Tag Archives: politics

It’s Finally Over

Twenty months later, we’ve finally figured out who the 44th president of the United States will be. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the next commander-in-chief. It has been a long process, and whether it should be so arduous is neither here nor there. The point is that, according to President-elect Obama, “change has come to America.”

Indeed, there will be change. Along with taking the White House, the Democratic Party continued its 2006 surge in this election as it gained seats in both the Senate and the House. This election has also been historic in many aspects. In addition to electing the first black POTUS, women came closer than ever to reaching the Oval Office while John McCain would’ve been the oldest president had he won. Campaigning tactics have been changed forever with the use of new media (read: the Internet), which resulted in a record turnout of voters.

But I watched the tail end of this from 6,000 miles away, discussing with new friends from various parts of the world. This made the importance of this election very real. I’ve heard conversations about our presidential election between people from Canada and Ireland. Koreans often ask me whether I like McCain or Obama. Even today, my fifth graders greeted me with chants of “Obama!” as I walked into the classroom.

Now that the election is over and that change is here, so many Americans are finally proud of America — which is a completely strange notion to me. Americans generally worry about the world’s opinion of them and try hard to separate themselves from what they think are the mistakes of the Bush administration; however, when it comes to looking at their own nation, they’re ashamed of the past eight years. Why?

The government is a poor representation of the United States, and I’ve been upset with some of the government’s decisions. I’m not going to drape myself in the good ol’ Stars and Stripes and belt the national anthem, but I’ve never been disappointed in America. To say that I’m proud now because of the new president would only imply that the United States — its people, its landscapes, its opportunities — hasn’t been good enough.

It’s not perfect, and how can it be with 300 million people and 50 states? It’s that diversity that makes the country special, and it can get better. That glimmer of hope is the most important thing Barack Obama brings to the table. The American people, in the midst of two drawn-out wars and an economic crisis that might end up rivaling the Great Depression, need something new, something to believe in. Will Barack Obama fix everything? I couldn’t tell you and won’t pretend to have any idea, but it’s a good start when people are proud to be Americans again.

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The View From Afar

I’m spending my first election year abroad, and while I’m physically outside the United States, I can’t escape the political zeitgeist even in east Asia. Watching the economic and political situations unfold from across the Pacific isn’t as difficult as one would think — especially with the reach of the Internet. I still read the same news sources as I did while in the States, such as the (admittedly liberal) Huffington Post and BBC. I’m also following the debates by downloading them or watching them on YouTube.

The U.S. political and economic situation, despite my being 13 time zones away from home, is of great interest to me, mainly financially. The effect of the Wall Street crisis has been felt all over the world; the nation of Iceland is facing bankruptcy and, more importantly to me, the Korean economy, tied tightly to that of the U.S., is flailing as well. The current exchange rate is more than 1,400 KRW to the U.S. dollar; when I arrived in Korea, I could only get 1,040 KRW for my dollar. In that time, my paycheck has lost about 25% of its value, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.

Since I’m living in Korea, earning and paying won, I’ll have to make only a few lifestyle adjustments. I’m not, however, going to be able to save nearly as much money as I had hoped before I came here. I’m in a real quagmire: do I cut my losses and invest as many dollars as possible, or do I send home minimal amounts to pay bills and hope for a recovery?

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