10 November 2008


On Tuesday I went to the American Embassy's reception, where I stayed only long enough to see the state where I voted be the first to declare its tiny 3 votes for Obama, to see that of all the states in the union it had the highest percentage voting Obama. Then at home I watched more, as state after state went blue, then fell asleep and woke just in time for his speech in Chicago. It's an exciting moment and I am glad to see some hope, some inspiration, some new possibilities.

Here in Iceland I have only met 3 McCain supporters- the American Baptists from the church on the road to the airport. Everyone else is delighted, and on Wednesday evening at my choir rehearsal nearly my entire voice section congratulated me on "my new president". And then, as we dug into the Christmas songs that will be our holiday program, I thought of how the roles of my two countries have reversed. For so long it was easier, more convenient to say that I was coming from Iceland while abroad, since being American could bring trouble. Now, mentioning Iceland abroad seems to bring trouble while it's finally ok to be American.

Don't get me wrong, I've never pretended I were Canadian, or pretended I were Icelandic, or hidden my Americanness in any way, but I have been aware that in general we were not a popular nation, or rather our president was not a popular one. But now, somehow the hopes of America have become the hopes of the world. One president of one country cannot solve it all but a little inspiration does go a long way, and as a colleague said, the Americans now have something that I think Iceland needs right now- an inspiring leader with a totally different background that those that have been in charge for years.

I do fear that somehow the whole world is looking to this one man in one nation to fix the ills that have crippled countries everywhere. I know that can't happen, that we all have to work on it together. And yet somehow, having someone is already at work, is making even the most politically cynical people feel that he's talking directly to them, gives me hope that somehow we can all find our way out of this mess together.

Here in Iceland there definitely has been a greater rumbling of disgruntlement, but as one of my choir members said, Iceland has never been in the habit of complaining. In America, the break from colonial rule came by actually fighting for it. Here it was taken at a time when the ruling country was busy dealing with much greater, more immediate troubles. But now, in one person's words "Iceland is turning into France". The protests tend to be a bit disjointed, with a few hanger-on groups trying to push their own agendas, but at least there's something happening. It remains to be seen what will happen, whether it will really cause any sort of governmental change.


sv koho said...

ECS: it's unfamiliar terrain to at last almost being rid of this disastrous administration which has destroyed this country. Taking over banks doesn't fix a broken economic model, but at least in Iceland, they took over the banks. Here they shovel money at banks so they have enough money to pay bonuses and can buy smaller banks thereby making the whole system ever more fragile. If you didn't see this article,fyi:www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/world/europe/09iceland.html?hp.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brenton Eccles said...

It always remains to be seen. Always we have to wait for the decisions of leaders.

I'm a bit sceptical about Obama. I mean, it's absolutely wonderful that the world (appears) to be past it's racist side ... well to some extent anyway.

What I'm sceptical on is whether there will be change. America is kind of like a stone in the ocean because when something drops in the whole world gets a "ripple" from it.

In his win speech he proclaimed "change has come to america..." but what change, Mr. Obama?

ECS said...

sv koho: it remains to be seen whether taking over the banks has really been the right choice. We're all in a bit of a holding pattern here. And yes, I did see the article- any time anything's written about Iceland I usually have a dozen friends send it to me :)

plo: I liked the comment!

brenton: well, give the guy a chance! He's not even president yet. There's a website where he's supposed to be explaining in more detail if you're curious. It's at change.gov.

But this is kind of what I mean by it seems that people have higher expectations than he (or anyone) can deliver. Change on the scale of a country the size of America doesn't happen because a new guy is president elect for a week.

sv koho said...

Paulson has the mindset of a banker and a CEO, the worst sort of banker: the now extinct pure investment banker. His bailout was for his tribe. It has been a disastrous failure giving free money to the people that caused the problem and putting no restrictions on how its used, your money ECS. His idea of cash for trash was opposed by 90+% of the world and it was abandoned yesterday. The mindset is to restore debt and credit to an
economy bent over double under overwhelming debt and credit. It is a failure. The next step is to prop up failing companies with your money. It also will fail. They are socializing the risks and privatizing the profits.

Paul said...

"...it's finally ok to be American"

It's *always* OK to be American. This is especially true for level-headed expats like ourselves. =)

It seems shallow when people sneer at me for being from "TEXAS". Interestingly though, I got the most sneers when living in Boston!

Dawn said...

I'd love to hear an update. Just today we saw a ton of stuff in the news about Iceland. We were considering coming over to Reykjavik again in early 2009, but IcelandAir's prices nearly tripled in the last few weeks. Hrmph.

alcan said...

Glitnir Banki files for US bankruptcy protection http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/26/business/26icebank.php

Coming soon to a street corner near you.