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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Reflections

It's been quite a week with half the nation crying out with cheers of jubilation while the other half simply cries.  We were privileged to be invited to an early morning breakfast hosted by the US Ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Mark Brzezinski.  Admittedly, it was crazy waking up at 3.00 a.m., getting ready for work and heading out the door at 4.15 a.m.  The city was dead quiet and we discovered that even the subway doesn't open until just before 5.00 a.m.  We jumped in a cab and drove through the quiet streets up to the Hilton Hotel in Stockholm.  While the city was sleeping, the hotel was alive with guests pouring in for this event.  It was almost all Swedes, which we found very interesting.  The big press outlets were there and the event itself was bi-partisan.  Upon arrival we were greeted with life size cardboard cut outs of both President Obama and Governor Romney.  Romney/Ryan and Obama/Biden signs and paraphernalia dotted the walls.  It was a festive, electric environment and by that time of the morning, results from the US were pouring in.  CNN was being broadcast on hundreds of TV's strewn throughout the area and in the large auditorium where panel discussions were also being held.  The only mistake we made was waiting for the ambassador to speak while seated in the auditorium.  We discovered too late that he was making his speech out in the hall where all the press were gathered!  Even so, we were privileged to have a front row seat for a panel discussion that was held with him and 3 others regarding the road ahead for a re-elected Obama.  It was pretty fun to be at such a gathering and for us, as Obama supporters, we were thrilled when at 5.17 a.m. the election was called for Obama.  Of particular note was the way in which we were all buried in our phones!  We were posting on Facebook and watching the other comments from around the world.  We were receiving texts and sending emails, curious about how people were reacting and watching the mood of the country.  In a word, it really was great fun to be there.  We watched day break over our fair city.  
I celebrated on Wednesday with unabashed joy on my Facebook page but on Thursday felt compelled to send a reconciliatory message out to my friends who were smarting from the results.  I've been on the losing side of elections as well, and know how devastating one can feel when your hopes don't come to fruition.  That said, we do have to find a way to move forward and I hope that Obama and Congress can figure out a healthy way to get the US back on track.
Thursday night we had a church board meeting.  Our board is made up of people from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya, Switzerland, Pakistan, India, the United States.  The man from Zimbabwe was slated to do devotions and he began by quoting Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.  He then went on to congratulate the US on a peaceful and open election.  He commented that he was so impressed by the vigorous debate but lack of hatred in our process.  He was impressed by the debates, that they were hot and lively but lacking in mean-spiritedness.  Of course, the Americans among us were flabbergasted when we heard him as most Americans have felt that this was one of the dirtiest and meanest campaigns ever witnessed.  But his words touched me because his story is that he has worked for the Movement for Democratic Change (DMC) in Zimbabwe for years.  He has been jailed and tortured because he stood against Mugabe.  His life has been endangered because he has fought for democracy to reign in his own nation.  He was so blown away that Romney would give a gracious concession speech and not fight the results and threaten to stage to coup and that Obama stated in his victory speech that he would like to sit down with Romney in the coming weeks to discuss matters that need attention.  This is unheard of in his country.  He was so appreciative of my country, that we model the very heart of democracy, vigorous debate, fair elections, acceptance of the outcome without civil war or jailing the opposition.  It was an encouragement to me, that whatever flaws our system has, whatever you feel about the outcome, our election process does indeed reflect a truly democratic nation.  And living in a democracy means that you fight hard for your positions, vote for what you believe, but also accept, that at the end of every election, the will of the majority reigns, no matter if you agree with it or not.
I am not naive.  Our nation has big issues in front of itself and if the President and Congress cannot figure out a way forward, we will continue to struggle.  Let's hope that our public leaders will truly govern for the good of the nation and not simply to foil the opposition.