Archive for December, 2008

Australian Expat in Tokyo Overwhelmed by Obama Victory

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Spiritually American as much as anything else, nurtured by re-runs of the Brady Brunch after school, taken over by countless musical and cinematic obsessions emanating from those shores, my lack of citizenship of that country exists only in the physical realm – in the realm of the senses, my American passport feels as valid to me as the Australian passport which I can actually hold in my hand.
Somewhat paradoxically, this explains my not having actually set one of my bodily feet on United States soil as yet.
The need was not as keenly felt. The challenges artistic, linguistic and practical that awaited in climes as diverse as Kenya, Tunisia, Italy, France and Japan beckoned with a little more intensity, because of the very fact that they didn’t pulsate with the warm familiarity I had grown up with. They cried out to me with their differentness, while America smelled comfortingly like home, almost to the extent that it seemed like a place it was time venture out into the world from, with the result that it suddenly feels implausibly weird not to have been there. A pilgrimage, a homecoming to the inspirational places that were instrumental in my emotional development is well and truly overdue.
More so than ever after the history made on November 04, 2008.
The cultural cringe I sensed around me growing up in Australia and the voices that proclaimed indignation at the sense of being culturally colonised/colonized by American culture were not things I really bought into, even when I started to feel somewhat torn between my Britishness and my Americanness.
At this point, being dislocated from the land of my upbringing and living in a land where the predominant language is not my native one has done much to heighten that Americanness residing within.
The country’s global centrality in multiple domains, both measurable and otherwise is striking, unavoidable. It is the Emerald City to the world’s Oz, from its blockbusterness and dazzling shine all the way down to its shortcomings and tricks with mirrors.
Although not technically a citizen of these United States, I dream of united states to which we can all belong.
And we all took a major step forward on November 04. Humanity, though some of it needed/needs to be dragged kicking and screaming in the direction of tangible, meaningful civilization/civilization did move forward on that day. Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap” was miniscule by comparison.
Truly, I didn’t feel it in my bones that we’d see it in my lifetime, though I dared to dream.
I felt a buzz of hope rekindled for humanity. I could sleep that night for the first time in years soundly, finally given a smidgeon of evidence that evil does not always ultimately win through.
The guy is president! And a heartfelt hallelujah to that! Whatever your religious persuasion, or lack thereof.
The guy we needed, waited for.
He is a human and he is a politician. This leaves lots of room for perfection to be wanting on both counts. But just as the face of evil is being increasingly recognized/recognized as banal, charming, even well-meaning, given that its basis is more often maladjustedness and misguidedness than malevolence, equally can it be said that forces of true righteousness in a mundane reality are seldom angelic or flawless.
Anyway these are quibbles of the intellect. I’m still in the realm of the heart at this point.
Watching and re-watching the acceptance speech and the reactions from Americans and non-Americans worldwide, I was overpowered, unabashedly tearful each time, by an emotion I almost dared not acknowledge, in fear that this might all be a waking dream. I can’t remember a comparable event in my lifetime where the absolute “goodness” of what had happened was this powerful, clear and decisive.
The demons are already emerging, rising stubbornly through the misty, rosy euphoria, but I’m not ready to credit them. I will have to face again the reality of the imperfection of this world, even the imperfections of this man, but refuse to do so just yet.
I need to bathe in the warmth of this promise, rekindled after so long, that the potential is actually there for good to come to the world.
Thank you America. See you soon.

-Jeremy Cox, Tokyo, Japan 11/25/08