Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Global and Local "One-liners" on the 2008 U.S. Elections

Miss Lou promised to post a few one-liner dispatches from U.S. election participants and unofficial observers. They write from places as different as Baghdad, Nairobi, and Atlanta, but all are excited. The ad hoc, non-representative list includes several lawyers and law profs (of course), political scientists, an administrative assistant, health care workers, a filmmaker, and a student human rights activist (and her dad--that's the one that got me). Very few respondants to this quick survey could stick to one line, but who cares about the rules on such a day?

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts:
I was born in New Orleans, and neither of my parents could vote until we moved to California when I was 8 years old. When I go to the polls today their history will be with me when I pull that lever.--Pearl T. Robinson

Walpole, Massachusetts: "I am very nervous because I do not know how I will deal if this presidential election turns out like the last!"--J. McNew
Princeton, New Jersey: "I had tears in my eyes today at the voting booth. I don't think most of the population understands the significance of today."--P. Bursh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
My emotions are running so high. The sense of solidarity is palpable. We in Pennsylvania have felt the incredible responsibility of delivering to the next President the state described as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. The upside of this has been that we have been treated as sort of a temporary charity case by our comrades in New York, Delaware and New Jersey. They have come en masse with endless energy and idealism to deliver this swing state, and are not remotely smug about being from blue states!--Janet Goldwater

Atlanta, Georgia:
From the time the polls opened at 7am, 100% of the voters at my precinct, have had a collective determination and pride that I’ve only seen once - in the crowds of people waiting to pay their respect to Rosa Parks as her body lay in state in DC. The crowd was so diverse, hip hoppers, gangsters, church ladies, body builders, government workers, pregnant girls and women, yet the clarity of purpose of the voters at Abernathy Towers in Atlanta Georgia was palpable. It is really something to behold.--Pamela D. Bridgewater

Abingdon, Virginia: "I was told by 93 year old Clara in south western Virginia, 'I never tell people who I vote for, but you are working for the right man.'"--Sunu Chandy, Obama office volunteer
Nairobi, Kenya:
In a rare moment of national unity in a year that began with bitter ethnic divisions and open war, the country is united in supporting Obama's candidacy to the US Presidency. This unity is all the more unprecedented given that Obama's dad comes from one of the ethnic communities that was in bitter contention for the Kenyan Presidency in last year's election. While of course business minded Kenyans have made the most out of the Obama craze, it has been a welcome moment of national coming together with presidential debate parties at 4.00 a.m. Nairobi time and with hundreds of thousands of Kenyans (and dare I add Africans on the continent) glued to their televisions watching every moment of this election. The anticipation of a black President in the United States has, in short, been a moment of rare unity not only in Kenya but in Africa as well.--James Gathii

Cambridge, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania:
I called my dad in Pennsylvania as I was on my way to the polls this morning. He didn’t answer the phone at first—he’s screening his calls because he’s been receiving so many pre-recorded messages this week from both parties soliciting his vote. The truth is, he didn’t plan to vote at all, I suspect because he has grown disillusioned with the political process. By the end of our five-minute conversation, however, I convinced him to make his way to the polls today before clocking in for the second shift at the factory where he has worked for 27 years. Before hanging up, he thanked me for taking the time to call him. I think he just needed to be reminded that his vote is more than just a tally mark in one column or the other and that his opinion matters not just to pollsters and campaigners, but to his daughter, too.--Rachael Bankes

Cambridge, Massachusetts:
I was holding an Obama/Vote No on #1 sign at my polling place from 10-12 today - usually voter turnout is VERY light during those hours in my working class neighborhood - everyone votes before or after work. But not today. There were lines until 9 AM, and then a steady stream of voters, most of whom smiled at me or stopped to talk. The distribution of "I voted" stickers created a strong sense of community, and people lingered to extend their moment of being part of history.--Susan Y.
New York, New York: "I am still cautious because of the possibility of corruption by preventing access or in counting ballots, but it could be a great day for America."--Stuart L.
Harlem, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
I'm just back from GOTV in south Philadelphia. We voted at 6am in Harlem. I arrived at 540a and there was already a line - at my polling place on Lenox Ave. In Philly, most people had already voted by mid-morning, and it felt like victory in the air. I took Sarah and it was wonderful. Nyc is wonderful this evening. My neighbor stayed and worked the poll, and said that those at the poll gave a round of applause to each first time voter. There were many and of all different ages. So glad to be part of this historic day. --Karole D.

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada:
My view is, and has been for years, that the entire world should be allowed to vote in US elections. If that were allowed this year, apparently Obama would have the vast majority of the votes, 86% in Canada, but he would lose in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, according to a guy in Iceland who has a website where he invites people from all over the world to vote.--Rhoda Howard-Hassmann

Boston, Massachusetts: "As religious writer Corrie Ten Boom said, 'Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought.' Let’s pray that even those who don’t 'want' to will do the right thing!"--Blossom S. (mom!)

Baghdad, Iraq:
First, both Iraqis and Jordanians have expressed their doubts about the legitimacy of the political process-citing year 2000.
In Iraq, there is no consensus, strangely enough, on who would be better. Most want the USA out ASAP, but cannot decide when the time is right. Some (Sunnis and Christians) are afraid of a premature departure before the security situation can be handled by Iraqis. Others, mostly Shia, want the USA out soon as they are the majority and feel empowered now that the Bathists are out and Iran is in the picture.
On a more interesting note, Iraqi and Jordanian Christians are afraid that Obama is a crypto-Muslim with a "hidden" agenda. This may have to do with the radicalization or politicization of Islam in the area and the discrimination they feel in Iraq, Jordan & Lebanon. Furthermore, there is a divide in Jordan between Palestinians and ethnic Jordanians- with the former definitely wanting the Republicans out but doubt that the US will elect Obama due to his racial background. BTW, all my Kenyan and Swahili-speaking colleagues are excited for Obama.--Paul (who works in Iraq and neighboring countries)

Boston, Massachusetts: "I feel the way I felt the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison…sheer joy that the impossible was happening before my eyes and a sense that 'now the hard work begins.'"--“Miss Lou”

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