Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election 2008

I've been out of the States for the last three elections. In 2000 I was in Toronto. I was a bit let down by the result, but I kind of expected it. Also, I had no idea that Bush was going to be such a disaster. After all, in his first campaign, he ran as a moderate conservative.

The 2004 election was pretty heartbreaking. All day, while I was working in the basement of Massey College, Toronto, the exit polls were showing a Kerry win, but when I went out at night to a bar to watch the coverage, the reality began to become clear. Then Ohio and Florida fell and it was all over. I remember feeling like the floor was falling out from under me. I was surrounded by Canadians, who cared but didn't care nearly enough, who had not voted and were already showing signs of retreating to their precious moral high-ground from which they could smugly claim that such things would never happen in the safer, saner Northern America.

Japan was a great time zone to watch from but it was a bit strange culturally. Ken was aware of the historical significance of the election, but a lot of my Japanese friends just didn't understand why it was so important - why I was so excited. The East Coast polls started to close about midday through my workday on the 5th. By the time I was done with work, it was clear that Barack Obama would be declared the president elect of the United States.

When I got off work, I went to an international bar to meet some friends and celebrate with other Americans. Everyone was excited and it was the first time in years that I felt really proud to be an American.

While I watched Obama giving his speech, I cried. I also heard a line that made me realize why I felt so proud - that reminded me what it is that I do believe in about America. Obama said,

The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth but from the enduring power of our ideals - democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

In fact, for regular people who aren't American citizens, maybe even for a lot of regular American citizens, these are the only things that can really be regarded as America's strength. When we move so far away from these ideals, appearing to turn our backs on them - as has happened often in our history - we become a hollow mockery of ourselves.
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
- W. Shakespeare


Sophie said...

Hey Nathan: SF and I are currently in San Fran, where we spent a week doing data entry for the Obama campaign and generally having an amazing time talking to people and seeing some incredible trees (also, fantastic food). It's been revelatory being here, really feels epochal. We watched the acceptance speech through the doors of a security guard's van, with a bunch of strangers, and it was like the whole country was holding its breath (then releasing it really, really loudly). Exciting (?!) to hear today that among the first of the President-Elect's actions will be the dissolution of Guantanamo Bay and an end to drilling in protected areas. Four more years!

MindOverMatter said...

And so much more has happened since then, before he has even taken office! The election, for me, was the first time I've felt proud of being American since JFK was shot when I was twelve. That was followed by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy while I was still in high school, then the heightening of the Vietnam War and the invasion of Cambodia while I was in college. I tuned out for years, not even knowing who our VP was for several terms, then the frustration of Reagan's ignoring the AIDS epidemic and his re-election, the two Iraq wars, the Bush years, and the total discouragement I felt when he was re-elected. So this is something to feel proud of. To see so reasonable, so educated and yet modest a figure, a true leader and an orator elected is pure heaven. I eagerly await his stepping into the helm.