Saturday, November 8, 2008

Incorrigible Patriot

Incorrigible Patriot

If there’s one thing at which Australians excel, it is “taking the piss.” Give them any subject that smacks of formality or ceremony and they’ll shred it like Tasty cheese on a Ceasar salad.

One of the things they cringe at most is a patriotic American. For many Aussies, it just isn’t on. But that didn’t stop them from celebrating right along with us yanks when the Obama’s took the stage.

They may not have cried like I did, but we shared similar joy. One of my yoga students, a Malaysian immigrant named Candace, told me she punched the air when she heard the news. Riding my bike home Wednesday evening, I saw a banner outside a nearby home, reading OBAMA in red and blue.

My first tears came when I saw the new first family, the one who is going to live in the White House take the stage in Chicago:

There was Malia and Sasha walking proudly and waving at the crowds. And it brought to mind the image of first-grader Mary Rose Foxworth and second-grader Daphne Perminter became the first African American pupils at the previously all-white Suburban Park School in Norfolk when they enrolled on September 8, 1959.

There is something sublime about the innocence of two young girls walking firmly into their place in history. All four seem so natural and poised. Surrounded by family, they know they are in unfamiliar territory, but they are facing the challenge with their heads held high.

While people here are excited, I don’t think they understand the pride that many of us Americans feel. In conversations with my housemates, I liken it to the differences in how the two countries were formed. America was populated by people seeking freedom and fortune. Australia was founded as a penal colony for convicts. About the time those subjects were carving out their first sandstone buildings, Americans were overthrowing the monarchy that still today influences Australia’s government.

“It doesn’t matter,” my co-worker George said as I asked him to witness signing my ballot. And even though voting is compulsory in Australia, many who do vote are just trying to avoid the fines. George admits he just ticks a box, having studied neither the issues nor their positions.

But voting does matter, especially informed voting. As this election shows, our choices do matter. In talking to my 22-year-old housemate Sarah, I explained that for me this election wasn’t so much about left or right, but it was a choice between fear and hope.

And even though I couldn’t be there for the celebrations, a circumstance I sadly regret, I did my small part from all the way over here. Once again I chose hope. And I’ll long remember these beautiful moments, especially in the long days ahead as the Obama administration works from within our imperfect democracy to further change the course of history. May we succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

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