Fri 7 Nov 2008
This is the second time I’ve been overseas for the presidential election. I was studying abroad in Spain during the Bush-Kerry race, and the outcome of that contest completely flummoxed the Spaniards, who seemed either unable or unwilling to pronounce the word “Bush” without making it sound like a vulgar parody: BOOOSSH.
This year I’m in Australia, and I watched the final hours of the race unfold from the comfort of a budget airline enroute from Queensland to Adelaide. I was afraid that I would miss the tallies, countdowns and final speeches due to our travel plans bisecting TV coverage, but Virgin Blue surprisingly provides live television in every seat (for a small fee). As I traveled 30,000 above Australian desert and farms, I was glued to the little six-inch monitor, completely engrossed. This election was different, finally.
There were times when I wanted to stand up and cheer, but I was surrounded by strangers quietly reading, napping, or watching movies. Back in the States, people were staying up late shouting and hugging each other; on TV it was nighttime and the energy seemed electric. Here, it was mid-day, and I sat slightly reclined in a center seat. I felt like a spy, headphones buried in my ears, intercepting a foreign broadcast. I wonder if this is how the rest of the world processes news about America, as if it were a strange, continuous TV show.
I remember that the first time I saw Obama was on television at an airport. For the life of me, I can’t remember what airport it was, or even what country I would have been in. I guess it must have been during the 2004 Democrat National Convention when he gave that great, impassioned speech that sort of launched him into the spotlight. I didn’t agree with everything he said (mostly about stem cell research), but he made an striking impression. I do not remember what country I was in, who I was traveling with or where I was going, but I clearly recall sitting alone, with my bags at my feet, watching the news in some strange airport and thinking “It’s too bad this guy can’t run for president.”