Recently, the GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump was asked some heavy duty questions by a news reporter (from an avowed conservative news source). His questions had the ring of a set up. I am not sure that there were any political candidates who might have answered questions about the names of people and organizations in the current Middle East crisis. Mr. Trump. Rightfully challenged the reporter about the nature of the “gotcha” questions. The reporter responded by invoking the term “Commander in Chief” as a response to Mr. Trump’s “gotcha” rejoinder.

Later in the day another candidate, Carly Fiorina was able to identify some of the organizations in a much more cogent manner than Mr. Trump, but also admitted that she did not know who those names were. This is all very familiar to me. As I began teaching in a high school in Manhattan in 1961, African countries were beginning to become independent from their colonial masters. These names were in the newspapers on a daily basis- Tom M’Boya, Kwame Nkrumah, Antoine Gizenga,Patrice Lumumba, Josef Mobutu, Joseph Kasavubu, Julius Nyrere, Jomo Kenyatta, Moise Tshombe (don’t grade me for spelling errors). We heard about Katanga Province, the Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Togo, Kenya, Tanzania (then Tanganyika and so many more.

There were so many names and places that no one had ever heard of before. The names were difficult to pronounce for us (much like today). The countries that were becoming free were even changing their names. I can remember a frequent visitor on Sunday talk shows (yes there were those then) railing at their t.v. audiences for not knowing the names and places. I can still see V.K. Krishna Menon glaring out from the t.v. screen, castigating us for not knowing anything about his own country-India. He berated us for being so provincial. At the height of the Cold War, Menon portrayed himself as a communist, which did not go over well with some politicians.

So, we are provincial, so we don’t speak many languages. Although I have nothing in common with Mr. Trump, other than being born in Brooklyn, I understand that he was correct about “gotcha” questions. Who would have known about the terrible fate of the Ibo tribesman in Nigeria at the hands of the military government there? The Commander in Chief is not always the person who has a foot in every single country in the world. Even those hot spots are sometimes very confusing. I did not understand about the Qud. I also thought he said Kurds and was mispronouncing.

Somehow Mr. Trump has tapped into a feeling among a part of our country that feels disconnected from the mainstream. Let them get out their frustrations for a while. They can vote for Mr. Trump when he forms his own “Gotcha” political party. By the way, who are the prime minister of India and the Chairman of the Communist Party in China?


  1. Yes, Jomo Kenyatta, Mau Maus, independence for Kenya – Jesse Nkoba, his education minister and I roomed together for a semester! Memories! It is fun to remember! Thanks!

  2. I went to graduate school with a fellow, whose dad was the chief of a tribe on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in what was then Tanganyka. It wasn’t such a big deal because his dad had 46 children from a slew of wives.

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