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The World With Its Eyes on America The World With Its Eyes on America
by Alexandra Pereira
2008-11-17 09:18:45
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A poll made by Gallup about who the world’s citizens would choose if they could have voted in the American elections showed a smashing victory for Obama – 3 in 4 people would vote for him. McCain would only win in Georgia, Laos and Cambodia (due to more or less obvious reasons).

65% of the citizens in 14 different European countries consider the US elections relevant to their own country, with this number rising to 80% among the British, 77% of the Irish or 71% of the Norwegian and French citizens. 83% of the Japanese, a higher percentage of people than in America itself (80%) followed the American Presidential campaign closely.

In Europe, 74% of the Dutch and Portuguese[i], 71% of the Norwegians, 69% of the Danish, 67% of the Irish, 64% of the Swedish and French, 60% of the U.K. electors, 62% of the Germans, 4 in 5 Finns and Greeks and 3 in 4 Spanish or Italians would vote for Obama. In the rest of the world, he was also the favourite for 64% of Australians, 66% of Japanese and 67% of Canadians, 76% of Ethiopians and Tanzanians, 89% of Kenyans, 70% of Malians and 85% of the Ugandans who answered the poll.

During the eight years of the Bush Administration, the favourable opinion about the US decreased dramatically in Germany and Spain (less than one-third of the population has a favourable opinion), fell from 80% to 53% in the UK and from 78% to 50% in Japan. More than 33 million Americans saw Obama’s infomercial aired in primetime and "The Daily Show" had record ratings of 3.6 million viewers with Obama’s appearance. 

The election of Obama is symbolic in many ways. The first African-American to be the President of the most powerful nation on Earth means, in itself, quite a bit of History has been made, representing the symbolic transposition of great mental, cultural, historic and prejudice barriers. But Obama seems to concentrate hopes in almost every continent: in the Spanish-speaking South America and Brazil the newspapers announce that Cuba is hopeful that a new era in its foreign relations with the US will be possible.

And this hope extends to the whole of South America as Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile or Argentina would also have voted for Obama, who gets the sympathy of the people facing the paramilitary and guerrilla groups which McCain helped to finance. While Europeans wish for more dialogue and diplomacy, a solution for the situation in Zimbabwe is anticipated with the election of Obama, or at least the possibility of developing very special and involved diplomatic relations with Africa.   

In Asia people seem to care less about the American elections, still Obama was more popular in India, China and South Korea (nowadays the country with a more favourable opinion about the US – 70%). In the Middle East, Lebanon and Palestine favoured Obama, while Israel doesn’t know what to think – many people in Israel would have voted for McCain, but the majority of the US Jewish community and pro-Israel lobby would vote for Obama, according to the polls.

Curiously, and still about the votes by the American citizens (the ones that counted, right?), the organization Sentency Project informed that 5,2 million Americans were not allowed to vote in the election – 1 in every 41 Americans – because they committed some type of severe crime. These citizens cannot vote currently or permanently (in Virginia or Kentucky all the people condemned for severe crimes lose the right to vote for their entire lives). From those 5,2 millions, 4 million are not in prison anymore, but on parole or have already completed their sentences, and 1,4 million are black men.                                                              

The definition of “severe crime” varies much from State to State and is not necessarily related with firearm robbery and physical threat, white-collar crimes, murder or sex offences. Generally, “severe crimes” are the ones which lead to a sentence of more than one year in jail, and can be related with things like planting some vases of marijuana in the backyard. After completing their sentences, many of these people simply move to another State and don’t go back to their State of origin to ask a judge for their right to vote again (in the cases in which they could do so, of course). 

But these elections marked a profound change in the way how the electors interact with the campaign actors and contents as well. Millions of electors obtained information about the candidates through the internet, and they often added original content and opinion to that online soup. Some of them are directly were thrown to the centre of the debates and received media attention, depending on the originality of their efforts. On the other hand, comedians assumed an informative and pedagogical role, something which was deeply ironic and… surely fun.

The candidates adapted their speeches, schedules and answers to these new phenomena, and McCain-Palin tried to please or glue themselves to comedians while disdaining the “liberal media elite” (well, they disdained the comedians too, at first). In most cases, the entertainers glued themselves to a certain candidate first, and assumed that choice clearly before the nation, while treating both with “comic impartiality”. Jon Stewart, Ellen, Saturday Night Live/Tina Fey, Letterman, Leno, O’Brien or Ferguson, they all had important roles in this campaign. So had the media lady Oprah. Or W. the film. Or the books concerning Bush Doctrine.

Interviews and deep scrutiny by top comedians, vote hunting through internet social networks, incentives to election registration and participation by… the comedians too, thousands of home videos on YouTube expressing opinions (from around the world) and political sympathies or denouncing true and fake scandals, news and conspiracy theories, phenomena like Obama Girl and Joe the Plumber (not to mention Tito the Builder) mark a modification in the nature of the campaigns, sometimes for the better/more democratic, some others for the sillier.

