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  • AFP on Obama victory and the reactions of (former) Americans abroad

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 7th, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog. This was a fast turnaround. I got a call last night during dinner for some quotes from the AFP, and less than four hours later it’s up on the Net. About my reactions to the Obama election. The reporter wanted reactions from Americans abroad, so I asked if it would be okay to speak as a former American. Even better, she said.

    RANT ALERT, but it’s about time:  Over the course of a twenty-minute conversation I talked inter alia about the shame I felt as America became the conservatory of Neoconism.  As the sole superpower deciding to remake the world in its own (ignorant) image, it betrayed its ideals through renditioning, signing statements, torture memos and waterboarding, Guantanamo, wiretapping, a widening gap between rich and poor and a net decline in incomes for the nation’s poor, fingerprinting foreigners and denying them habeas corpus, two wars built on lies and the profit motive that are ultimately bankrupting the country all over again, topped off by a worldwide financial crisis resulting from this administration’s misbegotten policies. And so on. How I no longer felt like an American anymore and was happy to have given up my affiliation to it. More in my next column. Here’s hoping Obama restores America’s image to the world. The reporter essentially took my first and last quotes and took away the word “former” from “the American side of me”.

    Anyway, it’s an article worth writing as these reactions matter. Good riddance Bush, in all likelihood (given the unprecedented damage done to the country at home and millions of people abroad) America’s worst president in history.  I doubt I am far from alone in that appraisal from other people with American roots overseas.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Supporters of US President-elect Barack Obama react while watching results on TV during in Geneva
     

    Full coverage »

    Obama win injects a Cool America factor

    BERLIN (AFP) — Barack Obama’s victory in the US election has given Americans an almost overnight excuse to stop hiding their passports.

    Americans around the world have reported being congratulated by strangers in the street. Obama t-shirts are on sale in stores in Paris and London, and after years of criticism over Iraq, climate change and other disputes, newspaper headlines have proclaimed that the United States is cool again.

    “YES, WE CAN be friends!” splashed Germany’s top selling Bild daily on its front page Thursday. “We have fallen in love with the new, the different, the good America. ‘Obamerica’.”

    Elena Fuetsch, a US student in Russia, learned about Obama’s victory on an overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow and was congratulated by a group of French students.

    “One of them told me: ‘I never thought I would be telling this to an American, but congratulations on your president. We’re very proud of you’,” Fuetsch recalled.

    “Many of us are still in somewhat pinch me mode,” said Roland Pearson, spokesman for the Johannesburg-based volunteer organisation Americans in Africa for Obama.

    “I was out today shopping and a gentleman asked me whether I was American and I said yes. He said ‘oh, you must be celebrating along with all the rest of us’. No one said that in 2000 and no one said that in 2004.”

    Eric Hansen, who has lived in Germany for more than 20 years and written several books on German culture from the US perspective, said Europeans “have waited just as much as Americans have waited to be able to change their opinions about America.

    “I think that this old dream of an idealised America, this myth, is something that people need. It is allowed now, it is permissable to have it again.”

    But while there was a sense of immediate common joy, Pearson, in Johannesburg and other expatriates, said global perceptions of the United States would take time to change after eight years under President George W. Bush.

    “It’s only been 48 hours. Transforming a world view takes a little bit longer than that,” said Pearson. “Right now people are working on the level of emotion.”

    Scott Saarlas, a 45-year-old American who now lives in Ethiopia, said: “There will be a lot of Americans who’ll feel more accepted and not be embarrassed to say that they are Americans in front of foreigners.

    “I’d like to hope that it will be a lot easier now for us to travel overseas, but it’s too early to say at the moment.”

    Jackie P. Chan, an American from San Francisco working in Hong Kong for an investment group, said Obama’s victory would be the first step to changing perceptions.

    “We will have to see how the US government runs once Obama and the newly elected Democratic majority starts working in January,” she said.

    “I think I will be proud to be American again when we pull out of the Middle East and stop spending billions a year of taxpayers’ money; when we develop better relationships with other countries based on shared ideals and values, and not interests like oil, and when we become more open-minded about the world and less US-centric.”

    In [Sapporo], university lecturer and rights activist Arudou Debito, or formerly David Aldwinckle, said he abandoned his US citizenship in 2002 during the Bush administration.

