I first moved overseas in the summer of 2001. With the exception of the 2005-2006 school year, I’ve been overseas ever since. For all of that time, and to an increasing degree, I’ve tried to keep my nationality a secret. When people asked where I was from, I’d say, “I live in Malaysia,” or “I live in Singapore” because I felt my nation did not represent me.
With each passing year of the President George W. Bush’s presidency, I felt more disenfranchised, more ashamed of my country’s actions at home and especially overseas. I don’t expect that any administration will carry out my policy wishes to a T, but this current administration seems to be diametrically opposed to both my political views and my values. It’s policies on the environment, education, and regulating companies, just to name a few, seem to me to be crafted to reward the administration’s friends in the short term while destroying the nation’s infrastructure. It’s foreign policy was a disaster on every front, making the world a less safe place and destroying other nations’ willingness to collaborate with us for a common good. In short, its policies seemed to build upon and strengthen our worst traits, our greediness and our egocentric-ism.
But this is an age of “miracle and wonder.” I was on my lunch break watching elementary kids rush down the halls yelling, “Obama is President!” I watched Senator McCain’s concession speech and was moved to see in it a return of the person I had respected before this campaign.
I was teaching again by the time President-elect Obama gave his acceptance speech. But thanks to YouTube, I was able to watch it in its entirety this morning. I sat here, stroking the cats as tears ran down my face to again hear an administration speaking my values.
– tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
-President-Elect Obama’s acceptance speech
Admittedly, those are just words. More importantly, I heard a politician admit that things are a mess, and the only ways to fix them require hard work, sacrifice and time. I am truly astonished that the American people had the wisdom to hear that and vote for him anyway. As a nation, we have an embarrassing history of avoiding people who speak those truths. Maybe we, as a nation, are finally growing up. Maybe things have gotten bad enough that people are willing to accept some responsibility for the problems and the solutions.
I can only hope. And that is a big step. It’s been a long time since I felt hopeful about our nation. As I see people around the world rejoicing in this election’s results, I feel hope that America has another chance. I feel thankful that the present administration has become so unpopular that people around the world seem willing to consider the possibility that with a change in regime, we may become someone they can tolerate. If we are very fortunate, as a nation we may become someone they can respect.
I do not expect smooth sailing. The nation is a mess. The world economy has crashed into recession. We are embroiled in two wars. Further complicating this are the huge campaign donations that President-Elect Obama accepted from corporate America. He is further fettered by the current administration which seems willing to let him start now, as long as he is willing to make certain concessions. The forces in place to prevent change are strong. They will constantly try to preserve the status quo.
But there is this hope, this thing with feathers that perches in my soul. For this moment, that is enough.