Gambian oyster stew during the second impeachment
Americans are understandably keeping a close eye on the second impeachment of ex-prez Donald Trump.
They’re not alone, as many of us around the world saw Trump’s rise through the GOP ranks with utter dismay in 2015 and were not glad to see our fears realized when he was sworn in with his awful ‘American carnage’ speech in January 2017.
I’m an Aussie who lives on the French side of Swiss Geneva these days and my mates here are also from all parts of the world, being a UN-hub. Before 2017, I’d have struggled to have named the vice president of the US, cocooned in my benign comfort that life far above my reach ticked along reasonably well without my need to pay close attention.
Trump changed all that. I could name GOP congress and senate members, key (and uniquely dreadful) white house staffers, far right enablers, white supremacist extremists and (thankfully) sensible and active middle-left resisters. So could my friends whether they be British, French, Italian, Peruvian, Canadian, Algerian, South Korean. We’d pass each other by as we walked our dogs, careful to keep a safe distance (from biting as well as corona particulates) and discuss what we’d seen on CNN the day before.
For most of us English-speakers living in Europe, CNN is the main source of American news. BBC and Sky naturally provides a very British focus and as Trump’s list of lies and outrageous ineptitude lengthened, the lure of Brexit dimmed and sputtered out in comparison. CNN became my lunchtime break with the 6am New York-based New Day team newly wakened to discuss the latest Covid-19 deaths, Trump’s lies and cowardly GOP behaviour.
It was Craig, an affable Kiwi walking his adopted mutt from Romania, taking a break fighting to keep his cookie company functional when all cafes and restaurants were closed, who mentioned it first.
“That bloody Gambian oyster stew,” he grumbled. “If I see that segment on CNN one more time……it looks about as appetising as the stick she’s pounding the tomatoes with!”
I agreed, relieved that someone had CNN on in the background as much as I did. Instead of whetting my appetite, it was serving as a warning to what I might be reduced to eating if EU and Brexit didn’t get their act together.
Oysters aside, it’s The Gambia’s first professional kora player, Sona, who CNN decided to torturously play and play and play….. During the interminable vote count, state recounts and enjoying the predictable humiliation of Trump’s sixty one losses in the courts, ‘ol Sona flogged her one kora song so often that as soon as I heard the ‘Duhnnnn duh duh duhnnnn’ opening chords all previous joy disappeared. No doubt she’s talented and extremely passionate about her music, but only one song was ever featured and it was in fact her son banging enthusiastically away on his interesting variant of the xylophone who stood out. For the first fifty airings at least.
String instruments and oysters aside, I’ll freely admit that geography also isn’t one of my strengths. To my mind, Africa is, to simplify things, kinda sorta under us Europeans as far as latitude and longitude goes and therefore has similar time zones. CNN have obviously done their research and found that African viewers are extremely important and therefore worth devoting considering air time to cater to their interests. My knowledge of the continent’s biggest fertiliser and cement project, community road works and Nigerian Glo phone data services have increased stratospherically in recent months.
This is fair enough, of course, yet the African edge can seem a bit tiring to Western Europeans who are trying to see if US democracy stays alive or if it effectively encourages similar behaviour here. Or if we’ll ever be allowed to visit our relatives in Australia or even Cornwall this decade.
There’s a red, black and white cartoon promotion that seems to get played each half hour, CNN reminding viewers that they can stay connected to the world whenever they travel. ‘Business is all about making connections, but some connections are easier to make than others….’ These graphics have been running since 2018. The vision of a lady swimming in a pool on a cruise ship seems rather incongruous now.
If not Africa or the now-dreaded cruise ship, it’s the middle east that features in the advertisements and features. We’re ready for you, say several airlines. Empty and shiny terminals are shown, friendly cabin crew lovingly patting children on the head and passengers happily leaning back in a business class seat wearing a mask and avoiding touching the thighs of peasants stuffed in economy. Where exactly are these people allowed to travel to?
Sadly there’s one regular European focus and it ranks right up there with oyster stew as an on air irritant. A series of extremely boring white blokes poncing on about ridiculously overpriced wrist watches. Who cares?? Are those Africans yearning to play the kora or invest in the cement factory also interested in just how ground-breaking Hublot was in the early 2000s by releasing a timepiece that looks like silver plated lego? People on unemployment benefits might not have ‘make sure my Cartier tank is spotted by everyone in the room’ on their to do list right now.
It is with great relief to discover that lockdown meditation techniques have worked. Somehow I am able to zone out of CNN’s little features and commercials and then snap back to attention when the news resumes. Good thing I can time these sessions with my Rolex daytona and get up off my African concrete floor to attend to my frying oysters.
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