Wednesday, January 21, 2009
On election night, I stayed up till 2am (GMT) until enough electoral votes had stacked up on the TV counter that I could allow myself to sleep. Four hours later, I dragged myself out of bed for work and switched on the television, just to make sure. The BBC coverage was joyous, and I sat on the sofa watching the Chicago celebrations and blinked tears out of my eyes.
I didn't realise until that moment how much I actually cared, how important this election really was to me. I was genuinely proud of my country, for the first time in five years living abroad. I had been carrying around that heavy weight of disappointment and frustration for so long that I didn't entirely realise it was there until it was gone.
When I came to the UK, I found myself suddenly having to constantly defend my country, a country whose current politics I had never supported or believed in. Still, it was the generalities accepted as fact that bothered me so much ("all Americans are fat", "90% of Americans don't have passports", "all Americans are racist fundamentalist Christians".) There was usually, of course, a "well, obviously you're not like that, Amelia..." which always seemed to me to be missing the point. But I had nothing to throw back at them - until now.
Now, I don't even have to do the defending. America has done it all by itself. I was particularly pleased that Obama's speech acknowledged the place that America has in the world, and its effect on the global stage - not just "we are the most powerful country in the world so other countries need to do what we say" but "we are the most powerful country in the world so we have greater responsibilities to the rest of the world."
Obama said: "For the world has changed, and we must change with it." It's about time.