Nov 5th, 2008
How’d I watch and share the election results in Krakow? On the internet. I finally went to sleep when the sun was coming up. Screen looked something like this:
Browser with ton o’ tabs (CNN, Kos, Drudge, Pollster, Slate, email, FB), IM conversations, Skype live video chat with Andrew, Erin & King, Twitter tweets, and streaming MSNBC TV.
He did it. America did it.
I’ll keep this (relatively) brief because this is not a political blog, but from an American world traveler’s perspective, the 2008 presidential election has been more than just a side note as I move from country to country and the results mean more than just a little to me as someone representing America to the rest of the world.
To the folks at home, I know from first-hand experience that the rest of the world is, generally and eloquently speaking, balls-out elated right now.
The world cares. A lot.
Everywhere I’ve been, people asked me about the election. “Have you voted? Who will win? What do you think?” It almost always came up. This goes for Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Poland — and the people from all sorts of other countries I’ve met while traveling in these countries. (Australia, Germany, Israel, France, Brazil, etc.)
When they ask if I voted, I proudly said that I did — absentee. Then I say that my vote was for Barack Obama.
With the exception of one time*, the mention of Obama’s name immediately cuts the inherent tension in having a political discussion with someone who’s leanings you don’t know. None of them are sure initially if I’m a Bush guy or something, but when they hear that I voted for Obama, they relax and smile, the floodgates open, and the conversation gets interesting and honest.
* I met a Colombian Cab driver who insisted that America was “not ready for a black president” and that America needed a “strong man” to lead it. As an example, he explained that, more or less, everything that George Bush has done after 9/11 has been the right thing to do. I actually bet him $15 that Obama would win. Guess I need to go back to Colombia to collect now.
The world is well informed.
During these conversations, I am continually impressed with the breadth of knowledge people in other countries have about news and politics in the United States. Many of them are probably better informed (and even care more) about our politics than Joe Six-Pack. Cabbies in Colombia, other travelers, bartenders, whoever. They largely know a surprising amount about our politics and they can talk intelligently about it.
The world loves Obama…
… and summarily seems to hate George Bush. According to my unscientific survey, of course.
They seemed at the very least unexcited about John McCain. Reactions towards Palin were probably best summed up by the 50 year-old Scottish car mechanic at the hostel in Krakow, “Oh, shite. She’s a nutter, that one.”
I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard variants of the phrase, “Well everyone in my country hopes you elect Barack Obama.” “We want Obama.” “If I could vote, I’d vote for Obama.”
I’m sure there are exceptions, but other than the war-mongering Colombian cab driver, I have yet to personally meet anyone.
This means a lot to me.
I have generally been quick to say negative things about America and what our policies represent around the world because I’ve disagreed with what we’ve done on the international stage and who we’ve chosen to lead us. Since I’ve actually cared about politics and the news, I’ve always felt a mistrust, a shiestiness, and general douchebaggyness surrounding the whole affair of America and it’s politics. I’ve been a cynic about a system that I’ve never felt included in.
That may have changed last night at 6:00 in the morning sitting in a small studio apartment in Krakow watching MSNBC streaming video online while I video chatted with friends in their living room.
Sitting on the other side of the Atlantic and for the first time in my life, I actually feel pride in my country. I am proud of what we’ve done and what it means. I am proud that we are showing the world we might not be nincompoops after all. The Little Snowball in Hell that has yet to melt and I are proud of the state of Indiana which looks to go BLUE. (!) I’m not gonna start blaring that one “Proud to Be An American” country song or anything, but at least I know America hasn’t totally lost it’s shit.
(Apparently one of the Scottish med students I met in Arequipa, Peru feels the same way. She just updated her Facebook status to say, “happy Americans-aren’t-so-stupid-after-all day.” See what I mean?)
Even if Obama biffs it or even if one were to argue that the election of Obama was merely a rejection of the Bush administration and not an endorsement of Obama, that’s still enough for me to walk prouder around the world.
Maybe now the next time I’m at a random pub in another country and strike up a conversation with someone, I won’t have to ready my battery of, “But, hey, don’t worry – I’m one of the Good Americans!” explainers when they ask where I’m from.
Finally. I might just have faith in America again.
Editor’s Note: And to the McCain supporters and/or Barack cynics: Don’t sweat it. I ain’t judgin’. I still do appreciate a variety of opinions even if I and the rest of the world tend not to agree with them. This is America, after all.