Shock and Awe

Published 15 years, 3 months past

I almost feel like the Presidential election didn’t happen.

You see, for the entire second half of Election Day, from almost noon until after midnight, Eastern time, I was aboard a Continental flight to Tokyo.  We had video-on-demand systems but not live satellite television, so as we arced over Canada, Alaska, and the northern reaches of the Pacific Ocean, we flew in ignorance.  As Jeremy Keith put it regarding his own flight to Japan, we were aboard Schrödinger‘s Airplane.

For me, the wave collapsed as we began the initial descent toward Narita.  One of the flight attendants, having announced that they were starting the initial-descent procedures and would like us to check around our seats for any personal items we might like to start stowing, added:  “And for those of you interested in the results of the election, we have a new President: Barack Obama.”

There was a burst of applause from the economy section of the plane.  In business class, there was silence.

Well, not quite.  I was myself sitting in business class, thanks to a great big pile of reward miles and some lucky timing in calling the airline.  As I heard her say Obama’s name, I let out an involuntary “Wow“.  Because until that moment, deep down I had believed, truly believed, that Mr. Obama would not win the Presidency.  That was not the outcome I desired, but it was the outcome I expected.

I am in many ways ashamed of my doubts and fears, because I had thought less of my fellow Americans than they deserved.

Since then, from here in Tokyo, I’ve felt weirdly disconnected from what’s happened.  In time zone terms, I’m fourteen hours in my home’s future, half a day ahead of everyone back home.  But because I received word after it was all over and soon after slept through America’s Wednesday daylight hours, I feel like I’m a day behind.  Time and distance combine to create a feeling of disconnectedness from the end result, as though I’m getting word of election results in Germany or India or Australia: interesting, but something seen at a remove.

It’s odd.  I’m used to being an observer, but this is something else entirely.  I think it’s pure astonishment.

Comments (17)

  1. I know exactly how you feel. I’m actually in Japan too (Osaka), and it’s been weird watching the election here. Watching Mr. Obama give his speech with all of the other foreign students at our University was amazing, yet it seemed unreal that it would actually happen.

    I guess just reading negative news about American while abroad instead of being in the States, then being blown away by something so momentous and positive happening… I was just grinning for the entire day.

  2. We will now see if Mr. Obama will live up to the hype–hopefully he won’t. If he does what he promised, we are in for a world of hurt. His trickle-up poverty plan is not good for business and will not be good for jobs. Those of us not dependant on governement might become dependant of government.

    The excitement around Obama is so short-sighted, it’s frightening. Well, we asked for it….

  3. The election of President Obama is a positive to all the world that we are progressive people and we can honor our constitution by backing up all the privileges it gives to all citizens. We gain back respect and standing as a nation strong and not divided. We also show the world that democracy does work and is not a dream but a reality for every American. God Bless America!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Stick to CSS and your area of expertise.

    I have tremendous respect for your web development skills, and in fact I own a few of your books.

    But given this post, I think I’ll start using someone else as my mentor.

  5. Oops!

    I misspoke! I thought you were saying you had hoped McCain would win. Sorry about that!

    I’ll keep buying your books now :-)

  6. Christian wrote: “We will now see if Mr. Obama will live up to the hype–hopefully he won”t.”

    Wow. Part of me does not understand how people can have an attitude like this. I didn’t support McCain in the election, but if he would have won, I certainly wouldn’t hope his plans to improve the country fail. Apparently Christian would rather see situations in our country get worse than see his political opponents succeed. Incredible.

    Thanks for the story Eric, I did enjoy that.

  7. Okay, I need to jump in here. While I’ve been letting comments through thus far, we’re getting pretty close to losing our civility. Arguably, it’s already been lost, but with luck we can return.

    I understand that many, many people are disappointed by Mr. McCain’s loss. Some of them are actually afraid of Mr. Obama’s presidency. That’s understandable: I recall there were very similar fears about the Bush presidency in 2000, and about Clinton’s in 1992… and it goes on, back to the very first Presidency. Even George Washington was not universally loved, either before or after his inauguration.

    There are those who would argue that their fears upon George Bush’s election were realized. There are those who would argue the same about Clinton… and it goes on, etc.

    We have yet to see what an Obama Presidency will mean. We will find out together, as we did with the previous President and all the Presidents before him. Pre-judging what will happen is as impossible as forecasting the weather a year from today, and dismissing people over their concerns helps nobody. What would be better, it seems to me, would be to work together to understand each other and our concerns and goals.

    I’ve also been long bothered by the idea that an author may only speak, and only be supported, if they agree on political and social issues with the hearer or reader. I see this coming from all sides, and it makes no sense to me at all. Roger Ebert’s been getting it a fair amount recently, as did Tim O’Reilly when he posted his support for Obama. I just don’t understand it. I do not insist that the corporations from which I buy be headed by CEOs who share my worldview. How could I? We are all people, and no two people think and believe exactly alike.

    I can certainly imagine issues over which one might walk away from a company or author. Choice of Presidential candidate, or even point in the sociopolitical continuum, doesn’t seem anywhere close to qualifying. And it saddens me when people try to muzzle others on those grounds. Not only do I believe that we should we strive to disagree without being disagreeable, but also that when you cannot hear those with whom you disagree, you risk becoming very disagreeable.

  8. Eric, you and I share differing views on many issues but I have to tell you, I never hesitate to read one of your more personal posts, as I know it’s going to be written with the utmost respect, fairness and civility as can possibly exist. Terrific CSS mentor and all around classy guy. Thank you for both.

  9. I thought I’d just chime in from across the pond to say congrats. I had the exact same fears you had, Eric, that McCain would somehow win anyways in spite of what the numbers were showing even on election night. It’s almost too good to be true.