    Debito, 43, who now has a Japanese passport, welcomed the Obama victory as “the end of the dark age” and said he hoped the new president “may make the [former] American side of me proud again.”

    But Hansen, the writer in Germany, said that it was often hard to be an American abroad even before Bush.

    “It suffered before. When I came to Germany under (Ronald) Reagan, and then George Bush senior marched into Kuwait, and I heard the same sayings — ‘no blood for oil’ and that relationships with America had reached a nadir and all these things.

    “It happens regularly. The perception of America sinks to a low point but it also regularly goes up,” said Hansen.

    ENDS

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    19 Responses to “AFP on Obama victory and the reactions of (former) Americans abroad”

    1. David Says:

      Anybody can cherry pick comments. Especially left-wing news agencies. The U.S. is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and they are fighting two wars many deem unpopular. By any measure McCain ran a poor campaign and yet 46% of Americans still voted for the republican candidate. Forget about the last eight years, many leftists like yourself hated Bush from the beginning, in large part because he “stole” the election from you. I’m not a fan of his but to suggest the problems America has today is due solely because of him is intellectually dishonest at best. There are two types of political activists: The one who wants to change his country because he loves it, or the one who wants to change his country because he hates it. I wonder which one you are…

      But, hey, thanks for the propaganda.

      For the time being – maybe for good – I’m through with this blog. As a source of information for living in Japan its quite useful. I thank both you and your readers for that. But for me, lack of objectivity means lack of credibility.

      Good luck.

    2. Murphy Says:

      “How I no longer felt like an American anymore and was happy to have given up my affiliation to it. ”

      Oh come now, that’s not really true, now is it? Why, just two months ago you came out with this little gem:
      “I for one want the hyphen. I’m a Japanese. An American-Japanese, an ‘Amerika-kei Nihonjin.'”
      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080902ad.html
      Sorry Debito, you can’t have the hyphen. “American” is a nationality, not an ethnicity, and you gave it up, remember? So you can’t be “American-Japanese”, because you aren’t “American”. Even if you still think, talk and act like one. How have you successfully avoided acclimating at all over these past 20 years? That is a really good trick, I’ve never seen any other long-term resident pull it off the way you have.

      Not to mention it took you almost two years to give up US citizenship after taking Japanese citizenship, because you wanted to play a loophole and have things both ways: have a red passport and a blue one, even after voluntarily seeking out and going through the process knowing that by accepting one you were obligating yourself to giving up the other. Nice to know your “moral compass” always points to “self”.

    3. Phil Says:

      It’s so true. I think this is the first time in my adult life that I’m truly proud of being American.

    4. D.B.Cooper Says:

      Dear Mr. Arudou.

      As politics has recently reared its ugly head on your blog I would like to offer my humble opinion.

      Before the posts section descends into a slanging match between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ the very nature of what is called ‘democracy’ should be seriously considered.The extravagant and costly personality contests, as seen most recently in the U.S.A., should not be confused with any real participatory democracy where people shape policy and have an actual voice.They are elections of rich elites who won’t change the status quo and who wouldn’t be able to even if they wanted. They are the caretakers of existing power structures. With that in mind watch the on going attempts to turn Japan into a ‘proper’ modern ‘democracy’ with two political parties vying for the electorates hearts. It becomes increasingly obvious just how ridiculous this is when analyzed closely.

      War,injustice,racism,bigotry,environmental degradation and human rights violations are inherent in the capitalist system. I don’t believe any of these issues can be properly addressed without a radical change. Small gains are made and lost and then made again but nothing will be allowed to get out of hand. People like Moore,Gore and Obama serve only as perceived alternatives who never really threaten the underlying causes of the problems they bring to attention and as an anarchist I find them dangerously distracting. I am of course amused at you being labeled a ‘leftist’ and your blog a source of {leftist}’propaganda’.

      On a completely different subject I found this that I thought some of your readers might find interesting and is possibly relevant somewhere on your site http://www.multipleheritage.co.uk

      Yours sincerely.

      D.B.Cooper.

    5. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Murphy said:

      “Sorry Debito, you can’t have the hyphen. “American” is a nationality, not an ethnicity”.

      And as the USA is a nation with a (varied) national culture. “American” as a cultural background seems sensible to me, so does “American-Japanese” – Japanese Citizen with an American cultural background.

      “So you can’t be “American-Japanese”, because you aren’t “American”. Even if you still think, talk and act like one.”

