I’d like to comment on the Obama camp drawing out their vice presidential nomination until the entire American – and international – public was sick with a bad case of blue balls. What was the point? Since that afternoon, when even the journalists were getting fidgety and annoyed, I haven’t heard much about why I received a New York Times email alert about Joe Biden’s VP nomination at an irritating 1 in the morning. Was it just an effort to boost enthusiasm for the Democratic party by creating an air of mystery and anticipation? Or was Obama pacing alone in his bathroom – with a sobbing Hillary on the other end of the phone line – leaving it to the very last minute to decide?
Luckily, I didn’t wait up for it. I live in France, you see, so it would have been a consciously fruitless venture. Unlike last night, when I sat on my lopsided couch watching CNN, waiting and waiting and – painfully – waiting for Michelle Obama to deliver her speech. In the end, I nearly got the whole thing verbatim, though second-hand, as pre-recorded newscasts were shown on repeat for hours preceding the actual event. Damn the stupid time difference in France.
My waiting ended at 3 a.m. when the pain behind my eyes became unbearable and the thought of getting through my next day 12 hour work shift on 5 hours of sleep seemed like just enough torture for one week. Just before hitting the sack, I managed to catch glimpses of the empowering speeches by Jesse Jackson Jr. and Ted Kennedy. I have never felt sympathetic for this Kennedy – admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to fill even a small paragraph about him intelligently – but a dying man with a brain tumor electrifying the crowd in honor of an already inspiring candidate was moving.
Closing up shop chez moi, I thought back to that old New York Times email alert and all the waiting I’ve been doing lately for the Democratic party. My French friends can’t understand it. They keep asking me why the U.S. presidential election process goes on so long. I fumble to answer their queries without using the words “hype,” “egotistic” or “million dollar debt” – but can’t. Still, even France’s most reputable national newspaper Le Monde put the Democratic national convention on their front page yesterday. While some French people don’t understand our political system, most of them know it better than I do. And our country’s history too, for that matter.
And so I wait. Not that I’m unwilling to put in the time. But being abroad is one of the most frustrating states to live in during a presidential election, especially when one of the conventions – nevermind that it is of the opposing party – is being held in my hometown in a few days time. I tell you, there is no sense of excitement, no feeling of something greater, of contributing your voice to your country, in filling in a bubble for the appropriate candidate on a piece of sterile white ballot paper, alone in your apartment kitchen.
And so I will wait some more. Tonight is another example of my tenacity where I will attempt to catch the supposed Hillary Clinton speech on Day Two of the convention. I’ve already missed Michelle and nearly the entire Obama campaign process – not by my lack of dedication but because my computer won’t support downloaded online videos (and the French haven’t quite mastered subtitled segments in news programs, opting to dub all English TV content into their native tongue). Sure, there’s the radio, and those catchy French dub artists, but there’s something visceral about watching a candidate spout off through the virtual reality of my TV screen.
Time now? 2:27 a.m. I don’t know if I will make it. Maybe tomorrow Hillary will pop up on Youtube? Or maybe it’s not worth it in the end. After everything is said and done, I will not be part of the outdoor rallies against McCain in Minneapolis, or experience the thunder of a live Obama (performance) speech, or hear what people are saying around town. As the only American I know in this little French city, I am confident that in November, I will feel just less than an ounce of excitement as I fill in my absentee ballot, alone again in my kitchen, for my bid for America’s next President.
After all that waiting, you can bet that the anticlimax will be palpable.