I know this blog is supposed to be on food. But anyone who knows me will understand that I have difficulty staying focused on one topic (hence why I had three thesis projects in grad school before one stuck, and why my writing is full of parenthetical asides). I cannot stop thinking about what has just happened in the US, and what this could mean for our country and the rest of the world. Yes, I know that I don't live there right now, but I still pay taxes, I don't want to trade in my American passport for an EU one, and I plan to move back (someday). And, as I note below, what happens in the US has real ramifications around the globe.
I'm not usually one to wear my political leanings on my sleeve. Although I almost always end up voting Democrat, I would describe myself as a moderate independent. I've always felt that I have the ability to see both sides of the story (maybe I should have been a diplomat). I suspect this has something to do with my upbringing in a very conservative location (Texas) where I went to church pretty much every Sunday, followed by my move to uber-liberal Boston where I became a scientist and spent most of my time with academics, who tend to be very left-leaning. People on both sides get so caught up in the back-and-forth political rhetoric that they can't see that the other side has some valid points. Or that even if you don't believe the points the other side is making, it's their right to believe what they do. That is the definition of American liberty: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to believe what you want to believe, and freedom to be your own person.
Living abroad has made me realize how much the rest of the world cares about the US. I think a lot of people in the US don't appreciate this. The rest of the world really does like our country, even though they don't like Dubya or the war in Iraq, and they look to the US for leadership on global issues such as climate change, combating terrorism, and fighting AIDS and other preventable/treatable diseases in developing countries. They might blame us for problems (e.g. the economic crisis), but that doesn't mean they don't still like us and look up to us deep down (you know, kind of like when you were little and your younger sibling swore he hated you, but you knew he really looked up to you and watched and learned from everything you did). Yes, what happens in our country affects the rest of the world in ways most people, including me, can't imagine. There are just too many people outside the US who think that Americans, generally speaking, are stupid and selfish. While I know this of course isn't true, it's unfortunately how many countries perceive America and the leaders we have elected, and precisely why they have trouble seeing the US as a global leader, even though that's exactly what we are. Despite the old adage that it doesn't matter what people think of you, it DOES matter what other countries think about the US. I'm not saying that Obama will fix the US's reputation abroad, but I think he will give it his best shot.
I watched McCain's concession speech, and it was moving in a way I didn't think it would be. What really got me fired up were the boos during his speech when he mentioned Obama; those people need to learn from the man they supported. I am sad that McCain couldn't manage to run his campaign as a real independent. It's a shame that he had to pander to the religious right and the diehard conservative members of the Republican party, and that he couldn't go with someone like Joe Lieberman for his VP. I have said a million times over that I would have seriously thought about voting for McCain if he'd picked someone as VP that I felt was competent to lead the country (I'm convinced that his health isn't great and that, especially with the stress of being President, he wouldn't make it 4 more years), and not someone who would merely pull in the far-right voters, which is the only explanation I can come up with for why they went with Palin.
Just like the Dems have had to live with Dubya for 8 years, now the tables are turned, and we can learn a lot from both Obama's victory and McCain's concession speeches. We all need to stop threatening to move to other countries or quit our jobs and live off welfare because we're unhappy with what happened (throwing tantrums and making irrational threats is more suited to 4-year-olds than adults). We (Republicans and Democrats alike) need to stop booing everytime the opponent's name is mentioned, and come to grips with the reality that the only way to make this country a true world leader again is to stop being so petty and work together. I can only hope that Obama WILL 'reach across the aisle' and bring some moderate Republicans in as advisors or Cabinet members, that he will be true to his word that he is the President of all of us, no matter how we voted yesterday, and that he can heal a country that has been so bitterly divided, for the sake of the nation itself and the rest of the world.