T-shirts declaring “Bangkok for Barack” were made. T-shirts with Obama’s name were printed in Thai and sold at street stalls from Chiang Mai to the capital. People had buttons and bands. And all of his supporters were at the Roadhouse BBQ on Election Day (Wednesday morning to be more accurate) to celebrate his historic victory.
The celebrations in this part of world couldn’t compare to the carnival-like atmosphere in New York City or the emotional outpouring of relief and ecstasy in Grant Park in Chicago. But those expats here who are of a more liberal bent have had absentee ballots mailed in for months, have volunteered with Democrats Abroad and have kept a close, if not nervous eye on the election.
The relief and jubilation at 11 am on Wednesday morning was immense. The early drinkers raised their beers high, friends hugged, and high-fives were exchanged among friends and strangers. Some even cried.
Of course, the early election results were a bit anti-climactic for many (especially those of us who had to work afterward) but the ecstatic moods had not diminished later that night. Even a DJ Shadow show featured videos and a tribute to our new president, a presentation that was met with applause and whoops from a celebratory audience.
I have traveled quite a bit in the last eight years and have hung my head because of my American heritage, making apologies for an administration that has diminished the respect and admiration of our great country around the world. I was nearly thrown down a flight of stairs five years ago by a woman at a London bar so infuriated at me because of a benign conversation about American politics.
But we can now usher in a new era, one where we can once again feel proud of our country and the steps we are taking not only to repair our damaged relations, but the dramatic change we have effected in electing an African-American president. If our country can reconcile our sometimes crippling prejudices to elect a true leader, there is no telling the progress we can make in the next four years.