No words will really do justice to this moment but I’d be remiss if I didn’t jot down the experience overseas.
Polling places back home opened at eight o’clock, which was two o’clock in the afternoon here. So well before those waking up in the nifty fifty were buzzing about today’s election, a group of about 200 students here in Bologna were clamoring all day, checking web sites and news sources trying to divine any new piece of information about how today might end.
The school allowed us to use the auditorium and its connection to the international version of CNN to keep tabs on election results well into the night. Saying we were a lop-sided crowd would be an understatement. I don’t know a single person in that room who was rooting for McCain. If they were, they did a great job of concealing it. From midnight until 5:00 in the morning, I sat among a crowd whose numbers waxed and waned as states fell among the Obama and McCain camps. Cheers erupted for the former, jeers for the latter. Continually. It was almost comical.
At around eleven o’clock the school’s wireless signal turned off. Apparently it’s programmed to do that and there was a sudden panic as we were suddenly cut off from global news sources upon which we had been relying for extra coverage. It was a louder shriek than some of the news that Obama had lost a particular state. I ran up to our computer lab and tried a few tricks to get in to the system and fire the wifi back up but to no avail. So I ran home (about a seven or eight minute walk) and grabbed a credit card-sized wireless router I brought to Italy with me. (If nothing else we boy scouts are prepared.) I grabbed an extra long network cable I had stumbled across at our house and made my way back to school. I found a working network jack and managed to get the router into the auditorium. Internet was restored for laptops and such and all was right with the world.
The night pressed on. We were jittery, constantly shushing the room whenever it appeared CNN was about to predict a state claimed. We had a map of the U.S. drawn on a white board and filled in states red or blue when one was announced. I was surrounded by people from countries across the globe who, at the very least, were just happy to know the end of the Bush administration was within sight. If you’ve never watched an election surrounded by international relations/political science geeks, do it once. Things like this are their Super Bowl, World Cup or even Dungeons and Dragons.
CNN finally projected Obama the winner at about four thirty in the morning and the room erupted in hugs, cheers, high fives and tears. My eyes filled up not so much because he won but because of the images from the acceptance speech in Grant Park. I needed to let out a little homesickness, I suppose.
After watching the victory and concession speeches I rolled out for home. It’s about seven thirty the next day. I’m exhausted and will likely miss a class or two today. I feel incredibly hopeful and optimistic about America’s future right now largely because this is something so incredibly different. McCain would likely have been much of the same mess that’s been steering the ship these last eight years. When things are this bad, it’s time for a breath of fresh air.
It’s not that I don’t like McCain. In fact, had he been the Republican candidate in 2000, I would have gladly voted for him. This time around however, he seems to have adopted more of the perverted world view that has been a mainstay of the Republican apparatus this century. The straw that broke the camel’s back was pandering to women by bringing on the half-wit Palin.
As for Obama, he’s never governed and that’s a concern There is a reason we haven’t had a Senator-turn-President since Kennedy. His rhetoric is striking but the substance can be missing. Is he smart enough to guide us through the current economic hell? Perhaps. He’s easily smarter than the current Oval Office occupant, though that bar is low. Obama is much more thoughtful, deliberate and, thankfully, not under the delusion God has chosen him for this role. Much of the world likes him and that’s a good thing since (supposedly) the world looks up to us. Though I suspect much of the admiration is simply that he isn’t George W. Bush. In that case, most anyone new would be, and certainly is, welcome. Ultimately, we won’t know if this is good or bad for some time. Remember the story of the Native American Indian chief who found a wild horse. People said he was lucky. He said, “Maybe.” He taught his son how to ride on that horse but the boy fell and broke his arm. People said the chief was unlucky. He replied, “Maybe.” The tribe was attacked by a neighboring one and everyone died except the son who could not fight because of his arm. Get the picture? (Shout out to my Me, The Devil, and Other Friends peeps on that one.) Time for bed.