Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

It’s a small world, after all November 5, 2008

Mural in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Mural in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Having spent the last three months in 21 countries, I can unreservedly testify that America had lost the respect of the world. George Bush had become a symbol of hate and greed, and these qualities were extended to the whole nation and its citizens. What everyone else thinks of us may not matter, but it still pleases me to see the international impact of the election of Barack Obama.

 

 

In the last several months I have met many people, from Iceland to Istanbul who said that America – a country founded on slavery – could not and would not elect a black man as President. Bear in mind, they all wanted us to, they just saw America as a nation far too divided to come together in that regard. It’s no exaggeration to say that everyone born in this country has grown up in the shadow of racism. Terrible injustice is part of our country’s founding, and although no one alive today had a direct hand in slavery and most of our ancestors didn’t either, it is a burden we all carry.

 

In New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, he talks about an idea called “institutional racism”. Essentially, the argument is that we’re all subconsciously racist – even civil rights activists, minorities, and the mixed-race author himself. This tendency comes to a great degree from implicit information we receive from the time we’re born – i.e. countless movies and TV shows where a young black man is a criminal. Essentially the argument is that these feelings can exist despite our conscious ideals or emotions (and if you’re intrigued to test yourself, you can take the implicit association test online at www.implicit.harvard.edu. I just went out there to make sure the link was still valid, and found that they added an additional election-based test as well.)

 

I took it again and got the same results as last time: For whatever reasons it turns out that I am not unconsciously or subconsciously prejudice (I tested as ‘Your data suggests no automatic preference for White people or Black people’ – I dislike everyone equally. KIDDING!). On the election test, I rated as “Your data suggests a strong automatic preference for Barack Obama over John McCain.”

I’ll be frank and say this surprises me, only in that I once lived in a really bad Crip (gang) neighborhood and had some deeply terrifying experiences. In my head I’ve never experienced a prejudice directed at any race, but I kind of worried some of what happened got into me and may have made me so. Anyway, I am glad to see that along with my own lack of pre-judgement, perhaps our national institutional racism is a little bit less? Or if not, last night’s election results will push the scales in that direction. Despite all the political propaganda, extreme allegations, general fear mongering, and Mr. Obama’s extremely unfortunate middle name, he was elected. I, for one, am proud of America.

 

And the world is, too. I ran across an AP article (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081105/ap_on_re_as/us_elections_world_view) with feedback that made me proud of us:

 

People across Africa stayed up all night or woke before dawn to watch U.S. history being made, while the president of Kenya — where Obama’s father was born — declared a public holiday.

Many expressed amazement and satisfaction that the United States could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American as president.

Poland‘s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski spoke of “a new America with a new credit of trust in the world.”

Venezuela and Bolivia, which booted out the U.S. ambassadors after accusing the Bush administration of meddling in their internal politics, said they were ready to reestablish diplomatic relations, and on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, people expressed a mixture of joy, disbelief, and hope for the future

“What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had,” said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck’s in Bangkok. “He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president.”

“This is the fall of the Berlin Wall times ten,” Rama Yade, France‘s black junior minister for human rights, told French radio. “America is rebecoming a New World. On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes.”

Me in front of the Belfast mural back in August

Me in front of the Belfast mural back in August

 

 

These comments really brought home the reality of what a tiny planet this is in so many ways, and what everyone who doesn’t live here believes: What befalls America befalls the world – financially, politically, and personally. Even if he wasn’t your first choice, I hope that you can take solace in the tremendous step forward this is for our nation. We have an almost clean slate, and yet another opportunity to get it right for the good of the world, and I deeply hope that we do. And if not, let’s elect a black woman next time and REALLY get things straightened out.

Oprah, you out there?  😉

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Now I know why the ancestors left the old country August 17, 2008

By the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and Catholics separate) in Belfast, Ireland

By the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and Catholics separate) in Belfast, Ireland

Riding through river-deep floodwaters, trying to get to Belfast
Riding through river-deep floodwaters, trying to get to BelfastBy the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and the Catholics away from one another) in Belfast, Ireland.
Where to start? My flight into Belfast was delayed a couple hours, and I kept hearing whispers with the words “torrential” and “flood.” As we’re landing it’s more of the same – rain, clouds, gray, blech.
I get my bag and head out to wait for the city bus. And wait. And wait. And wait. It’s Saturday, so the sign says it comes every half an hour. An hour and fifteen minutes passes…Nada. We hear that the roads are flooded, and perhaps the bus can’t make it? Thus – abandoning all logic that if a fairly tall bus can’t make it, what can? – a few of us band together and hire a taxi. It’s a really nice one, at that, a new black Mercedes. Maybe it has special waterproof powers installed by crafty German engineers?
It didn’t, although we did avert any true tragedy. There are something like five routes into Belfast, and after crossing veritable rivers, but ultimately being turned back each time, we went to attempt the last possible (way out of the way) route. The passengers consisted of me, an Australian, a couple from Belfast, and the driver, also from Belfast. The locals made comments upon seeing lakes (that apparently weren’t lakes the day before) and rushing rivers (ditto) like, “That’s scary.” Although I originally expected to be at the hostel around 5pm, I got there – tired, hungry, cold, and emotionally drained – at 10pm.
Everything was closed, so I had to fix dinner from my emergency rations – powdered lentil soup – and it was every bit as bad as it sounds. I got about 1/4 cup through and could bear no more. Budget travel through Europe could be the hot new diet you’ve been looking for!!!
Speaking of which, I am DYING for a salad. I haven’t seen a healthy looking or desirable vegetable in two weeks. What I wouldn’t do for one of those giant Olive Garden salad bowls (the size intended for the whole table). My kingdom for some iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing…
Anyway, since they owed me one, the Celtic gods smiled and delivered up some glorious sun amidst the rain. I took the Black Taxi political tour, which goes to the Catholic and Protestant sides of town, where you can see the (edited) murals painted by each during The Troubles. Or not. That’s why the ‘edited.’ Apparently what was once a listing of every catholic who died, when, and how old they were, is now an oddball mishmash of pro-Palestinian, pro-Cuba, Picasso’s Guernica, and a whole lot of anti-Bush rhetoric (which is pretty funny.) Regardless, it was a fascinating look into a terrible and somewhat senseless period in Irish history.
Perhaps if you catch me in a different mood, I’ll share my theories on the potential influence of the famous Irish temper. Being the daughter of a full-blooded Irish woman (and  thus, obviously, half-Irish myself), I know of whence I speak! Let’s just say, in the words of Bruce Banner, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”
Tomorrow