Happy new year! There have been so many definitive moments in 2020 that it is almost ridiculous. Dar es Salaam had an earthquake — do you remember? I do. It felt like the foundation of the building was floating for a second but then it settled down and we didn’t think much of it after that.
Turns out it was a proper showing on the Richter scale. Not even the most notable thing that happened this past August, which is quite telling. I only remembered the event to talk about this future we are facing together. First of all: gratitude. We have made it this far together. And now, a bit of truth.
We only have 21 days of a Donald Trump presidency in America as of the time of publishing this article. Let us talk about why that matters.
Back in the day, because context is always good, Donald Trump was a big deal. Into the 1990s, I believe, he was all that glittered in American Capitalism Writ Large. Not even metaphorically: he stamped his name on everything he built like a wanna-be Pharaoh and I guess it worked. A few TV shows even wrote about a Trump presidency in their scripts, as a warning and a joke.
And then Donald Trump became president of the United States of America four years ago. And the world is a different place because of this. I have always maintained that human beings have an immense power of creation. If we can imagine it, we can make it real. Not everything that gets imagines should exist, however.
Trump’s presidency has been a seminal because for the first time in history a powerful head of state used an online platform not only to campaign, but also to push his ideology, recruit followers, fire employees and attack the press. In attacking the press, he popularised what we all now use as a common phrase: “fake news”.
I took it pretty lightly at first. President Trump, for all the lessons we have learned and continue to learn from him, is an American problem. I figured he would stay right over yonder. I was wrong. Not only did fellow Africans start speaking out about their heartfelt support for this feckless racist, they did so while aligning themselves with everything else that is wrong with the world right now.
All the conspiracy theories came out to play. Now, you have to understand, I love conspiracy theories as much as anyone else does. I wish aliens would show themselves.
I wish flat-earthers could fly commercial aeroplanes. I wish someone had enough money to kill us all by vaccination because it’s like it costs a lot of money. But for all my love for the wild side of life, I know it is mostly entertainment. It’s not news until it is proven.
I understand at a fundamental level that getting our biases confirmed and living in an echo chamber is comforting, but there has always been a little space for truth to come through.
I expected that after a while we would all wake up and laugh it off, but nope. Here is the thing about “fake news”: it is fake, but that does not diminish its power. If anything, fake news has become much more influential than reality.
Instead here I am, sitting on Google searches that tell me my country passed a law forbidding us from reporting the August earthquake I just told y’all about a few paragraphs ago.
The same country that has tried to pray Covid-19 goes away even though people are dying — and we know it. The same country where I get to listen to creationists misunderstand human biology so hard they’re not even sure why menstruation exists and blame women for not being men.
The reasons why it is perfectly acceptable to be actively and vocally stupid and then some have to do with our normalisation of a Trump presidency. Nothing was ever right about it just like nothing was right about not reporting our earthquake — we’re on the Rift Valley — or our embrace of the slippage from reality that comes from reporting fake news is alright.
When I told you how a Trump presidency was predicted by comedians and cartoonists? We imagined it, and it came to be. At this point I hope we are together in focusing on that as a metaphor for very many situations, and as a manifestation of our collective choices.
My hope for you and yours into 2021 is a world in which the ridiculous stays a joke. A world which facts remain facts and petulance is not indulged over fear.
I wish us all a strong truth in which jazz music is recognised as a school subject and all our best dreams for humanity come true.
Mostly though, I wish you peace and laughter in the days to come. Imagine a better world so we can write about it. Happy new year, 2021!
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report