I am half-American – my father was a war-time GI – and it was four years ago that I at last identified him and then discovered I had a half-sister living in Michigan.
In our first phone conversation, just after the 2016 US election, she said: “We’re trying to get past Trump here.” That confirmed that she was a Democrat, much to my relief. On the weekend after the 2020 election she phoned me saying she was overjoyed that a grown-up was on his way to the White House.
I share her delight and that of millions of Americans. But my joy is tinged with the realisation that the new president will face the same struggle that President Obama had with Republican senators now even more determined to block his legislative programme at every turn – backed by the hordes of voters who will continue to believe Trump should have returned to the White House, with the outgoing president as their cheerleader.
My American family are Mayflower descendants, a surprising discovery I made only months after identifying my father. It is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival in the New World this month, with celebrations totally overshadowed by the Covid pandemic – and the US election.
But again my delight at being possibly the only known British-born male claiming Mayflower descent was darkened by the fact that the ship was carrying child servants who had been swept off the streets of London and used as forced labour. It was a ship where around half the passengers and crew died from disease in the first winter. Indeed, New Plimouth, their first settlement, was on the site of a Native American village left vacant because of disease introduced by Europeans.
The co-operation between the English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe ensured the colony’s survival. It was a beacon of hope made all the brighter against the disease and conquest that was to wipe out many of the continent’s original inhabitants.
But as the United States enters a new presidency, hope is all we have.