’.
But, they are effective leaders. Civility has been sacrificed at the altar of commerce.
RIP... generosity of spirit, sense of humour and lightness of touch.
Preceding this Orwellian world there was one Barack Hussain Obama.
On July 10, 2008, he was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. He’d just won the Democratic Party nomination. Rolling Stone's editor Jann Wenner interviewed him on —
1. His Presidential plans
2. His iPod playlist
Two excerpts from that superb question-answer exchange:
Wenner: “What have you learnt about yourself on the campaign?”
Obama: “The older I get, the less important feeding my vanity becomes.
I don’t need anymore to be the centre of attention. I get satisfaction getting the work done.”
Wenner: “How does it feel to be The Boss?”
Obama: ‘There’s only one Boss, and that’s Bruce Springsteen!”
Boom! I was a Barack fanboy.
We’re all guided by an early influence.
Spinoza, Rabindranath Tagore, Lao Tzu, Ernest Hemingway, veganism, take your pick.
Mine is 70s rock music.
So is Obama’s, as I discovered in that interview. I didn’t fully understand his healthcare blueprint. But, I did dig his having Bob Dylan’s entire Blood on the Tracks album on his iPod.
In his eight years, he made many inspired speeches, always poetic, never pedantic (compared to Trump’s boorish acceptance soliloquy).
He combined grassroots simplicity with cerebral ease.
But, funnily, it was always musical moments I will never forget. He loved the Grateful Dead, Stevie Wonder and Leonard Cohen.
He once presented Led Zeppelin with a Lifetime Achievement Award. (This was a band notorious for their destruction of hotel rooms). His eyes twinkling, he warned them, "Guys, just giving you a heads up, I've had the tables, chairs and windows especially bolted down!"
His sense of humour always as intact as his sense of history.
Obama was a man’s man. He was a woman’s man. Sure, he made mistakes. Ms Clinton felt the backlash.
But he was at once ‘boy next door’ and ‘boss in the White House’.
He disarmed while he fought for disarmament.
The President-elect’s last words to Jann Wenner in that 2008 interview were, “Okay brother, take care.”
The late Leonard Cohen recently sang, “You want it darker.”
Well, we got it, brother.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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