I'm breaking with my years-long tradition of never telling anyone how I vote on any issue this year. I figure that anyone who actually wonders whom I voted for doesn't know me that well, and anyone who knows me is going to guess that I voted for Obama. So what's the harm in telling? (Just don't ask me who I supported for county charter commission. Some secrets are too precious to spill.) There are really two reasons I voted for Obama.
First, he is the kind of person we need in the White House - a smart, passionate, thoughtful, articulate person who recognizes that the world is not black-and-white. Rather, like the man himself, it's shades in between. I don't agree with Obama on everything - like warrantless wiretapping. But he's much more in my camp than McCain. And the way he thinks about issues, and the way he talks about them, make me trust him - reasoned, measured, open to options, but then decisive - and with a really good track record. And call me naïve, but I think he actually cares about - and wants to help - real, normal people who live average lives.
Second, the American position in the world is in the shitter, and we need to change that. I travel a lot, and I real a wide range of international media - including the Guardian, the New Zealand Herald, and even Al-Jazeera in English - on a daily basis. Around the world, people love Americans as individuals but hate our government. They resent our political, military, and economic influence, even as they embrace our cultures of music, film, and sports. (Sure, they love to claim they hate American culture, but when 9-year-old Nepalis living at 10,000 feet in the Himalaya are wearing Chicago Bulls singlets and Yankees baseball caps sideways, what they say isn't what matters.)
We can be world leaders again - not in a bullying, my-way-or-the-highway sort of leader, but as the quiet, strong, sensible kind of influence that once had the world looking to the United States as a symbol of something larger than itself - of an ideal in action, of a dream made real. We can be there again - we can be an immense force for good in this world, fighting poverty, hunger, and disease - both at home and abroad. To do that, we as Americans need to stand up and declare our independence of our present government - to rise and proclaim that we want something different, that we need a new direction, that we believe in the power of possibility. A vote for Obama is a vote for all of those things.
People around the world are skeptical - they believe we might talk a good game, but I don't think many of them believe we'll actually elect Obama. Whatever they may think of any of us as individuals, they think we as a group are racist, conservative, afraid of change, under the thumb of big business and big government, motivated by fear, and unable to think for ourselves. If McCain wins, their suspicions will be confirmed - Americans alone are just fine, but in any numbers we're just a bunch of lunkheads who can't get out of our own way. But I dream of hearing my friends' voices ring out with joy from around the globe when they wake to find Obama has won. Imagine if we could do that - imagine if we could change their minds - imagine if we could tell the world that America is back as a force for bettering all people's lives, wherever in the world they may live.
Imagine that, and vote for Obama. I do, and I did.
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