5 Nov 2008

America The Beautiful

Last month, Canada had a federal election. Patrick and I marked the occasion unceremoniously by dragging ourselves over to the nearby polling station. We had no line in front of us, so it was quick and painless. We sighed, voted (for different candidates, as it turns out) and returned home to eat leftovers and obligatorily watch election coverage on CBC and Twitter. When the numbers were in, we turned to each other, shrugged and said “well, that was a waste” and went to bed. And the next day, we didn't think anything of it. Election done, business as usual, pass me a beer.

We acknowledged the American election quite differently. Last night, in anticipation of Barack Obama becoming the next US President, we hosted Siobhan and Patrick (her husband) to watch the coverage. I had decorated the place in Democrat blue, printed and hung Obama posters in the window and made gourmet hot dogs, Freedom Fries and apple pie. We even bought some bubbly for the occasion. We joyously screamed, hooted, danced and lit sparklers when Obama's success was made official and then cheered loudly through our window in the direction of the ultra-conservatives streaming out of the Albany Club. We felt energized, relieved and thankful. I’ve spent the better part of today warmly looking at footage of people all over the world who were also swept into the emotion of this moment.

Now, I love Canada. Love, love, love, love, love. In fact, this election probably gave me extra fuel for my sense of patriotism and confirmed how proud being a citizen of this country makes me. I like that our politics rest in the rational centre. I love that there’s no need for Proposition 8 here. I adore that people realize that contributing to a system that provides affordable health care for all its citizens is just as – if not more – patriotic than fighting for the right to own a gun. I love that if someone accused a candidate of being Muslim during an election, the first reaction would be to ask ‘what the eff is wrong with being a Muslim?’, and not simply deny the fabrication.

So my Canadacrush aside, I’m feeling the love for the USA today, which is a bit of a rarity. Ok, it’s a lot of a rarity (although Prop 8 passing still gets a huge, judgey thumbs down from me). The election of Barack Obama and the outpouring of positively-driven passion among the everyday citizen is genuinely inspiring.

Yes, the election of an African American for President is an important moment in the nation’s history in itself. But more than than this, for me, his campaign and election symbolized America finally turning a sharp and sinister corner. The old fear fog was lifted in favour of the massive, unabashed feelings of hope, change and a need for better.

Despite the best efforts of some campaigners, media and small-minded voters, The People didn’t give in to the time-honoured American tradition of fear-mongering, bullying and labeling that has made the rest of the world so disturbed by this once great nation. It’s not for lack of trying. They screamed and screamed: Commie! Terrorist! Anti-American! Godless! Corrupt! Un-Patriotic! Muslim! Anti-Semite! Illegal Alien!

And despite the continued barrage of these tactics in this election, The People finally, FINALLY turned away from the filth and looked toward a light of someone refusing to leave the high road. And when they looked, they started believing in doing better. In playing their part. In working with others. In grasping hold of the truth that they had the power. It caused people to vote for the first time in their lives. To volunteer to help the Obama campaign. To show up, en-mass to public places to celebrate with complete strangers. To cry with joy.

Last night was one of the first times I’ve ever felt that we Canadians could take a cue from our neighbours to the south. No, we don’t have the same dark veil of fear to lift from our eyes, but we certainly have one of apathy. Our country is a wonderful place – but just imagine how fantastic it could be if we chose to be invigorated by a need and a drive and a spirit to make it better. To dream bigger, feel deeper and actually WORK toward the advancement of The People.

I love my country, but today America has my applause and respect. It also has my gratitude for showing us exactly what we’re lacking. I never want to feel so dismissively hollow about the future of my nation again.

3 comments:

Cheryl,  4:37 pm, November 06, 2008  

I love your post and feel exactly the same.

Michael,  7:04 pm, November 07, 2008  

Thanks for mentioning Prop 8. With exception of that stain, this election was really a step forward for us.

Yours,
Yankie Mike

Dena,  12:02 pm, December 05, 2008  

Well said! Your blog brought tears to my eyes. I can finally be proud to be an American again!

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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