Obama Wins!! (Kings vs. Presidents)

27 02 2013

Hosting a foreign exchange student has been an endless array of interesting discussions and cultural exchanges. Sometimes, it is genuinely a fault of language that makes our exchanges so comical, but more and more, lately, it is truly a chasm of culture.

“Why do republicans not like to help the poor?” he asked as we were weeks away from re-electing president Obama.
“Well, republicans are the devil,” offered our housemate, Craig, unhelpfully.
“No!” I interrupted, “they believe that everyone should be responsible for themselves,” and so the conversation ensued with me having to repeatedly interject the opposite to the democratic extremism being espoused across the table.

It was a fun exercise, really, to defend the opposition. I always love a good debate, and Bank seemed to really get that one view was more radical and the other was more rational. But it’s an indication of a chasm between the parties. If we cannot even maintain a reasonable portrayal of the two main parties in our own dining room, how are we supposed to expect zealots to be rational and respectful in public? I do not claim to be one party or another. I do not lump together poison apples and insist that all apples in that barrel are bad. Because of a few very basic beliefs that impact my own life as a woman, and as a lesbian, I do tend to agree with one party much more often than another. But I have plenty of friends- and family- on the other side of that mile high wall, and I intend to continue to talk with them despite our differences.

When it go to be time for election day, Bank had the day off from school. Bethany offered to take him to the polls with her to witness the ‘democratic experience.’ Where he comes from, they have a king and a prime minister, but do not get to elect their leaders. This was a novel concept, and a truly American experience! He waited alongside her, in long line wrapping up the stairs to the outside. Standing in the dusty linoleum basement of a church, Bank smiled at the miniature American flags and the excited rants and raves of other voters in line. He eyed the patriotic “I VOTED” stickers that were adorning sweaters and light jackets of those leaving the sacred grounds. When Bethany disappeared behind that little curtain, Bank already knew who she had voted for as president, and was equally excited to see whether or not Obama would win the presidential election.
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Tuesday night, Bethany and I were invited by a local politician and friend to join the Washtenaw county democratic election party at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor. Although we considered simply walking to a local bar to watch the results on the television, we decided that the hoopla of the party would be worth it with the boy. Indeed, it was.

In the banquet room, poolside, we gathered with about a hundred others local folks to cheer on Obama and others in the polls. The room was buzzing with excitement as onlookers flittered with every flash of the television screens. At 9:00pm it was announced that Michigan had voted for Obama! The room filled with cheers and smiles, and the volume rose quickly, but was momentarily hushed back down to a dull roar to hear the next results. It was a close race, and no one stopped focusing long enough to let another state slip by without notice. Critical states were rolling in with early results, but what is the value in placing stock in an award when only 30% of the precincts were reporting? We kept watch and waited.

While we were there, we chatted with senator John Dingell, along with local commissioners and judges like Carol Kunke. We took Bank’s photo with them all, in anticipation of their successful campaign results. He could post them to facebook and tout his celebrity elbow brushing with politicians (because that get’s TONS of likes amongst teenagers!).
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On the drive home, Bank asked complicated questions about things like electoral colleges. Well, not exactly, but the answers to his questions were dependant on these kinds of explanations, which were more than I was capable of giving so late in the evening. We deferred them until the morning, in hopes of quieting his chattering mind before bed time. It may not have worked, but at least my brain got some rest before sleep.

Meanwhile, Bank’s dreams were filled with American flags and democratic celebrations. In Thailand, they repeatedly hail their leader, filling their cities with “Long live the King” signs and homages. Here, in America, we celebrate democracy, and we place that concept up on a pedestal instead. Long live democracy.

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