An Ex-Pat’s View of Obama

When I went off to college, Bill Clinton was in office. I didn’t know the difference between Democrats and Republicans, and I didn’t really care about politics. I wanted to fight poverty and change the world – but politics were the domain of corrupt white men.

Eventually I learned that politics and oppression are inseparable, and learned how the political process works. I watched the 2000 elections during my year abroad, staring aghast at television screens in Edinburgh, Scotland. I remember joking with my friends, wondering whether I could apply for political asylum in the UK.

It’s been a long seven years. I live in Scotland now, in part because I love it, and in part because I no longer feel welcome in my own country. I feel like the US has gone off the rails – better to start fresh in a small country like Scotland, where positive change is still possible.

In the past, I diligently voted (absentee) for Gore and Kerry. I smiled and shook my head at the hopeless idealism of Kucinich and those who would vote for him. When I was living in the US, I attended the anti-war rallies, marched in the streets, had heated conversations with my friends and denounced older relatives for their indifference. I wrote letters and organized and read the appropriate books. But in the end, I left, because I no longer felt that I could make a difference. I had given up on America.

In recent months, that began to change. For the first time, I saw a major candidate I actually agreed with – not necessarily on all issues, but on attitude. I saw a candidate who’s feeding the politics of hope, not the politics of fear. Watching Obama’s speeches on YouTube is inspirational. His energy and passion seems grounded in experience of the real world – infinitely more valuable than experience of Washington’s petty games. For the first time in my adult life, I’m watching a political race that could actually lead to positive change.

I don’t know if I’ll return to America, but if Barack Obama wins the presidency, I won’t have to be ashamed anymore. I believe that Obama will restore America’s standing in the world, and help us recover respect from the international community. And more importantly, I believe that Obama will help make America fit for human habitation again – not just for the rich, but for everyone.

He seems to grasp the structural causes of injustice, with a passion to change those structures, rather than simply treating the symptoms. As a sociologist, I believe this is the key to enduring social transformation. If Obama wins the presidency, maybe I won’t have to worry about the fate of my friends’ children anymore, maybe I can feel like they have a future.

Even if Obama is just as corrupt and useless as the other candidates, he has given me a priceless gift – a moment of hope. He’s also given me the kind of pride I’ve never experienced before. I’ll be watching the elections from Scotland once again, but for the first time, I’ll be dreaming of a better world.

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