Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Viewing the election from abroad

Ah. It’s finally over. I am writing my column this week about watching the election results from over here.. instead of staying up late, we will be waking up early to see what’s going on. We will probably take Eli with us to an American Chamber of Commerce event. Jacob didn’t want to miss his morning swimming class.

I have been as engrossed in this thing as all of you, reading blogs and online newspapers constantly. I have found Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic to be a great read throughout. But it has also been really interesting talking to Chinese friends about the election.

I was talking with Woodie about how Obama would be the first black president and he said, “Wasn’t Abraham Lincoln black?”

Before you laugh, ask yourself why he should know anything about Abraham Lincoln? What do you know about Sun Yat Sen, the father of modern China?

“No,” I said.

“Oh, but he did something really great for the black people, right?”

See he knows more about Abraham Lincoln than you do about Sun Yat Sen.

“Well, why would anyone want McCain?” he asked. “Isn’t he from Bush’s party? And doesn’t everyone hate Bush?”

I told him that some bitter people clung to their guns bibles and political party. THAT IS A JOKE.

Another interesting moment came when I asked Echo, a really nice, very smart young woman who babysits for us, if she had seen Obama or knew much about him. “No,” she said. “I know he is a black man who is probably going to become the President of the Untied States and that people really like him, but some hate him. But I don’t know why”

Becky urged me to find some video of him speaking so I went up to You Tube –how did we live so long without it? – and found a speech from a few days prior he gave in Richmond, Virginia. I was thinking how amazing it was that he was giving this moving speech in the former capital of the Confederate States (at least if memory serves me correctly – I have not looked this up).

It was a good one, and he spoke about how there was no time for divisiveness and distracting issues.. “not when America is in so much trouble.” And he recited a litany of problems.. people who can’t afford healthcare, families who can’t afford to send their kids to school, people who are having their houses repossessed and so on.

Echo was listening intently, clearly impressed by Obama but now quite perplexed. “Really?” she asked “Is that all true? These things are happening to people in America?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Wow. We thought that everyone in America was rich.”
**
I have also been having interesting election talks with lots of foreign, non Chinese friends, as well as several fans I met at our shows in Hangzhou, one from Ireland and from Germany. They are all anxiously anticipating and expecting an Obama victory.

A couple of rather conservative Brits – I am virtually certain they are are solid Tories – told me “the world will cry if McCain wins.”

The Irishman in Hangzhou said “America sneezes and the world catches a cold and t seems perfectly obvious to most of us that Obama has a better chance of straightening things out. Could McCain win?”

“Sure,” I said. “Obama is way up but Democrats are so used to losing that there is a lot of paranoia that the more ahead Obama appears to be the more likely something screwy will happen.”

That’s when he told me that if that happens the “world will cry” and no one will understand how America could have rewarded Bush’s party with four more years of power.