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The Speech – Election Day

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A fictional series

Kita is about to address UNLDP supporters at an election rally, but is speechless when she stands before the crowd….

“I am overwhelmed and the speech that I have before me, written and edited by politicians … filled with promises that, in reality, may never materialise… the very words on the paper suddenly seem unworthy of the people….

“The seconds become like elasticated men, stretching themselves to infinity… the crowd becomes quiet… waiting for the words that will tap them on the shoulder like a magic wand and instantly make their lives better…. But there is nothing… but a still silence….”{{more}}

So here I am standing dumbstruck… my political career… shrinking like a snowman in hell… with every passing second. People are starting to murmur and although their words are lost in a chorused mumbling, I know they are asking each other “lard, wah happen to she?”

It is unexplainable, the last time I suffered stage fright I was a child, trying to complete a recitation before a packed church.

I glance across at my brother to the left of the platform hoping that seeing him would somehow take the fear away …. But his frantic ‘say-something-nuh’ gesturing only intensifies my panic….

The alphabet jigsaw in my head begins to come together to form words and sentences that take me back to that disturbing conversation I had had with him yesterday…. I could still hear his voice “Ah hear something last night … ah hope is not true….”

Then of course the promise was fulfilled – the one that says ‘surely, your sins shall find you out’. Now as I stand before these people, I realise how very unworthy I am. They want someone to save them… but I need saving myself.

Behind my back I sense movement. The party chairman is coming towards me.

What is he going to say to me?

What am I going to say to him?

Most importantly what are we going to say to the waiting crowd?

I try to exhale the breath that had been suspended at my arrival at the podium. I realise that, with every tick of the clock, I am making election history. What I am experiencing is akin to ‘jumbie-riding’ – when you want to get up and say something, but you are rendered immobile and dumb by some evil force.

As the chairman approaches, I look over at my brother again and I am again assaulted by memories of yesterday.

‘Why yo go go do something so stupid… especially at a time like this?’

I remember his words making me slightly indignant.

“I made a mistake ok! Yo know, the thing is, if it was a man it wouldn’t be that big a deal…. I am not trying to condone or justify, but I… I… Oh I don’t know…”

‘Kita, society is what it is… if this gets out, you are going to be in serious trouble….’

His words resound in my head as I try to focus on the now restless crowd. I feel the chairman’s touch on the shoulder and it seems to, miraculously, awaken me from my strange trance.

In my mind I quickly organize my thoughts – parking aside the negative, discouraging ones and bringing to the fore the vision of the crowd that I must now address. Then I silently say a prayer and begin to speak – ignoring the rehearsed words of my speech.

“People of St.Vincent and the Grenadines… forgive me….

I was … overwhelmed by what I see before me… the zeal, the unwavering determination to let your voices be heard….

“I see people who recognise the power of their democratic right to vote… and the fact that you have expressed your faith in me to lead, by the grace and direction of God, is not something I take lightly. So out of great respect for you, I had pause, to reflect… to pray….

“To make sure that as I address you, no guile will pass these lips….” The crowd erupts into cheers and an applause that imbues me with the strength and confidence I need to keep going.

“Because of my great respect for you I will never try to bamboozle you….

Listen! I am not like the hoodwinkers who feel we stupid; who brave enough to actually declare that we have the mental capacity of a dasheen.

“Lemme tell you something and I ain’t mamaguying you – Vincentians are amongst the brightest, most innovative people in the world. The achievements are there to prove it…. Not just in the accomplishments of the young people, who have gone abroad and done us proud by returning to us as skilled professionals in all fields, but also in the accomplishments of the resourceful, industrious single mother who is able, against all kinds of odds, to provide for her family.

“Vincentians, if I tell you I could solve all your problems, I would be lying to you. What I propose to do is to remind you of what you are capable of. In the words of John F Kennedy, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask… what you can do for your country.’

“Listen to me! Do not put your X by the name of somebody who doesn’t believe in you. The only way forward is to understand that our biggest challenge is not a lack of resources or talent; but to eradicate that belief that we are not good enough… that we can’t.”

As the words come out of my mouth, I realise that I am talking to myself more than I am talking to them and once again I am rendered silent…

More next week…

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