    It has always struck me as odd that the cultural melting pot of the world, the USA, would have such a predictable cast of presidents. So I’m thrilled that the circle has been broken by Obama. But somehow he might habe had a little help, as Chris Rock put it (something along the lines of) “Bush has made it impossible for old white men to become president.” ;)

    Actually I’m pretty sure Obama will make a great president – not just compared to his predecessor – and not just for americans.

    So congrats USA!

  10. Hopefully, this will end up in good time for both America and the World. Both of them need it, and what’s good for America, right now is good for World too. In terms of political and financial stability of course. Congrats USA :)

    Dom Noclegowy Szczecinek

  11. Well your brave Eric.

    Miriam you write:

    We gain back respect and standing as a nation strong and not divided. We also show the world that democracy does work and is not a dream but a reality for every American. God Bless America

    Do you truly believe that. America will only achieve that when the US constitution is the rule of law. I hate to break the real news to you (not the Faux News) but many people around the world are stick and tired of US imperialism. Your government allows torture. It kills innocent civilians in the Middle east and elsewhere. America will only gain back respect when the government chooses to follow international laws like the Geneva Convention.


    I am happy to see that Americans can vote at large for an African American. I thought many months ago that Obama would win the election. I do believe that he was promoted as the candidate for change to fool Americans. You are correct in saying that we have yet to see what an Obama Presidency will mean. I may be wrong in my opinion but I believe that he will carry on similar policies as the previous administration. I would like to see the Bush administration facing crimes against humanity. I would like Dennis Kucinich 43 articles of impeachment to proceed through the house. I would like Bohemian Grove exposed fully. I would like no more talk of preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran and I would really like the international community to leave Iran alone. I would also like American and NATO to back off from Russia.

    Now for any American reading my words, please don’t think I anti-American. I believe that America has been taken over by an international cartel of internationalist, globalist and bankers who have no alliance to any country and who are using the current economic crisis (a new form of terror to scare the sheep) to bring in a New World Order. I will quote the words of David Rockefeller (Rockefeller’s autobiography, 2002 “Memoirs”, page 405,).

    “For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as “internationalists” and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”

    This can no longer happen.

  12. stick and tired = sick and tired

  13. And now for something completely inflammatory relating to CSS and politics, which I expect not to get through, but I thought it would be funny if it did:

    Tables = McCain
    Divs = Obama

  14. A week before the election, I kept going back and re-reading Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Couldn’t get it out of my mind.
    (I’ve since learned that, like me, Obama’s a Lincoln freak. That’s a good sign, I think.)
    Anyway, I agree with Thomas Freidman of the New York Times who echoed my thoughts when he expressed, the day after, that the election of Barack Obama marked the end of the American Civil War.
    Just take a look at the electoral map: a blotch of red states in the lower right hand section of the country and a thin band running through the mid-section of the country, which I’m willing to bet, reflects the migration patterns of southern residents during the 19th century.

    I cried.

    “We were slaves to the pharoah in Egypt”
    – From the Haggaddah, the “Telling” at Passover of the
    story of Exodus

    “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
    – Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

    The war has ended, in the only way it could truly end.

    All this aside, whatever your politics, you have to admit at least that Obama’s a smart guy who ran a campaign that tried to reach out and reconcile.

    And so,

    “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in”

    Though atheist, to that I can only say, “Amen”.

  15. Alan, I certainly agree with you that we should expect more of the same from the next administration. The running argument about a landslide election that the media and Obamabots celebrates never ceases to amaze me. Electorally, Obama did seal the win. However, the popular votes were nearly split down the middle for both candidates; a clear indication that this country will remain divided into the next administration.

    As for the court of world opinion, America is either damned if they do, or damned if they don’t. “US imperialism” is a term often bandied about by anti-Americans, so I will have to call you out on your claim to not be in that group. Our enemies will not go away simply because we have this media darling as our new POTUS.

    As for Bush being tried for crimes against humanity? If it hasn’t happened by now, it probably won’t in the future. You can blame Pelosi and Reid for that oversight. Though many will look as W’s presidency as a failure, only time will tell. Could it get any worse? Absolutely.

    As for Jonathan’s comments on Christian’s low expectations of Obama. There will be low points in Obama’s presidency, as there were in W’s. Though it would be ideal to have the entire country weather through those dark days, you should expect Republicans to afford the same courtesies to the new president that Democrats have given to the outgoing President.

  16. Mike, this is what I mean by American imperialism (see link). The US should not be the world police. I and many other people around the world do not like the talk of preemptive nuclear strikes. The perceived enemies which you talk about are fabled enemies.

    If Bush is not tried for war crimes, then the precedent is set for any future president to come along and get away with anything. A president will think twice about committing crimes if there is a deterrent. Allowing Congress to overlook such matters make the Legislative a non functioning arm of government since there is no true checks and balances. Any American happy with this situation should not even bother voting at an election since you already have a president who is above the law and a financial sector that is a quali level of government. Come on America, there are these wonderful things called the US constitution and the US bill of rights. The US founders created the three tire system of government being the Legislative, Executive and Judicial to prevent abuses of power.

    To call me out as anti-American is ridiculous when I support US constitution and the US bill of rights. I am anti-American imperialism or anti-unipolar. I would suggest that it is the Bush administration that is truly anti-American.

  17. As a vet of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for someone who supports sending troops to die for a made up war. McCain also advocates torture and much of the same “conservative” spending that got us into this economic mess. As for Obama, he fares better on social issues and science, but the way he voted on FISA and and picked a proponent of the Patriot Act as his running mate, I couldn’t do it. I voted for the 3rd largest party, Libertarian, and didn’t have to compromise my principles.

    P.S. I love your color blender, and so did my college professor. :-) It’s my favorite color tool online, and more useful than those fancy complex ones.

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