Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After Election Day

I still have more stories to tell about Jeddah, but I can't let this opportunity pass. Just a reminder so that I stay more or less in tune with the Hatch Act, remember that this is my personal account, and it is passworded for a reason. Please do not share what you read here.

Like so many people back home whom I've seen on TV, I am ecstatic and emotional about Obama's victory in yesterday's election. This is the first time I can remember being apart from the electoral madness; even when I was in kindergarten, I went to vote with my mother and got to pull the lever on the voting machine. Voting is one of the few sacred things in my family, and the excitement of volunteering and going to the polls - from presidential elections down to random ballot initiatives for local elections - is the celebration of that sacrament.

Instead of standing in line and chatting excitedly with people I've never met, I spent Election Day printing visas until 10 PM for a large delegation leaving soon for Washington, then went home by myself and watched the Armed Forces Network, my only source of television news, which provides FOX for our evening news consumption. I got up at 5 AM to see (on an NBC feed by then, thankfully) that Pennsylvania had been called early for Obama. I ate breakfast and was getting ready for work, when at 7 AM while I was getting dressed I heard sustained cheers from the TV. I raced downstairs to see cameras panning Grant Park, Jesse Jackson weeping openly, and John Lewis struggling for words on camera. I am not ashamed to say that I too wept (although blubbered may be a more onomatopoeiacally accurate term). When I got to work today, in time to watch Obama's speech on CNN with my coworkers, we all teared up, and then we moved on to face our jobs with a spring in our step. (We actually conducted all interviews today while wearing jauntily tilted white plastic pork pie hats with red/blue trimming, left over from the election party the night before.)

This afternoon, we Americans gathered in the kitchen in the back of the section, barricaded the door, and brought out the illicit bottle of champagne to celebrate. We shared stories of non-Americans who had gone out of their way, whether in the street that morning, at the visa window, or over the phone at the end of business calls, to wish us congratulations and to express their hope that the Obama administration will be a fresh attempt at the American dream.

A lot will be said and written in the next few days analyzing Obama's impressive, historic victory. However, I wanted to get my immediate reaction out now, before I have time to become cynical. I want to be able to look back at this and remember what today was like. Today, I feel like I can breathe a little easier, take a little more pride in my work. I have little expectation that our policies in the Middle East will undergo some radical change, but right now, I don't feel that twinge of guilt that I have always had since I joined the State Department. I feel like I have a chance to redeem myself and what I believe in.

And finally, I'm torn between which former president is best to quote now - a president from Michigan ("our long national nightmare is over") or the other famous president from Illinois ("with malice towards none and goodwill towards all").

Thank you for letting me rant here for a moment. I don't tell you frequently, but I do very much appreciate all of you stopping by. I should be back to a more regular posting schedule soon - I'll throw you some photos shortly so you can see what my corner of Saudi Arabia looks like.


  1. I have a feeling your 24th birthday is going to be the best ever. I'm certainly looking forward to it.


  2. Wow, great post. I actually teared up a little during John McCain's concession speech. I went to bed before Obama's acceptance speech, and it's probably a good thing because I might have "blubbered" during that one, too. Heck, when he accepted the nomination it was nearly overwhelming to watch; I can't imagine what last night was like.

    Although I registered to vote in Louisiana about a month ago, I didn't make it to the polls. I honestly didn't feel very strongly about either candidate. I probably still would have voted had I not been in a state that went in a landslide for McCain, but the result was already decided and I didn't have time to burn. I could think of some really good things about both candidates, but also some bad things. I feel guilty about it, but fortunately I've been groomed for a profession that specializes in post-hoc rationalization. It's just a matter of time until I convince myself I did the right thing. ; )

    What is this "twinge of guilt" you speak of? Are you suggesting that the State Department isn't as radical as you are, hannah? That's something I definitely want to avoid when I start working. I am committed to never being cynical as a lawyer and I am almost naive enough to believe such a thing is possible. Perhaps that's fighting an uphill battle, but that's what all good people face, right?

    Anyway, thanks for keeping us updated on your life in Saudi Arabia, reading about it is a joy. I wish I could do it more often.

  3. Remember, the Hatch Act only prohibits you from working for a campaign, not from expressing your opinions (although its wise to keep it from the locals and the FSNs if you're seen as representing the U.S. government!). I can wear my Obama t-shirt openly now, since I'm just supporting my commander-in-chief!

  4. My twinge of guilt is about how the US deals with the Middle East... I wouldn't say I'm an expert on this place, but I have spent enough time reading about its many problems to know how many fingers we have in causing or exacerbating those problems. It's still hard to transition from a life where I could criticize openly the programs I am now bound to support publicly and enthusiastically.

    In better news, though, Obama will sign my commission papers in a few years! Yay!

  5. A story from my professor who just got back from 2 weeks in Iraq with Gen. Odierno:

    A journalist was interviewing Iraqis about the prospect of Obama being elected. One said that he despised him because he was a Jew, Barack being a Jewish name, and that Barack was only pretending to be a Muslim so that he would be elected.

    I love Arab conspiracy theories!