      Ah, so you get to say who is what – not Debito, or anyone else for that matter.

      Thanks for clearing that one up.

    6. PnetQ Says:

      Murphy,

      I am in no position to criticize or support what Debito says about the US politics in his main entry. Just one comment on the term “American.”

      In contrast to the Japanese, most Americans are well aware of the distinction between nationality and ethnicity. “American” is about nationality, not ethnicity. I doubt it is always the case, though.

      I knew an American teacher who said he wouldn’t use the term “American.” According to him, “American” can indicate no specific people. It is only Native Americans who can be rightly called “American.” In this understanding, the term “American” is ethnicity, but rather dysfunctional one.

      It seems we cannot completely free from our language being confused when dealing with ethnicity-nationality matters. As for me, I have no problems to accept Debito as “American-Japanese.” In this context, I understand “American” as a kind of ethnicity, although it may be a bit obscure in comparison to say “German-Japanese.”

      Nicholas D. Kristof of the NYT recently wrote a column which is relevant to this topic. Here’s the link.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/opinion/30kristof.html

      (I’d rather reserve my judgment about whether Debito has “acclimated,” because I know him only through this blog which I believe gives us only his “American” side. I hope I can see his Japanese side someday too.)

      – As if people can be so easily separated into “American” and “Japanese” sides? I look forward to the day when the Identity Police can lay off pigeonholing people by thought and behavior.

    7. Behan Says:

      I just want to repeat what Phil said in post #3 above, it is the first time I have really felt proud to be American.

    8. Grant Mahood Says:

      It’s unfortunate when anyone feels ashamed of the land of their birth, no matter where it is. Many times it is government policy or the actions of high ranking officials that make people feel ashamed, but is it fair to reject a whole country and its people because of it? When someone posts that they are proud to be an American for the first time in years or in their lifetime, many readers take that to mean that the writer has been ashamed to be an American all that time, rejecting the country and its people as a whole. Is that a misinterpretation? Let readers know. They must be drawing all kinds of conclusions.

      Some readers are taking offence because they feel that those who posted about being ashamed of their country seemed to have judged and “dissed” all its people as embarassing and no good until now.

      Nerves are a bit raw because not everyone is thrilled with the outcome of the election. Let’s try to express our thoughts with precision. Thanks.

    9. snowman Says:

      Why all the excitement over Obama? He hasn’t done anything yet! Still anybody, even a dead sheep, has got to be better than Bush.

    10. Jay Says:

      As I’m also an American-born naturalized Japanese citizen, I should say that I also think of myself as “American-Japanese” (アメリカ系日本人). Although it may be true that the term “American” generally refers to nationality more than ethnicity, I don’t really have anything else to call myself since my parents are both multiracial!

    11. Charles Says:

      To be honest, I was one of the many conservatives that didn’t vote for Obama, but the nation has spoken and as true American citizen, I will support our new elected President, but you seem to really despise your former country. If you love Japan and want to renounce your American citizenship, that is your right as a former American, but to say that you were glad to leave a country that puts to much emphasis on capitalism is a little insulting. I am talking about the way you said it. It makes some of us Americans that we are a heartless nation that has no ethic values whatsoever.
      Personally, I was a little offended by that statement.

      Everyone is entitled to their political views, I have mine believe me, but I try not to be a koolaid drinker and I try to respect everyone’s political viewpoints. You seem to want it both ways. On one hand you want to recognized as a naturalized Japanese citizen, and be respected, but on the other hand, you seem to slander or dismiss conservatives or conservative views at least in my opinion. I find that a little offensive.
      I think balance is the word that I am looking for. I am a Capitalist at heart and I feel that Obama’s economic plans will further decimate our already faltering economy. With all the entitlements that he is promising Americans, it is impossible to implement these radical changes. Taxing the 5% of affluent Americans will never take care of a nation of 300 million, but I try to always be an optimist and I will give the man a chance and let’s see what he can do. Sorry, not trying to go on a political slant, but I just want you to be a little more objective. I try to respect all opinions, that is real democracy. I`m proud to be who I am, why not? Bush is not me, I have nothing to do with the man and his policies, I just happen to be born in one of the greatest nations, why should I make any excuses? I never hide my passport and most Americans “I know” don’t do that! If they did and want to spineless, well, they can….

      – If you want balance, read better, and read less into people’s statements.

