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