Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February 5, 2007

I’m writing this as we get ready to celebrate the Chinese New Year. This is the third New Year’s Day we will get off in 2008. We’ve gotten Jan. 1st off, the Muslim New Year in early January, and now on Feb. 7th, the Chinese New Year. I got to say, it ain’t bad getting all these days off. America needs to give it try. Take a break every now and then.

Seriously, I’m not here to bash America. Just the opposite really. Watching the presidential primaries from the other side of the world has been refreshing. First of all, it’s not in my face all the time that Obama once wiped a booger under the dinner table or McCain used “a” instead of “the” when talking about the 1973 oil embargo over coffee with his wife and what it all means for the future of the U.S. So, that’s been nice. And second, the whole world is watching: Indonesians, the Scot, the English, the Aussies, even the Canadian (kind of – she didn’t know who McCain was). For all the America bashing we put up with, they sure are interested in who will lead our country, not to mention our economy.

While we were in Bali in December, I watched a lot of coverage of the Iowa Caucuses. The BBC and Al-Jazeera both praised the American democratic process. Reporters spent several minutes trying to convey the seriousness (some) Americans take the primary process and what it means. A reporter on the BBC confessed that she thought it was the most ridiculous process she’d ever heard of before she arrived, then she quickly was very impressed.

Soeharto died just last week. His authoritarian government fell the same time as a Southeast Asian economic crisis in 1997. Indonesia, because they were transitioning into a democracy, was hit especially hard and is still recovering. And they still work to build a believable democracy. There just was rioting in protest over a gubernatorial election recount last month. Sarah and I, by the way, are constantly impressed that in spite of all this recent history Indonesia is surviving and functioning.

Yes. The U.S. isn’t perfect. We can be arrogant. We make mistakes… sometimes huge mistakes. But I have a little more faith in our system now after learning about one that is struggling to work, as well as the amount of faith the rest of the world has in the very system we pick apart – the same system that hardly missed a beat when Nixon was busted. No rampant rioting, no coups then.

So maybe the U.S. democracy can continue to work.

Pay attention. Vote. Then throw the bums out next election if they lie.

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