This post is political in nature and is not intended to offend. It is intended, however, to add to the reasons for everyone to vote in this General Election, whether you agree with the content or not. I speak only for myself here, despite the fact that this is a family blog, and would enjoy hearing what our family and friends have to say on the topic.
With the elections within spitting distance I can't help but think about the reasons for why I'm voting from so far away. Part of this is due to my bone-deep frustration with what the Bush administration has done to America's rights to privacy, intellectual legacy and respect in the global community. After all, it is still and always will be home for me. The biggest reason for expatriates to vote, I have found, is to protect what's left of America's reputation and place within the world.
I very much still feel American. I bargain hunt, appreciate my TV shows on a familial level and hold freedom of speech deep at heart. (I and a Canadian co-worker just successfully dismantled the office Swear Box, an evil contraption meant to punish those who swore in the office by taking their money in amounts linked to the severity of the swear word. People should be able to shout at the permanently busted copy machine, damnit, without the propriety police judging them.) Most of all, I'm beginning to understand a fundamental truth that seems to have become lost on many an American official and citizen: America is and always will be one member within the wider global community. Her actions are felt across broad expanses of water and her inaction has the same ability to offend as a person on the street has for not helping an accident victim. America is a part of the world, and because I feel like a part of the world all the way down here in little 'ol New Zealand, I feel an obligation to make my voice and experience count in every way I can. Mahatma Gandhi had it right when he said to "be the change you want to see in the world." This is all very fine and well for individuals but it goes for nations as well.
When we first moved down here the first question my students always asked was, "Did you vote for President Bush?" The middle-school kids were mostly curious; high schoolers tended to frost their words with a bit more indignation. Most adult Kiwis avoided this pointed and personal question, rather opting for variations on what Americans thought about what Bush Co. Ltd. were doing to Iraq. We had plenty of interesting conversations but nonetheless felt a bit tired and battered by the end of our first 6 months here. This social/political grilling wasn't what we signed up for when we moved here, nor was it what we were prepared to endure for the duration of our time here. Our only recourse was to sigh and develop a handful of strategies for changing the conversation. Only once did I play the political refugee card; it felt hollow and cheap, so I didn't touch it again.
Perhaps we've blended in or we now have a consistent social circle, but these questions seem to have changed in the last year or so. It feels like the rest of the world has realised that Bush Co. Ltd. will close up shop and another President will move into his place. There seems to be less quiet bitterness about things and a curiosity and optimism that things will change. We are frequently asked what we think of the candidates. When asked who we are voting for, and we say "Obama/Biden", people nod and relax a little...and then they ask if Palin is for real. We nod, and then they shake their heads. And I don't feel the guilt that I felt at this time nearly three years ago. Kiwi's don't despise these candidates the way that they despise Bush, although they are more leery of the McCain/Palin ticket than of the other candidates. This hatred that the current administration seems to have drawn out of people gets spit out on us expats indirectly and it's rather tiring.
It never ceases to disappoint me that Kiwis are more curious about us than America is of the rest of the world. With any luck, the next President will encourage people to cross American borders by making border security more humane; maybe my co-workers won't complain so much about having to take a longer route back to the UK through Singapore because they refuse to be insulted by the TSA again. Maybe the Kyoto Protocol will gain traction with lawmakers as a positive thing, and diplomacy and inter-national conversation will take top priority.
This is why I am submitting an Overseas ballot. Not because I hope to live in the US in the future, or because my family still lives there and I want a better place for them to live. I vote because American policies are having a direct effect on our community down here in NZ. Just the other day there was a story in the New Zealand Herald about Kiwi troops that are being targeted by militants in a relatively quiet area in Afghanistan. There aren't any complaints about Kiwi soldiers doing their part to help communities overseas; there are conversations, though, about when they will be able to come home and get on with things, as they say. Kiwis don't like treading water.
This weekend we are sending our ballots to the Missoula County Elections Office, as that was the last place we voted, and we wear our bumper stickers with pride. And we're planning on staying up November 5th in the hopes of seeing competent leadership return to the White House.