Wishing it were different

12 November 2012 - 02:48 By Jackie May
Jackie May. File photo.
Jackie May. File photo.
Image: Times LIVE

I had to slip out of the office the other day for a nap. I couldn't keep my eyes open. It was two days after the US election and my #electionhangover hadn't subsided yet.

This is supposed to be an American condition. After queuing to vote, Americans stay up late on the first Tuesday of November every four years to watch as results come in. Usually by midnight they have a winner. But here, those interested had to stay up all night. I did it four years ago, but I suspect this election was the last one I'll stay up for. I'll be four years older, less able to recover from the sleep deprivation and, in this case, the bad dose of president envy.

But there are two scenarios that might keep me awake on an election night. The first is that Hillary Clinton could be challenging the next Republican presidential candidate. After the riveting campaigns building up to the election and re-election of the first black US president, there is a chance their secretary of state might stand for president - the first woman.

The second reason would be if, in our country, we have an election that, like some in our early democracy, once again had us feeling engaged and invested. Imagine if one day we have someone who invokes a spirit of citizenship like Barack Obama does.

My colleague Andile Ndlovu, in his open letter to President Jacob Zuma published last week in this newspaper, writes that in Obama, young black people have an icon. It is Obama's demeanour, his poise, his compassion, his public displays of affection for his wife and his children, Sasha and Malia, and his meaningful speeches that leave Ndlovu saddened by the man who leads us.

But reading his letter and those responding to it left me feeling hopeful. Many young South Africans don't want Zuma as their leader. South Africans don't want to feel embarrassed and ashamed at the levels of corruption and our government's spending at Nkandla. Ndlovu wants to feel inspired again. He, like me, wants to admire and respect his president. And we all want to feel compelled to stay up all night for that warm, fuzzy feeling of patriotism.