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Hey rest of the world! Check us (that’s U.S.) out.

November 5, 2008

As I said in my 2:15am blog post and I’m sure you are aware, we have a new President and a new Congress. The most important question now for FCNL is, what will their priorities be?

One of the major priorities for President-elect Obama seems to be re-engaging with the world, and returning the luster to the name of the United States. This was evident in his victory speech in which he took particular pains to speak to the rest of the world as well as to those here who voted for him.

That’s fine and great, but not really what interests me right now, in my post-election haze. What excites me is that the people of the United States of America appear to be ready to reintroduce themselves to the rest of the world.

Last night, as I walked home from a election returns party I noticed a few things. The enthusiasm was palpable, as was no surprise. (In case you don’t closely follow the results for the only non-state with electoral votes, 93% of D.C. voters supported Obama.)

What was a surprise? I first remarked on it as I rambled past an Ethiopian restaurant that caters to Ethiopian immigrants (I know, duh, but I mean instead of serving delicious-food-seeking native U.S. folks). The patrons were spilling into the sidewalk and the street, wrapped in Ethiopian flags, cheering the U.S. election. So that was one thing.

Then, as I made my way further, I came upon a section of blocked off street in which a drum circle had set up and people were dancing and shouting (notably, this was at the intersection of 14th and U Streets, were some of the worst 1968 riots took place). Some folks had even mounted a bus shelter and were continuing the dancing up there. And what flags were they waving? The stars and stripes accompanied by the Kenyan flag. (Not as surprising, since President-elect Obama’s father was Kenyan, but still notable.)

The final kicker that convinced me something extraordinary was happening was when a certain chant started. It was not for Obama, or change, or any of the other exclamations I had heard on my walk home. Instead, the crowd started chanting “U.S.A. U.S.A.”

This development took me aback. I realized I had never before in my adult life heard a cheer for the U.S. with such un-ironic joy and enthusiasm. Since I came of age during a time of extreme aggression towards the rest of the world I hadn’t had a real chance to be proud of my country for its current actions (I’ve always respected our intellectual foundations of democracy and equality, despite some notable oversights in those areas).

But now, at last, it seems that my fellow citizens, as well as my fellow residents of the world are ready to re-engage with one another. At last I live in a country in which both the government and citizenry want to be good neighbors, and focus on building peace instead of starting new wars (we may have some disagreements on how to end the existing ones, but as FCNL has taught me, we can talk those out).

No matter who I supported on Election Day, I’m pretty jazzed about the general state of the world today, thanks to some African flags and a big, loud, old-fashioned shout-out for my country.

Now it’s time to get to work!

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