Hoping for Nirvana
“I’m here to vote!”
The room at the American Consulate was filled with others who – like me – requested their absentee ballots weeks ago, but had not yet received them. There was a special form for us, and books to help us find the addresses of where our absentee ballots should be sent (by county). The nice counselor officers helped us look up online whether or not there were Senate races in our states and the names of the candidates for the House of Representatives from our districts. The ballot was entirely “write-in” and we could only vote for national offices.
There was something about actually writing the names…
Barack Obama/Joseph Biden
Nita Lowey (my district’s fabulous liberal Congresswoman)
… that was whole-body satisfying – especially after 20 years of voting in DC where I suffered from a severe case of taxation without representation.
Firstly… all my morose friends who have been predicting another four years of doom and gloom (“I don’t think Obama can pull this off.") (What would we Democrats do without our self-doubt?) have finally turned a corner and gotten excited and, dare I even say it…. confident about this election. Too bad it took the economy tanking to perk them up.
In the last week there have been two Barack Obama fundraising events for Americans living in Tanzania - complete with really cool t-shirts. One event, put together by my friends, was a combo fund-raiser/debate-watching party – and it was fun to see the candidates spar while drinking South African beer, sitting among my fellow partisans, on the top floor of an Irish pub, here in Dar es Salaam.
Since I’ve been homeless for the past several weeks I’ve been staying with my friends, Laura and Carl, who are part of the US Embassy community. They have a special cable TV package called the Armed Forces Network (AFN). For those of you not familiar with it – let’s just say it is an intoxicating and toxic mix of the best and worst of American TV programs and sports (OK- no The L Word or Will and Grace) meets scary over-the-top commercials about how to avoid a terrorist attack by staying under the radar when leaving your home. My favorite spot features a guy and his buddy just back from over there (presumably Iraq or Afghanistan). The buddy seemed not quite right in the head, but his friend was trying to distract him from his suspected post-traumatic stress by taking him on a relaxing hunting trip.
But the reason I’m telling you this is because AFN has a “news” channel that is switched by the big satellite man in the sky from CNN to Fox News, to ABC and others… seemingly without rhyme or rhythm, except that Fox seems to ALWAYS be on at prime time here in TZ (and presumably also prime time in Iraq and a big chunk of Europe).
For me it has been fascinating watching the American news channels cover the election and the economic crisis. And while it is scary to see how badly stories are distorted from one network to another (Fox News being the biggest violator, of course) overall I’ve been really having fun. I was up at 4 AM last Friday morning to watch the Biden/Palin debate. And I’ve already set my alarm for 4 AM tomorrow so I can watch the second Obama/McCain debate. Somehow, seeing the actual American news makes me feel more connected to the election. It has also made me angrier… but that’s another story all together. Hell... I even pulled out my credit card and made another $250 contribution. Have you? You should.
If it is true that absentee ballots are only counted in tight races, then it is unlikely that mine will ever be opened. In 2004, Westchester County, NY went 58% for John Kerry, and Nita Lowey got more that 60% of the vote in 2006. (I can’t remember the exact figure).
Nevertheless… it felt good to glance over at the other 10 or so people sitting at the same table as me, from states as varied as West Virginia, Florida and New Mexico, all of whom had filled in Barack Obama/Joseph Biden under President/Vice President on the blank line of their ballots.
If only the population of Americans living in Tanzania actually reflected the population of Americans in general… Sure, there would be some conservative religious types, some people in the military, and a group of security-conscious folks (we call them “third floor” here). But there would also be a big group of civic minded folks who have a great understanding of how our actions as Americans affect our image abroad and the lives of everyone else in the world. (You don’t think America’s economic meltdown is just affecting the US, do you?)
OK… I’m waxing poetic, or perhaps even pathetic. But it can’t hurt a girl to dream, can it?
I’ve got my eyes on a big win on November 4th. I can’t wait to feel the joy