The candidates asked their supporters to contact people from their region or ethnic group by phone, e-mail and door-to-door, to have a conversation about the elections with their friends, to vote early, to take other people to vote. The world is positively impressed with Obama. Is the world hoping too much? He certainly can not do magic – Jon Stewart underlined that already.

The world is craving for dialogue, peace and disillusioned with most politicians. The world is in the hands of common people, people who may not come from privileged backgrounds and are equal in rights independently of those backgrounds – that’s maybe what Obama symbolizes for many. A more participative and inclusive democracy is already his victory. Let’s see about the rest, expect for the better, express ourselves often about what happens and what we think should happen.


[i] National poll.


   
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Emanuel Paparella2008-11-17 17:11:35
Just as art mirrors our own faces and identies, the election of Barak Obama, as previously pointed out by Asa in this very magazine, while reflecting the hope and aspirations of many around the world, also reveals people's true colors: their prejudices, their good or bad faith. There is a puzzle here and it is this: why the American people, cavalierly declared studpid and politically unsophisticated four years ago in one prominente British newspaper for having elected George Bush, have learned so much in four short years. Which reminds me of one of Mark Twain's jokes: when my daughter was 18 she thought me the most stupid man in the world, when she became 25 she was surprised at how much the old man had managed to learn in seven short years. Indeed there is the observed but there is also the observer with all its paradigms of reality; sometimes those paradigms are distorted and biased. (continued below)


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-17 17:19:46
Which leads to the next even more interesting query: why were so many Europeans so blinded by their vehement disapproval of the election of George Bush as to lose sight of the basic core decency and fair play that existed and still exists in the value system of most Americans, to the point of becoming anti-Americans? I think that this question has not been pondered enough, never mind answered by the rest of the world and Europeans in particular, now singing the glories of Barack Obama. That includes expatriate Americans. Some of those people seem to be having considerable difficulty wrapping their mind around the idea of an African-American president; they almost seem to regret the fact that in two short months they will no longer have a straw man by which to explain anything and everything that goes wrong in the world. In other words, Barack Obama has already been placed within the paradigm of their political ideology by which he is superficially analized. By the way, I continue to suspect that Ann Smith was a mere alias, a way to continue holding on to one's favored prejudices, caricatures and biases.


Alexandra Pereira2008-11-17 19:47:39
I am sorry, this article is a bit too late, it was sent before the elections (just to situate the readers).
"vehement disapproval of the election of George Bush as to lose sight of the basic core decency and fair play that existed and still exists in the value system of most Americans, to the point of becoming anti-Americans"
Sometimes an entire people is judged for its leaders - and if jokes about geographical notions of the Americans are said in Europe it's often in the sense "OMG I can't believe how stupid they are!", more rarely blaming the education system and more commonly blaming BOTH Americans and their education system, but of course one should be cautious with prejudices and even more knowing that Bush and his companions cheated in the results of the second election. That does not mean one doesn't recognize that his governance was terrible for the whole world, still feeling the consequences. Anti-Americanism? From me, not really. Does it exist in Europe? It does. A big part of it was only superficial, that's why some people passed from being Anti-Americans to loving Obama. Who represents it for real? More or less the same people who came and said Obama was tanned or black people were less developed and could not govern themselves.


Alexandra Pereira2008-11-17 20:08:29
They are a minority, just as Anti-Europeans are a minority in the U.S., I suppose.
As for those who manifested a superficial Anti-Americanism, I believe what happened was they could never forgive the second election of Bush because it was obvious for the whole world already by then who the man was - they could not forgive a stupid vote and, on the other hand, were left without much choice: they couldn't accept that if cheating had occurred in one of the greatest western democracies, the results wouldn't be annulled (attacking Americans would in this case be a way of defending the faith in their own democracies, by affirming "the difference": "it's their fault, not the fault of democracy, in our democracies - a democracy is a democracy - that can't possibly happen"). As the results were not annulled, they were left with not many options besides supposing it was the voters' fault. But as I said before, I think much of it was superficial and a way to make pressure so things would change. If the pressure worked even just a little bit, they can consider themselves victorious too. That wouldn't be my preferential way of showing the disgust, but I believe it was the way many people chose, I recognize a pattern, and I think it kind of touched the American self-esteem and pride. Meanwhile the policies of Bush touched the pockets and values of everyone.


Asa2008-11-18 08:26:26
Apologies Alexandra! The submission was lost down the cracks of my inbox...


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-18 09:18:17
"The election of Obama is symbolic in many ways."

"I am sorry, this article is a bit too late, it was sent before the elections (just to situate the readers)."

To better situate ther readers, the first quote obviously came before the second and contradicts the second quote. Heidegger had it on target: being is situated within time. That being the case, that "is" in the first quote ought to have been "will be," unless the one who proffered it before the election wishes to claim prophetic endowements.






Alexandra Pereira2008-11-18 15:35:02
Mr. P., that's because Asa updated the times of the verbs, okay? So no contradiction anywhere.


Alexandra Pereira2008-11-18 15:38:19
ps - that "is" used to be "would be" - "will be" would be too presumptuous, don't you think?


Alexandra Pereira2008-11-18 15:39:44
discussing the sex of the angels...


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