Last night I watched Barack Obama win the federal election and I was pleased, not because I feel that Obama will be some Messiah that will lead the USA through the desert feeding them mystical presidential bread that will grow up from where he steps, it's not that at all. Obama is just a politician and he certainly has his faults and they will become apparent during his presidency I'm sure. There are issues I disagree with him on, and there are also issues that I believe he may address that will be better for my country than it will be for America.
No, I'm pleased because now Americans have just shown the world that they are changing. They didn't "vote for change", they showed the rest of the world what I discovered when I started blogging 2 years ago.
To properly illustrate what I'm about to explain I must tell a story from September 2001. I was just out of high school, I was dirt-poor struggling to get by with no TV and no real understanding of how the world worked, but I did understand a few things and had a few opinions. Clinton had been president most of my young life up to that point, and Americans were typically people who had more money than me and liked to make that very apparent. Back then the predominant opinion in my part of the country was that America was screwing over Canada with NAFTA. They got to take our goods like lumber and water for cheap, but if they didn't want them they could just say "NO thanks", which had cratered the lumber industry in BC. It was a one-sided deal and for me as a struggling kid it was just another reason why I wasn't doing so well. I'd traveled abroad a few years earlier, and my opinion wasn't a solitary one, all across the world the general consensus was that Americans were arrogant and believed they not-only were, but deserved better than the rest of us.
So on the afternoon of September 11th, when I walked down to my gaming club and took a look in the sign in book to read the quote another member had written. "At last America gets the kick in the nuts they deserve." I was not outraged, I wasn't even surprised that it was written. I knew it was tasteless, the guy who wrote it wasn't particularly tactful at the best of times, but I didn't disagree with the sentiment. In the international schoolyard, America was the bully (the word douche hadn't come into widespread use yet), and in many ways it was somewhat satisfying to see that bully unseated from his throne for a short time. Sure people died, and that was horrible, but I didn't know any of them and to me it was just an event in the world.
Sure, publicly we cried out sympathy for New Yorkers, but at the same time we felt suspicion at the fact that the particular section of the pentagon which was crashed into was undergoing "renovations" at the time, and we quietly believed that it was a little bit of international justice.
Then of course things went from bad to worse, the PATRIOT act was passed and the Iraq war was started, and George W. Bush became the personification of everything the international community despised about America. He was arrogant, pushy, said things without thinking, and generally came off as clueless and inconsiderate of what anyone else might think. Dubya really truly was the perfect American stereotype in our eyes, he wasn't just the President of the USA, he became the man we all saw in our mind's eye when we discussed anything to do with America, and in him all our opinions were justified because in 2004 America elected him again. Total proof to us that the country was exactly as we believed it to be.
It wasn't until late 2006 when I started blogging that I started to reach out and make sense of the world and listen to what other people were thinking, and what I discovered surprised me a little. I found that most of the American's I was talking to were ashamed of their president. As if the entire country had started to see what the rest of the world was seeing and had collectively gone slack-jawed and went "Oh my God. That's us!"
The Americans I met all seemed to have the wind sucked out of their sails, they were frustrated, and sometimes even ashamed with the things their country had been doing, and their president's idiot grin and stupid remarks were long-past being funny. They weren't the swaggering ignoramuses that their president was, they were not the stereotype. It was at that point I realized just how badly the current government was representing it's country, and I started to write about it.
I learned about their constitution and spoke of my admiration for it, I learned about their history and read their Declaration of Independence and publicly applauded them for it. I read about the PATRIOT act, and extraordinary rendition, and "enhanced interrogation" and I cried out against it, because the Americans I knew didn't want those things. They were good people I knew, and they didn't deserve to be branded with their country's reputation.
So last night when Obama won by what is considered in American politics to be a landslide, I was pleased. For the first time in my memory America chose a young politician who still had the spark of idealism in his eye, they chose a man who didn't look like what politicians should look like, he didn't have a name that sounded like a politician's, he didn't have the dynastic credentials of a President and he didn't have the big money backing. But he is well spoken, intelligent, seems willing to listen, and is aware of the world around him.
To me, last night's election says that America as a nation wants to be seen differently now, and that makes me happy.