It seemed fitting that yesterday Mozambican election campaigning began for November 19 local elections. Overnight appeared faces of middle-aged, serious-looking, suited men plastered to walls and telephone poles. Groups of people gathered along roads wearing matching tee-shirts bearing the same faces. For two days, honking, open-backed trucks have been driving through town filled with clapping, chanting, flag-waving political party supporters. So far I’ve only witnessed red flags – the flag of the ruling party. When I asked colleagues about opposing party campaigns, I was told that the ruling party has the most “conditions” to afford trucks. Others are also campaigning but more quietly and localized.
The atmosphere slightly lessened my jealousy and longing to be in the States, especially with my parents in Chicago who were looking forward to joining hundreds of thousands of other Obama supporters in Grant Park. But I was also anticipating a night at a friend’s air-conditioned house with cable TV and CNN election coverage through the night. Almost like being in America.
When I went to bed after midnight, still afternoon in the US, I cheered on the voters on the other side of the world. I had sent my absentee ballot in weeks earlier so felt a tiny bit connected to the unifying factor of my country yesterday – getting out to vote. When else do so many millions of diverse people focus on the same subject?
I fell asleep grateful that my vote would be counted fairly, that it would go to the candidate I chose, that it would be counted as one vote as equally as every other vote. I fell asleep grateful that, barring Florida-like debacles, the world would know by the next day who the 44th US president would be.
Contrast my vote to a Zimbabwean vote, which is counted any which way Mugabe chooses and reported months later. Or to a Kenyan vote, which results in loss of lives and property. Or to a Mozambican vote, which will determine a voter’s job position, location, and salary. Or to a North Korean vote, which only goes to one candidate.
I am not a patriotic person. I will not fly an American flag. I will not blindly support any decision made by my government. I will not insist that because we’re bigger and more dominating, that we are, therefore, better. I will not claim that we do things better than other countries which I know little or nothing about. I will not suggest that in the cases where we do do things better, that our model should be replicated in another contexts. I’ve been accused of being anti-American because of these convictions.
The truth is, I think America is great. I have the freedom as a woman to drive, to own property (which I don’t but can), to travel independently, and to choose from a variety of occupations. As a Christian, I may wear a cross, worship in a church or outdoors, and read a Bible in public. I can write this blog without censorship. I can speak ill of my government without fear of reprisal. I have a good-quality university education that I earned fairly. We have schools and trained teachers available for every child, every child. And every child has access to resources in schools and meals. We have health insurance issues, but we have well-trained doctors and plenty of them. We have good infrastructure. We have oceans and lakes and mountains and canyons and deserts and forests and prairies. We have really cheap gas, even when it costs $4 per gallon. We can drink our tap water. Children don’t die of diarrhea. Malaria doesn’t exist.
And we can vote freely and fairly. We know that our votes make a difference and are willing to stand in long lines in sometimes poor weather conditions to make that difference. When we want change, we can make it happen.
Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate America more and more. Today I am especially proud to be part of her.