that's what i heard all day long on wednesday.
people who didn't even know if i was an obama supporter or not, but who only knew that i was an american (and therefore i must certainly be an obama supporter, right?) were wishing me congratulations all day long.
the international response to president-elect obama (nice ring to it, eh?) has been profound. even as far back as the primaries -- people here LOVE him. i tell my american friends that barack obama has done more to improve the american image abroad than any foreign policy or relief mission that we've had in the last eight years. before, i used to not want to draw attention to the fact that i was an american, especially when i was travelling abroad. i would never deny that i was an american, but i wouldn't dare to wear anything like an american flag shirt or even one of the countless usahockey hats, scarves, or jackets that we have -- i didn't want the negative attention that that would bring. but for months now, i have PROUDLY displayed my "obama '08" button and plastered his "change" sign in our front window. in fact, several months ago, adam and gracie and i were in brussels, and as the weather was fine that day, adam was walking around in only a t-shirt and khakis. i didn't even realize what his shirt said until a waiter on the street ran over to adam to shake his hand. it was then that i noticed adam was wearing an obama t-shirt. the waiter excitedly told us how much he loved obama, and wanted to know why we weren't supporting hillary clinton instead. this man actually wanted to be talking to us americans because of barack obama! he wanted to be our friend, and congratulated us that a man such as obama would possibly be the next president of the united states! how remarkable!
fast foward to november -- for days and days before the election, the dutch newspapers and radio stations (and maybe tv stations too, but we don't have a tv so i can't verify this) all reported on the presidential race as their lead story. front page news! even when obama's grandmother passed away, even that was a top story here! and so, when on november 5 barack obama was elected to be the next president of the united states, EVERYONE and their brother and their brother's neighbor and their brother's neighbor's dog INSISTED on congratulating me and adam on obama's victory!
we had a party (of course) the night after the election, and honest to goodness, adam and i were the only americans there. an italian woman, a woman from canada, another woman from the netherlands, a norwegian couple, and a man from hong kong all came over to celebrate with us -- and they were just as happy about obama's victory as adam and i were. when i pointed out this fact, the dutch woman summed up everyone's sentiment the best, i thought -- she said that over the last 8 years, people around the world have come to understand just how much the american president can affect the lives of people outside of the united states. and so she gets how this election has GLOBAL consequences. and being a fan of barack obama and his policies, she was naturally thrilled and relieved to see that we americans finally came out of our eight-year stupidity coma to elect the RIGHT candidate this time.
at our party, we watched the president-elect's victory speech on youtube, and we all of us got teary eyed. the italian woman was even reciting the speech along with obama, line by line, because she had watched it a couple of times already. even the dentist that i saw that morning couldn't stop talking about how excited he was and how moving that speech was. the egg man at the market was just as giddy as i was. and my dutch friend valerie attended a democrats-abroad election night party in amsterdam and partied until 7:00 in the morning, sending me text messages during the night to tell me about the results as they came in. (which was fine with me cuz i was so excited and nervous that i couldn't sleep anyway. we ended up waking up at 5:00 a.m. -- 11:00 pm nyc time -- to watch the returns and tuned in just in time to see senator john mccain concede the race in a very gracious speech. a beautiful thing to wake up to!)
so that day, besides hearing a lot of congratulations, i heard over and over and over about how he is the first black president. and i'm all, yeah? so? but it seems to be a REALLY big deal to my foreign friends. to me, the biggest deal is the fact that he's barack freaking obama. i voted for him because of who he IS, not because of what he looks like. he just happens to be african american. but i hear this a lot over here, about how exciting it is that he's black and the next president. like, even the girls at the check-out counter at the grocery store, when they see my obama button on my purse have to tell me how excited they are that obama could be the next black president. is that a big deal? am i not appreciating that fact enough? cuz i don't really get it, i guess. but, i've come to accept it: if that's what the rest of the world needs to hold on to in order to think that the united states isn't such a bad place after all, then i'll embrace it. run with it, guys! if that's what it takes for you to think we're cool, then fine.
anyway, i'm excited. in case you couldn't tell already. and EVERYONE i know out here -- american, european, asian... we are ALL elated. the global response has been incredible. this man has united us all, no matter what our nationality. no longer will the face of america be some bumbling cowboy idiot out there clearing brush or bombing countries, but rather an elegant, intelligent, and patient man who actually speaks in entire sentences and not truncated bumper sticker slogans! god bless the united states of america!