nathan

Yes we did.

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:

Obama Win Screengrab

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.

World News Headline Montage

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.

And me?

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.

Thanks, people.

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.

12 Responses to “Yes we did.”

  1. Gageon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:10 am

    Andrew celebrating in that video chat is classic.

  2. nathanon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:23 am

    Indeed.

    Also – forgot to mention in the post, but as I was writing this entry this morning, the old Polish guy that lives above me came downstairs to shake my hand this morning. Poland is happy.

  3. Von 05 Nov 2008 at 9:51 am

    can you believe INDIANA? thrilling.

  4. amyson 05 Nov 2008 at 10:56 am

    I AM SO HAPPY I POOPED MY PANTS TWICE!

    I AM SO HAPPY THAT I HAVE WATCHED HIS SPEECH SEVEN TIMES!

    I AM SO HAPPY AND THANK GOD!

    i think about being in chicago public schools and how people of color always get shit on; and then seeing everyone in grant park… oohhh..

    this is so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so huge

    remember after the last election, nate? remember what you said?

    wow.

    i am so happy.

  5. Asmaon 05 Nov 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Nicely written Nathan! Even though I can’t vote, but that didn’t hold me or any of my other (non-voter) friends back from cheering, celebrating, dancing, or getting all emotional and shout our lungs out when Obama won.

    Funny thing is, right after the declaration of Obama’s win, me and my friend, Shubhra, called our friends and families back home (Bangladesh and India respectively) and congratulated each other. It was a weird feeling, and I really didn’t know why we all were SO INVESTED in this election…… all around the world. Obviously people want some important issues on world politics to be resolved, and they are now optimistic that some good things will happen in future.

    I, was ecstatic to be a part of history though. And, I got emotional. And got goosebumps while hearing that guy give his victory speech. And for a guy I don’t even know… hahaha.

  6. nathanon 05 Nov 2008 at 2:31 pm

    The Incomparable Api! Great to hear from you. I completely understand what you’re saying and you’re not the only one who got emotional. Looking forward to my India (and potentially Bangladesh) part of the trip even more now.

  7. VeachEon 05 Nov 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Absentee voter pride, baby.

  8. GaByon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:18 pm

    It is the first time I feel so proud of a country which is not mine, I have lived this elections intensely and yes I feel very happy with the results, THANK GOD!. Now you all are showing to the world the real United States of America.
    I like this post, awwww you write so nice!!! ( dont say naaaa hehe)…..I always feel so proud of you, muak! :)

  9. Gromskion 05 Nov 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Yesterday was a lot of fun. Your parents probably received 10 phone calls asking if you had voted already. The Obama campaign made over 1.2 million phone calls yesterday.

    How about Indiana? I knew it would go blue when the results were close and Lake County hadn’t reported completely yet.

  10. stileson 08 Nov 2008 at 11:02 am

    Cool post. So many Americans need to take the trip you are taking and check under the hood of the rest of the world. It is sad to me that there are still so many people here who see this election as the beginning of the end, rather than the end of the beginning.

  11. Jacobon 10 Nov 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Shipley

    Glad to hear things are going well. I must admit, I was not all that surprised to see you eat the balls. South America was all about Rosey and it looks like Poland is full of balls.

    Seriously….glad to see that you are out and about and enjoying your time. I’m just waiting for the picture with the high schooler!!

  12. Tracey Smarsh A.K.A. T Smaon 14 Nov 2008 at 3:07 pm

    OBAMANOS!
    At least, that is ALL I see in Sant Fe, New Mexico. All hail the Latin vote. I did not see a McCain sign until 3 days prior to the election & I almost drove my car off the side of the road. Thank God for all of the liberal hippies in Fanta Se!
    Regardless, I am using this reply as a contact method to get back to my dear friend, Mr. Shipley. I no longer have your E-mail. as I no longer have my IUPUI address any longer. And sadly I have missed both of your phone call…one, yesterday! I check your blog weekly, and I miss our chats dearly. I am glad to see you doing well. Hopefully, we can get into contact via email. Miss you darling! xoxo
    TSma-

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