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God Bless America

28 November, 2008 (07:13) | Living in Europe | By: admin

I happened to at home in USA this historic election. My reasons for being there were tragic, and I won’t go into that. However, despite the grief of my immediate family over the unexpected loss of our virile and powerful patriarch, we were all watching the elections, daring to hope our votes for Obama would count. When they announced the results early, (unprecedented in my lifetime), my whole family screamed out in glee for Obama America, in unison with our whole city and indeed the rest of the United States. Unbelievable! Obama won, and by a landslide! Finally I could quit being ashamed of being an American citizen! Only expats living abroad for over 10 years can understand the intense feeling of relief and pride that overtook me at the news of Obama and optimism sweeping to victory. I instantly called and woke Mark up. (it was about 5 am in Spain) to let him know Obama won. He thanks me profusely for that phone call. He went to watch CNN and witness the rapture in the faces of the American people and was also able to feel the victory in real time instead of replays the next day.

He wrote this letter to his dad (and thoughtfully sent me a copy) which really captures how we both feel/felt:

from Mark:
(I thought I would send this to you as well in case you want it for your next book)

Hi Pop-
Well it’s November 5th and I just want to share with you what I am feeling.

Since I’ve been living abroad (9 years now) I’ve had to secretly be ashamed of where I came from, of being American. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to come to terms with. I had so many problems with how New Zealanders spoke about America and Americans, people would insult me to my face and not realize they were doing it.

When I went to Vietnam I saw the hate in the eyes of the border guards as I showed them my visa to go from Laos into North Vietnam and Hanoi. Had it been another time we would have been shooting at each other. When I visited the Hanoi Hilton I was very moved by the ghosts that seemed to still inhabit the place, ghosts of our American soldiers.

Then we made our way South to Saigon, once we crossed what used to be the DMZ the attitude of the people seemed to change and we got more smiles than glares. When in Saigon I went to the War Museum on my own. They had two sides, the American side and the Vietnamese side. The photos of the atrocities that were commited on both sides were horrendous. They had their monsters on the Viet Cong side and we most definitely had ours on our side. To think how close I was to being involved in that war.

Leaving the museum I was riding home in the front of a rickshaw and I had a complete breakdown. Not just a sadness but a shift in my core beliefs. The invicible and always-on-the-side-of-right America that I grew up believing in seemed to vanish. It was like my home disappeared. I was left in tears and extremely confused.

We went on to Cambodia and saw the damage that our secret war indirectly caused by empowering the Kmer Rouge. A generation of people are missing, there only seemed to be old people and young people. Very few men my age. We walked on the bones of dead in the Killing Fields. When it rains the bones rise to the surface of the ground still shrouded in their tattered clothing.
In the back of my mind there was the constant question “did we do this?”

As I kept traveling and living abroad and talked to people of all countries I always seemed to be ashamed and apologetic for how our country treated the rest of the world. The self-centeredness, the mindless greed, the religious bigotry that seemed to prevail, the notion that there was only one culture and only one correct way for everyone in the world to live, the culture of consumerism and shallow ideals and heavy handed self-righteousness.

Today is different. I woke up and the world was different. I cannot put into words how proud I am of our country. It has nothing to do with the two parties that were running. It has nothing to do with race.
It was the looks on faces of the American people as they listened to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.
The look of profound hope. The look of a country that was healing. The tears of joy, the dancing and singing in the streets, the praying.

I had another shift in my core beliefs today Dad. I felt my heart heal, I felt my home come back into my heart.

God Bless America.

I will be planning a trip to see you guys early next year because I really miss you.