Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And the winner is...

Amidst the intermittent roars and cheers of Egyptian students boycotting the administration (and Delicious, Inc.) in the main plaza of AUC's new campus, smaller groups of Egyptians and Americans cluster to celebrate a totally different victory – one realized seven time zones, a continent, and an ocean away.

Greeting one of my Egyptian friends, he points to my red belt and asks, “is this for the strike?” (Strikers are wearing red wrist bands.)
“No,” I reply. “This is me being patriotic!”
“You’re a Republican?!” he asks with a mixture of disgust and incredulity.
“No...” I tell him. “Red, white and blue “ – my shirt, belt, and skirt – “It’s America. Patriotism.”
I’m celebrating America.

Soon a few more Egyptians join us, and then a fellow American grabs my arm and cries, “Mabruk!” Congratulations – America has won a victory today.

In the states, Americans are either rejoicing or accepting defeat, as usual after a presidential election. Something, however, is different – and the world feels it. Yesterday America made history. Voters elected a man by the name of Barak Hussein Obama – a black man. America proved to itself and to the world that it is better than often given credit for.

Sometime around 6am local time, 11pm EST, news broadcasters released the news. Obama was President Elect. There were still votes to be counted and states to be decided, but with 338 Electoral votes, Obama had won the election. Winning states such as Virginia would also prove to be historic – Virginia has voted red (Republican) since 1964. After 44 years, the capital of the Confederacy has gone blue.

It’s a few minutes past 6am. I’m stretched out on the couch. My 3-legged cat reclins on my chest while my roommate talks animatedly on the phone with her mother, who is in South Dakota, while surrounded by a mountain of pillows and blankets. Unlike me, she stayed up all night to watch as results came in, and has been ecstatic since the announcement of Obama’s win. Both she and I were stunned when just a few minutes later John McCain was on-screen, ready with his concession speech.

McCain’s speech was well-written and he conceded the victory to Obama with grace and character – albeit with a tired air. I’ve always liked McCain. A Republican friend updated his facebook status just after the speech to say he “had never been so proud to be a McCain supporter.” I can understand the sentiment.

As 6:30am rolled around we expected Obama’s acceptance speech any minute and I had a decision to make: I could either miss Obama’s speech and catch my usual 6:55 bus or stay home, watch the speech, and arrive late to my 8:30am class. When a newscaster announced Obama would make his speech in 25 minutes I contemplated my waiting school bag, took my shoes off, and sat back down on the couch.

There have been enough commentaries on Obama’s speech, so I’ll refrain from going into detail and suffice it to say that as Barak Obama stepped on stage to announce his acceptance of the position of President of the United States of America his attitude was what struck me. He was not a man rejoicing in a personal victory. He was sober and composed, and his face was that of a man who knows the weight of responsibility he is taking on; the face of a man calm, composed, and ready to accept what the people of America have offered him.

Both Americans and the world have celebrated today. Cairo’s youth are rejoicing in Obama’s election just as much as any Obama supporter in the states. There are those who have received the news more soberly, understanding that Obama’s election isn’t going to result in sweeping foreign policy changes in the Middle East, but ultimately world is ready to accept Obama’s words that yes, America can. The question that now remains is whether Obama will be able to live up to the world’s expectations – both inside America’s borders and out.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sally, I think of you and wonder if you are still in Egypt. I still post things now and again but truly I despair.