Written and Posted from Kerala, India
I don't know if you guys over in the States have noticed this or not, but there's a HUGE election coming up in the next year. Really? You noticed? You mean you can't open the paper or read a magazine or check a blog without someone mentioning it? You mean that opinions on the candidates are everwhere? And that people have opinions about the opinions? And that there are other people who have opinions about the opinions about the opinions? Huh. How strange. Over here in India, no one even cares that the US is having an election. No one even talks about it.
Except that I'm totally lying. Because people DO talk about it. All the time. News of the election is in every single newspaper we've seen, and we've had conversations about it with everyone from tuk-tuk drivers to hotel operators to other travelers. And every single person has an opinion. I'm proud to be the first to tell you that the opinion is universal: George Bush is an asshat. Oh yeah, you probably knew that, seeing as that is in the paper, too.
But here's something you may not have known: every single person we've talked to thinks that Barack Obama is the man for the job. Not only are they incredibly grateful for the fact that our presidents get booted after they serve two terms, they also think that Obama is just the man to fill the gaping holes left by the Bush administration. And so do we.
Those of you who have talked politics with me and Matt know that we view politics from different angles. Matt sees everything through the filter of foreign policy, a "we should lead by example" approach. I see things through the filter of domestic policy, a "what about the starving children in DC?" view of my world. We make a good team that way. He can field questions about the fallout of US Cold War politics, and I can make a very compelling argument as to why raising a public teacher's salary could change the face of education as we know it. To the democratic party, we're a dream come true. He sees the Presidency as a means to alter the course of US history with respect to other nations, I see it as a means to alther the course of a gay couple's future with respect to marriage. It works for us. We also tend to agree with the other one, which is why I always defer to and support Matt's opinion on issues of foreign policy and he does the same for me. From that perspective alone, it is a testament to Obama's message that we both unilaterally and unequivocally support him to be the next President of the United States.
But it took leaving the United States to see, exactly, just how important the role of the President really is. When I say that we've heard pro-Obama opinions from tuk-tuk drivers and hotel operators, I should stress that these are people who live in Vietnam and India. These are people who live with poverty knocking at their door EVERY SINGLE DAY. These are people who are often the first in their family to know how to read, or who, in some cases, don't know how to read, but who are sending their children to private school because they understand the importance of an education. These are people who were directly affected by the fallout of US Cold War politics, who, in fact, continue to be affected by it. Really.
The thing that comes up, again and again, is that for at least the last eight years, America has been a nation of division. It has taken its power and its stronghold in the global economy and it has abused it. It disavowed the promises that it effectively made to the tuk-tuk drivers of the world. And for some reason, those same tuk-tuk drivers are hearing Obama's message and it is resonating with them. They are hearing that there is a man, a man who is a person of color like they are, who really WANTS to bring the world back together. They are hearing that this man, who actually lived in urban poverty in Indonesia, a nation not so far from where they live, maybe not so different from where they live, who believes that America is supposed to unite, rather than divide, and that to unite means to think not only of the citizens within its borders, but also of the citizens of other nations.
When someone asks me why I support Barack Obama for President, I am still likely to rush to an answer with my thoughts on welfare, healthcare, and education. But I am also just as likely to remember how surprised I was when that taxi driver in Sri Lanka, the taxi driver who woke up at 2am in order to start off his day with some money in his pocket, told us that he thought that Obama was the best candidate. That a man who lives on the other side of the world, whose taxes won't be increased or decreased based on the outcome of the election, who probably doesn't care whether or not the US stays in Iraq or pulls out, that this man thinks that "President Obama" has a really nice ring to it, that says something to me. It says that in terms of foreign policy, Obama has the ability to bring the world closer together, even before he's seen the inside of the oval office. This is the type of President we've been looking for.