    12. Charles Says:

      With all due respect sir, for your information, I do read “better” and read “less” into other people’s statements, but I think on your point as I was putting forward, if you bit more objective in your commenting and less condescending to people that might disagree with you politically(in this case), then it’s not a problem. Sure, we all have various opinions and viewpoints, but it seems like you tend to look down on people that are either conservative or meet your worldly vision of viewpoints IMHO. Just a friendly observation.

      – Thanks for it. Now just be friendly enough when you observe not to say people said things they did not say.

    13. meatleg Says:

      Jim,
      “My point is, giving up your citizenship based on the president and his actions is weak, I mean if you love your country (which I do now more than ever after experiencing Japan) you would never use the government as an excuse for giving up your citizenship.”
      Logical Fallacy: False Premise.
      Debito gave up his citizenship because he wanted Japanese citizenship, and Japan forces you to renounce your citizenship to other countries if you want Japanese nationality. He wanted citizenship in order to live here more easily and to make it easier buy a house. At least that is what I remember from reading his writings. You just apparently misinterepreted this line:
      “Arudou Debito, or formerly David Aldwinckle, said he abandoned his US citizenship in 2002 during the Bush administration.”
      DURING the Bush administration and BECAUSE OF the Bush administration are two different things.

      “It must be a strange experience to be a Debito, your[SIC] obvisouly uncomfortable in the country your living in and can never return to your origins.”
      Correcting problems and fighting for equality in the country in which you live hardly seem to indicate that he is uncomfortable. In fact, it would seem to me that he is more than comfortable enough to know that he can make a difference. What have you done to improve Japan by the way?

      I am also EXTREMELY happy to see Bush leave, but even happier to see Obama enter. This is a new USA, and the world has a lot of reason to rejoice.

    14. Jim Says:

      Logical fallacy? LOL. Here we go. Another intellectual. One thing about Japan, its an equal opportunity discriminator. They dont care how much education you got, where your from, a gaijin is a gaijin. Debito got himself into a jam, and now he finds it hard to wiggle out of. I also made the mistake of becoming a long term resident here, but at least I got my blue passport to get me out. All the intellectual snakes that live over here will give you all the wrong advice, clearly ignoring reality. Reality is that Japan doesnt want me here. If this wasnt reality, then there would be no need for this website. Now I do think its a very noble cause what Debito is doing, but it does make one think if this is such a terrible place, why take up citizenship here? Where is the logic in that? Can you twist that around for me and make sense of it?

      – Nope, we can’t. So why bother commenting here? You clearly aren’t saying anything constructive, and seem to have nothing to gain by engaging in discussion on debito.org except as an odd form of stress relief.

    15. Murphy Says:

      @meatleg: Um, no, Debito gave up his US citizenship because (according to his version of events) the US consulate in Sapporo was threatening to rat him out to Japan for not doing what he was supposed to have done in the first place: give up his US citizenship. Reread his writings about getting citizenship – he was even advising that if you could keep your head down, you wouldn’t have to give your previous citizenship as Japan can’t make you. You do quote his reasons for naturalizing correctly, but it is quite clear he was caught trying to have his cake and eat it to, in violation of Japanese law, good conscience and personal integrity.

      – Sorry, wrong again.

    16. Murphy Says:

      *sigh* You’re gonna make me quote you and remind you and everyone else of exactly what you said, aren’t you, Debito? Fine. This way you can’t accuse me of putting words in your mouth or saying you said things that you claim you didn’t.

      From here: http://www.debito.org/naturalization2.html
      One of the main reservations expressed by readers of my NATURALIZATION PART ONE essay (where I discussed the pros and procedures for taking Japanese citizenship) was that I would be risking losing my American citizenship. Although the US allows dual nationality (read jpegs of the US State Dept’s formal announcements on the subject here), Japan doesn’t, so how does that square? Won’t becoming a Japanese mean having to surrender your American passport?

      Well, no. The American passport has nothing to do with Japan. The passport of any country is the property of the issuing government, and the Japanese government, short of formally charging you with a crime, cannot confiscate it or deprive you of it in any way. That includes naturalization into Japan–surrendering the passport is not part of the procedure. Moreover, as far as the US is concerned, the renouncing of US citizenship can only take place with a formal written request signed by you, or if a US court convicts you of treason, espionage, or serving in a foreign government or foreign armed forces.

