Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's Morning Again in South America

I first visited this country in August of 2002. That seems like such a very long time ago. Everyone I met wanted to talk about the 9/11 terror attacks. It had been nearly a year since those horrible events, but they still felt tangibly close, even for people over 5,000 miles away. They felt the impact, too. I remember Santiago, a 17 year old kid, showing me how he had saved the local newspaper and telling me how much the moment had affected him. I must admit I was touched by the sentiment. The notion that we're all in this together couldn't be ignored. But in the six years that have passed, that kind of sentiment has completely dissipated. It's easy to blame George Bush for this, but that's only because it's all his fault.

I spent far too much time paying attention to the election this year. This was partly due to the fact that I was willfully unemployed and rendered lame by knee surgery in January. Staying current with the daily minutiae was a great way to pass time when I wasn't doing leg-raises or jacked up on caffeine for the sake of plowing forward with the book. But also, it was the most fascinating political occurrence of my lifetime. And it went on for an entire year. So when Tuesday rolled around and the big moment finally came, it was somehow odd to find myself sitting with two friends in a Brazilian restaurant, trying to find a channel on their screen that had complete coverage. The whole thing was a bit anticlimactic for me. And when I saw reports such as this one:

...from the US, I have to admit I felt longingly absent. Outside of an extended "Wooooh!" (which totally took my roommate off guard), there was little celebration here. Whereas people all over the country took to the streets with joyful revelry.

I can't comment on what those people were thinking, but there was a hell of a lot to cheer about. We shunned George Bush. Young people finally turned out to vote. We turned our backs on campaigns of slander. We actually elected a smart person. We took another step toward healing the scars of our racist past. For me, I remain in a state of disbelief that this happened. Not that we elected a black man, but that someone ran for president with a direct, honest, mature approach to the electorate and actually won. Maybe we had to sink to such horrendous depths to actually start paying attention. Certainly it wasn't worth it. But my personal joy at this situation has very little to do with Barack Obama. It's that, against everything I've seen in my entire life, people actually did put country first. If Hillary Clinton had won the primary, we would be stuck in the same stupid mess we've always been in - fighting over nothing, and accomplishing less than that. Now, we've got a chance.

Wednesday proved even better as I finally received my stuff from customs. For six straight weeks, I slept on an air mattress and had roughly ten days worth of clothing. I had no dishes, pots, pans or silverware. I had no stereo. Since the bed arrived, I've been thinking about the exchange between Kirk Van Houten and Homer Simpson after Kirk has been kicked out by his wife:
Kirk: Singles life is great, Homer. I can do whatever I want. Today I drank a beer in the bathroom.
Homer: The one down the hall.
Kirk: Yeah! And another great thing, you get your own bed. I sleep in a racing car, do you?
Homer: I sleep in a big bed with my wife.
Kirk: Oh. Yeah.
No wife, but a big bed anyway

Life here's been good, but without a bed it never felt normal. In sum, I'm like a real person again. My back is already feeling better, and I was able to make some food and not eat it off a napkin. Perhaps most importantly, my Michigan flag was hung on the balcony during the team's first win in six weeks. If it weren't for all the red tape, we'd be bowl bound! I feel like I just arrived all over again and am ready to begin living. Also, the "lead" mover (at least the one who talked to me the most and had me sign all the papers), only had one hand. The guy was a mover, and apparently had been successful enough that he was in charge of the other eight dudes. He was as capable as any of them. Yes we can.
This pile actually grew a lot bigger, but I forgot to take a picture

Beyond the spontaneous celebrations across the US, the world also raised its voice in support. I must admit, that this video really got to me. And this one was nice to see, too. Many of you have asked me what people here think about the election. There was a lot of interest, and certainly they all preferred Obama, but Argentina on the whole is a country rather disillusioned with politics. They've had a steady string of leaders who have ranged from corrupt to self-interested. Yes, there's not a lot of space between those two. Because of my accent, the cab drivers always immediately ask me "De dónde sos?" They really want to know the country, but my new answer is "Chicago, la misma ciudad que Barack Obama." They always give me the same response - a broad, content smile. Then they ask, "That's in the West, right?" or some similar question.

The details don't really matter. What does is that, after eight years of overt obstinance, we are all in this together again. And now it's up to Obama not to squander these good feelings like Bush did. He's got his work cut out for him, to be sure. But I think a little of that hope rubbed off on the rest of the world. That's a great place to start.

1 comment:

Kozy said...

Eating off a napkin for 6 weeks - not fun. Glad to see you got your stuff!

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