Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
And if she had to die tryin’
She had one little promise she was gonna keep
Oh yeah, all right
Take it easy, baby
Make it last all night
She was an American girl
Well it was kinda cold that night
She stood alone on her balcony
Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by
Out on 441 like waves crashin’ on the beach
And for one desperate moment
There he crept back in her memory
God it’s so painful when something that’s so close
Is still so far out of reach
Oh yeah, all right
Take it easy, baby
Make it last all night
“American Girl,” Tom Petty
I am now 14 hours ahead of my friends and family on the East Coast of the United States of America. When I think about the time difference, I miss home the most. It is odd. It could also be that 2012 is a big year and I am gone during the Holiday season and am missing the biggest day in America, Election Day.
Today is my Wednesday and the USA’s Tuesday/Wednesday morning. Since 9:15 this morning, I have been glued to the internet and the television watching the news and results of the election. Since I am the only American running around the streets of Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, Japan, everyone has asked me today about Obama and the election, in their Japanese that I don’t understand and my English that they barely understand.
Even with the language barrier, I have had quite a few full-on conversations about why I think Obama is going to win reelection and have listened to the opinions of my Japanese audience as well. Many of them weren’t sure that Obama was the right choice, but they were open to my opinion.
But lets get back to the point. Today was a BIG deal for America and I have never been more proud of America.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine, B, told me that I represent an American Girl, the girl next door. At the time, I was shocked. I’ve never been described as an American Girl before, but then I realized that I am and I am quite proud of being an American Gal, as I like to call myself. As a matter of fact, as soon as he told me that, I went and listened to my favorite Tom Petty song, “American Girl” and smiled. Mostly because I’ve always felt the song described me to a T, but having someone describe me as so made it seem more true. I have a lot of faith in that B. He’s a good guy, a long-time friend, and probably one of the most mystifying guys I know, but love in all that shaddy, but Southernly captivating guyness.
But I’ve digressed. America! America! America!
Today as I watched Japanese television and watched the reactions and sat in a small office cutting gampi, I couldn’t help but cry with pride. I did folks, I cried. I cried because for months, I’ve been dissatisfied with my country, my countrymen and my President. Don’t get me wrong, I do love President Obama and I love all that he symbolizes, but I haven’t always loved his policies or his actions. And yet, from what I have followed, I stand by my decision that he is the best person to continue the job. Mitt Romney would not have led our country in the right direction. The reason I say that is because it is going to take someone stronger, someone more willing to be disliked and to go against the grain of American politics to really make a change.
I know that my thoughts are my thoughts and I don’t like that clients may decide down the road not to buy from me because my political values don’t align with them, but I’m still going to say what I am saying because my political values are greater world political values, they are bigger than Democrats and Republicans. They are larger than the American interest, they are for a World interest.
As an American in Japan today, I received many congratulations on President Obama winning and I graciously thanked them. President Obama may not be the strongest person to make real change, but that’s because our country has to really want change and they don’t. When our politicians can’t get along, or view the dollar over the concern of their constituents, and average Americans don’t care until it comes to polling time, we will never have a working government. What’s more, when our country can not get over their own individual personal beliefs for the greater good of humanity or for equality we will not have change.
Today, I cried because as was the case in 2008, I saw a glimpse of what a country that strongly binds together can do and will do. The passion of today, of this Election Day, in a very tiring election season needs to be maintained year around until change is real and tangible and touchable.
I also cried because I didn’t vote this year. I wanted to vote, but without knowing where I was going to be exactly, getting an absentee ballot proved difficult. Yes, I felt bad as a citizen of America not to be participating in what was a monumental Election, but I also know that in four years I will vote because America runs when Americans work together and value what our American brothers fought so hard to achieve for us all: the right for our voices to be heard. We are hardly perfect as a nation and there are plenty of Americans I would love to hit upside the head, but as I watched the news unfold and read the reports of high voter turn out, my heart swelled because I wasn’t voting, but because it showed that we do still have it. That we do still want something bigger and most importantly that we believe.
The last reason why I cried was because four years ago my father got to vote in his final Election. He was able to vote for a man similar to him: half white and half black. He was so proud to cast that one ballot and to have done it in the state of Ohio, where the vote was needed the most. When Ohio was called for Obama this afternoon, I looked up at the sky and said, “I knew you wouldn’t let him down. Thanks, Dad.”
I am sitting in a town surrounded by mountains and water. I am sitting amongst people that have been making paper every day for generations. One man is the 9th generation in his family making paper. He is the living National Treasure of Japan. His son will be the 1oth generation. They are happy.
I can barely speak to them outside of saying good morning, good afternoon, good evening, thank you, Lunch, please, and hold a moment, please.
I watch these people with big eyes and an open heart, passionate about their paper making and yet can’t communicate how I feel with words, I can only express it with my eyes, or large hand gestures and smiles.
Last night, I attended a dinner party for another foreigner who works with the village frequently and my favorite paper artistian came in with his family. His oldest daughter is eight years old and as soon as she saw me she smiled and came over and sat next to me. What transpired the rest of the night was lots of hugs and hand holding and her telling me, “I love you.”
As much of a proud American I am, I am also a world lover. I am a people lover. I believe in the power of human connection and real interest in people. As much as people have and still do drive me crazy, people are what matter. President Obama knows that. And that is why he won yesterday and why as I sat in a small village 14 hours ahead of my home and my friends and my family, the people of this village swarmed around me and helped me usher in another four years of President Obama and hope for a steady government that I hope gives way to real actual change in the future.
Below are some pictures of how the election unfolded for me between the hours of 9:15am and 1:30pm when the election was projected a win for President Obama. America, I am proud to be an American Girl, I am proud of you. Preside Obama, congratulations on your win. America, lets do this! I can’t wait to be back on American soil in January and I promise to fight for my rights and for a better future.