      Now for the news. I’m happy (kinda) to report that Americans, in fact and in particular, have an unusually hard job giving up their American citizenship. Fukuzawan MG FAXed me a fascinating article from the ASIAN WALL STREET JOURNAL (Dec 29, 1998), which holds that the American government doesn’t want you to renounce, and will actually punish you if you do.

      Be that as it may, in regards to naturalization, the point to American readers is that the US wants you to hold onto your passport. And because it allows dual nationality, it will probably turn a blind eye if you obtain a Japanese passport and keep on quietly renewing your American.

      And here: http://www.debito.org/deamericanize.html
      Mr Schufletowski then shifted gears. “Our records indicate that you have both American and Japanese passports. As far as I know, the Japanese Government does not permit dual nationality. So what do you intend to do with your American passport?”

      I told him that that was under consideration. I received my Japanese citizenship in October 2000, and had a two-year window in which to give up my American. I had not done so up to then because I wanted to see how accepting Japanese would be of my newfound status, and then decide. (The result: overwhelmingly accepting, save an exclusionary onsen and a few bar hostesses.)

      Truth be told, having two passports in Japan is not necessarily a problem. If one lived a quiet life, one could conceivably keep renewing a non-Japanese passport ad infinitum. The USG permits dual citizenship (see http://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#naturalization) and doesn’t go out of its way to tell other governments about the nationalities of their citizens.

      However, as you know, I don’t live a quiet life. Mr Schufletowski asked me a second time, “What do you intend to do with your American passport?”

      None of your goddamn business! is what I felt like blurting out, but I settled for, “As I said, it’s under consideration.”

      “I don’t think the Japanese government would like it if they knew you are keeping your US passport.”

      This is where the writing visibly met the wall. I felt that if I were to push this issue any further, the US Consulate Sapporo might blab. And since I took a written oath at the Ministry of Justice that I would give up my birth nationality when taking Japanese, stiff penalties–such as a heavy fine or incarceration (not to mention being stripped of my Japanese citizenship and getting kicked out of the country, losing my job and house in the process)–were not inconceivable. (NB: I don’t know for sure what the penalties are–it’s not something you ask as you are being sworn in.)

      I decided the USG was not going to hold sway over me like this. I went down to the Consulate a few days later to surrender my US passport.

      So, long story short: You decided to naturalize in a country that you knew did not allow dual citizenship. You realized that since Japan has no power to unilaterally revoke citizenship granted by another country, it was possible to keep two passports even though that would be in violation of Japanese law and your word when you told the Japanese government you’d renounce. You were even “happy (kinda)” to find out that renouncing US citizenship was not easy. You later made a cheesy excuse that you were delaying renouncing because “I wanted to see how accepting Japanese would be of my newfound status, and then decide.” Sorry, I don’t buy it and I doubt many others do either. You were trying to keep both passports.

      But then that consular officer called you on it – and rightfully so, as you can see right here: http://www.debito.org/dualnationality2.jpg

      “The Department of State is responsible for determining the citizenship status of a person located outside of the United States. When such cases come to the attention of a US consular officer, the person concerned will be asked to complete a questionnaire to ascertain his/her intention to relinquish US citizenship.”

      So Mr Schufletowski was doing his job. He was faced with someone who voluntarily became a naturalized citizen of a foreign state, and one which does not allow dual citizenship at that. Therefore it would be more than reasonable to assume that you did so with the intention to renounce your US citizenship. You did, after all, sign an oath stating you would do so. It was hardly “none of (his) goddamn business” as you put it. It was very much his business.

      Be that as it may, you did finally do the right thing and renounce, because you decided you weren’t going to give the US government a chance to blackmail you for lying on an oath. Oh wait, sorry, it was because of George W. Bush and the Neocons. Or wait….

      What’s your story going to be next time?

      – After receipt, I had two years to revoke my J citizenship (these things are not immediate, and the GOJ knows it). There was nothing unlawful or illegal about the wait. I was trying J citizenship on for size, and given the reaction of fellow Japanese (who were unanimously, yes, unanimously, positive about my doing it, but I guess those essays are not convenient for you to cite), I soon found it fit me just fine. And getting a kiss-off like this from the USG was the kick I needed to occasion what I was going to do anyway. Others need not take the path of revocation, as I noted in my essays. But I did, because of my rather unusual position in society.

      Only a person with an axe to grind like you (whoever you are, IP 193.200.150.23, but that keeps changing), who can see nothing positive in anything I do, and would try to turn these frank and honest assessments of my situation up for public view (it’s me writing these assessments, remember) against me as evidence of some kind of subterfuge, is unable to see what I’m trying to do: provide an accurate and unfiltered account of the procedures and mindsets involved behind one person’s naturalization into Japan, to see if that’s an option for them. I didn’t have to write these essays at all. But I did. Your interpretation is off as usual, and more than usual nastily ad-hominem.

      Go find a better way to spend your time than obsessing about one person’s life in Japan and trying to police his identity, will ya? Sheesh.

    17. carl Says:

      I’m not so much dumbfounded by Obama’s win so much as I’m dumbfounded by the “night-to-day” switch in attitudes of people who once practically loathed me as an American abroad, but now only have kind words to say. It’s just baffling: hey, I’m still the same White American you were cursing a few months ago when Bush was giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Dalai Lama…to what do I owe the newfound friendliness?

      So strange. But I guess you don’t take things like that for granted, eh? Now I can stop lying about Canadian.

    18. debito Says:

      FEEDBACK FROM CYBERSPACE

      _______________________
      Here’s to hope

      By Jon Letman

      Saturday, Nov. 08, 2008

      Let’s just start off by saying, “hey, this is really cool.” Obama won and that means our next president isn’t going to come from a long family line of powerful politicians, oil men or military leaders. He isn’t a Bush or a Clinton and he didn’t grow up in the shadow of a rich daddy or corporate portfolio.

      As everyone knows, Barack Hussein Obama was born to a Kansan mother and Kenyan father in Hawaii. He spent part of his youth in Indonesia, has family in East Africa, roots in the Midwest and the central Pacific, a degree from Harvard and now a job in Washington as the 44th president after his overwhelming victory over John McCain.

      Despite a particularly insidious smear campaign that cynically tried to smear Obama as a Muslim, an Arab, a socialist, a terrorist-sympathizer, an ultra-liberal and anti-American, more than 65 million American voters said, “no, I’m not having any more of that,” and voted for Obama.

      On election day, Obama’s victory over McCain was fast and crushing. This was, in part, thanks to the brilliant campaign the Obama folks ran, in part a response to feelings that range from dissatisfaction to disgust to hopelessness Americans feel after eight long years under Bush and Cheney, and in part due to McCain being a politician who ran on his record as a soldier (or rather a prisoner of war) who raised endless questions about the direction he wanted to take the country in and in large part to his short-sighted decision to choose an unblinking-winking lipstick-wearing Jesus and America-loving small-town-mayor hockey mom liability of a running mate SLHP (Some Lady Heedlessly Picked).

      McCain made it easy to vote for Obama. If you didn’t want a soldier turned senator who couldn’t stop reminding voters he was a “maverick” (did you know that?) who always “put country first,” and you didn’t think a man who jokes about “bomb-bomb-bombing Iran” or “killing Iranians off with American tobacco-induced lung cancer” should be president, then McCain was not your candidate.

      If you, like me, looked at McCain and thought, “he is so 1950,” and you wanted someone who looked 2010, then McCain wasn’t your man – Obama was.

      I knew McCain was in trouble when the only three people I knew that might vote for him – didn’t vote for him. In what came as a surprise to me, one ended up voting for Obama, citing concerns about Palin. The other, not an Obama supporter, couldn’t bring himself to vote for McCain (thanks to Palin), but instead abstained, leaving McCain one vote shorter in a state Bush won in 2004 which McCain lost this week. On the other side of the country, a good friend who expressed concerns about Obama’s tax policies ultimately did vote for him.

      I still cannot name one person I know who voted for McCain (if you are out there, let me know- I won’t gloat, promise!)

      One close friend of mine who is not only politically astute (if admittedly disinterested), and has a real handle of the geopolitics of oil and workings of the world economy and why things are such a mess today, did not vote for Obama, but instead for Ralph Nader stating that he was “voting his conscience” because “the American military complex has not served the American people well.”

      In an email the day after the election, that friend wrote: “I don’t have any problems with Obama. If this were a swing state I probably would have voted for him. But if you think this will stop the wars any time soon or that it will end America imposing it’s will on the rest of the world through intimidation both economic and military…. Uh… I have a bridge I’d LOVE to sell you!”

      He went on, “Even in Obama’s victory speech you can hear him echoing the Bush administration in a way that Americans now accept as the new status quo: “To those — to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you.” I can’t help but feel a little sorry for many of the people here in Seattle who take it on faith that Obama is going to somehow clean the money-changers out of the temple. In the end he’s just as bought and paid for as any other candidate, and I think it’s going to be a bitter pill when they realize this. In the meantime, where’s my welfare check?”

      Unfortunately, I agree with him completely. It would be nice if all this “change” we “hope” for would come flooding in at noon on January 20 as Bush and Cheney slither back to the dirt farms from whence they came as Obama assumes the presidency, but don’t expect that.

      During the Democratic National Convention in Denver last August, both Obama and Biden said in very plain English that America’s war making would continue. Even as both Obama and Biden spoke like true hawks, the seemingly blind and deaf DNC attendees rabidly waved their little American flags patriotically, apparently letting all that “anti-war” sentiment fly out the window like so much pixie dust.

      In his acceptance speech at the DNC on August 27, Joe Biden said, “…Or should you believe Barack Obama who said a year ago, “We need to send two more combat battalions to Afghanistan”? The fact of the matter is, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11, they’ve regrouped in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and they are plotting new attacks. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has echoed Barack’s call for more troops.”
      The next evening Barack Obama formally accepted the Democratic party’s nomination and in his speech said, “I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.”

      Watch out for those key words “end the war RESPONSIBLY” and “FINISH the fight” as well as “REBUILD our military.” This statement and others Obama has made leave a lot of latitude and it is with good reason that many in the Middle East are skeptical about any real change coming regardless of who is our next president.

      Based on these and other comments, we can expect American soldiers and military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan for quite some time into the future.

      If you want to read or listen to a good discussion of Obama’s foreign policy, check out the comments by Glen Ford, executive director of the Black Agenda Report.com in this January 2008 debate on Democracy Now!

      In the debate, Ford asks how it benefits black people of the United States to have a black face on imperialism, aggressive war or violations of international law. He was referring specifically to Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, but also Barack Obama.

      But before this turns too sour, just know that for all the warm fuzzies of this election (and there are plenty), there is the reality that Obama is a savvy politician, a pragmatist and far more center than he is “extreme liberal” as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would like you to believe.

      Come January 20, 2009, a dark period of American history will come to a close when Bush and Cheney exit the White House, somehow, miraculously and, in a display of great Congressional negligence and cowardice, without being impeached, arrested or tarred and feathered. They leave the country in a terrible state and will be sorely missed only by those who made their fortune from mocking and deriding them and even those people (Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, et al.) will tell you they will get over that loss quickly. Even David Letterman asked if Obama could start early.

      Indeed, it will be strange to have a president who is not utterly vile and despicable and who, in fact, holds the life experience, the intelligence, the temperament, the respect and the potential to do good things and to be a great leader. Obama has the qualities and background that make him a candidate for helping turn this nation around, if not by ending our reckless wars abroad, then at least by showing Americans that there is nothing wrong with being intelligent, thoughtful and respectful. Perhaps he can show us that it is ok to talk instead of fight, to be inquisitive and open-minded rather than fearful and bellicose. He can show us how it is admirable to be a high-achiever and we don’t have to settle for the class clown, the family fuck-up, the second to last in his class or the beauty queen next door who is “just like us,” even in her ignorance of the world.

      Look at the response to Obama’s election around the globe. What do you think the response would have been had McCain won?

      So Barack Obama, here we are, 72 days away until the start of your historic presidency. You have the support of your people and so many around the world. You have inspired millions with the hope that America can and will change for the better.

      My hope for Obama is for his safety and success and that he will seize the extraordinary power and wisdom he seems to possess and that he can rise above and beyond the trappings of his role as president.

      ———————–

      good article on the subject in the guardian here:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/12/comment-obama-white-house-peace

      * In case you are interested, here is a thoughtful essay on a chance meeting Kansai resident Pico Iyer had with Obama in Hawaii in 2006.
      http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1856583,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-full-nation
      ENDS

    19. Comment on AFP on Obama victory and the reactions of (former) Says:

      [...] Comment on AFP on Obama victory and the reactions of (former) He isn’t a Bush or a Clinton and he didn’t … deriding them and even those people (Bill Maher … Even David Letterman asked if Obama could [...]

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