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Cheers and Tears for the American Flag

My colleague Jesse Schwartz wrote an op-ed about his transatlantic travels since 2004. Experiencing the US elections in Berlin, he concludes that America is more than a place again: America: New Beginnings, an Old Idea.

He describes the mood at an election party:

As Obama's electoral vote count rose, so did the ebullience. Excitement soon gave way to pure euphoria. This was to be expected, especially from the Americans. But then I saw tears streaming down the face of grown men from Zambia, a fourteen year old girl from Berlin and her mother, Germans, Americans, Irish, white, black, old, young, everyone. The catharsis was overwhelming. America the idea, that ineffable concept, was pouring from people's eyes. This confluence of historic moments had produced something I had never thought possible from my experiences of the past five years. Cheers. Cheers for America. Cheers for the American flag. Uproarious Cheers when Obama told the world, "God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America." Cheers for all things American. And above all Cheers for the idea that is America.


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Joe Noory on :

He should have seen ad written about the photo exhibits upstairs at the Amerika Haus election party too, complete with smiling people holding the US flag upside down, shouting and screaming, a photo-essay fixated on seeing American culture through the travels of a German coke bottle, etc. It was ripe with the cheap, easy, stupid and obvious cliches of people not terribly familiar with Americans and American life. All that to say that the expression of feeling, including the adulation and expectation has many sides to it. It easiest to understand as a form of projecting ones' hopes and frustrations on the election specifically. Otherwise it's projected on whatever idea an individual has of America in the abstract where there no specific event like an election to dwell on. The relvance of those feelings expressed also has limitations. I'm afraid that for the most part the don't really have a large stake in what form the White House really takes, even those who are US citizens living abroad as to what policies it carries out and so forth in the way that Americans living stateside do. The degree to which that they are actual stakeholders is limited.

David on :

I'll never forget that cold day in February 2007 when a group of us got together to watch Barack Obama announce his candidacy on television. We made a vow that we would do whatever we could to get him elected. Similar vows were being made by small groups across the America. On that day, the odds seemed pretty long. Since then, our small group made thousands of calls, knocked on hundreds of doors and contributed whatever we were able. So it was with a great deal of pride that we watched the election returns on November 4. Pride in our small individual efforts, pride in the unprecedented organization of volunteers around the country, and pride in the American people for the historic vote. The mood that Jesse Schwartz describes was repeated in spontaneous celebrations around the US, including a crowd that gathered that night on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. As a nation we have indeed come a long way from 1887 when Frederick Douglass said, "I have no patriotism" for a nation that does "not recognize me as a man."

Joe Noory on :

Can we take a cue from 8 years of the lefty social monopoly on dramatic exxagerated tantrums, and call that gathering a "cabal"? Although you would probably like to think of that moment as some sort of great moment for constitutional fundamentals, all it was was a party-political rally. Other peple have them too, and they don't try to sell it as mythical and heroic CPR for humanity. Instead of trying to invent a legend and folk/generational/populist/inspirational hero out of someone who has yet to even take office or accomplish anything as an elected official, why not look at the election of a Democrat as an opportunity to propose actual ideas to the public? This unjustified emotionalism and lionizing before the fact is dangerous to the people who engage in it. It's the problem of people who try to make a charismatic leader out of a mere human. It's also deeply dishonest because you know full well that the same people who do that will not look honestly at their guy's errors. You're right that have come a long way from 1887. Tell that to the activists trained into class-struggle theory and the methods of the Frankfurt school who continue to seem enamored with repeating endlessly selective social flaws from the past that only applied to society in the past as a means of cutting others out of discourse and making effective non-citizens out of anyone who disagrees with their world view - just as there was and is a huge need for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, because the balance of the media is unwilling and incapable of intellectual inclusion. If the past trends in leftist activism is a guide, we will likely end up with union run dirgisme that will divide the population, and diminish the economic future for the entire population, especially those not in unionized sectors. It will also ventually make party-politcal alignment a tacit requirement for those sectors of the economy as well. The social commenters, those unproductive parasites, will try to wrap it in a veneer of inexplicable intangibles like social solidarity, social justice, and will as past trends show, use it for no reason other than to construct the same monopoly on political power that they have in education and academia. It's as destructive as the behavior of one-party states, and it's what you get with charismatic-centered concepts of leadership. Ultimately, it pushes the trend in the direction of strong-man politics.

Pamela on :

"As a nation we have indeed come a long way from 1887 when Frederick Douglass said, "I have no patriotism" for a nation that does "not recognize me as a man." yeah, right. So the flight from reasoned morality continues. You supported a man who spent 20 years in a racist church, who was married by a racist and who allowed his children to be baptized by a racist. And why? Because his skin is black. You refused to recognize the man. This is not 'post-racial'. This is race obsession. In the service of your own moral vanity. *spit*

Don S on :

I find the mood of some of what I read concerning Obama - a little scary. This whole thing of supporting Obama as a moral crusade concerns me. I voted for Obama but my continued support depends strictly upon pragmatic criteria like actual performance in office. And also upon whom the GOP nominates to run against him in 2012. I couldn't stomach Huckabee, for instance. Obama would have to be an utter debacle in office for me to go that way. If Obama doesn't perform well and the GOP nominates someone like Guliani, Jindal, or even Romney, well..... This is not a flaming moral crusade, this is pragmatic politics. Perform or perish. The kind of drivel being written about Obama makes me want to yerk. The victory wasn't so wide that you can afford to ignore the pragmatists and establish the Cult of St. Obama. Won't work....

Marie Claude on :

you'll have Sarah, she is the one with ", (and the Bible), says the "club", they don't want blueblooded Republicans such as McCain anymore !!! so, good luck, for the promised paradise, no new ideas, but old-fashionned recepts

Joe Noory on :

I wonder if it would be germaine to do as the democrats did, and insist that street canvassers "get in the face" of people, and ask them aggressively who they're going to vote for and why? Is it becuase they want the political paybacks to the unions or the shakedowns of companies productive enough to actually employ people? All I see so far is a few decent appointments to treasury and commerces, and a blatantly venal appointment of someone with absolutely no affinity for the job and a spouse with a huge number of conflicts of interest at Dept. of State. This isn't Hope, but it is Change - a change to a really sad age of 19th century style vote-buying back room deals. It's city politics brought to the world stage.

David on :

"I wonder if it would be germaine to do as the democrats did, and insist that street canvassers "get in the face" of people, and ask them aggressively who they're going to vote for and why? Is it becuase they want the political paybacks to the unions or the shakedowns of companies productive enough to actually employ people?" My guess is you've never been involved in political campaign. That's how elections are won and lost on the ground. But you stand on the side and mock those who get involved in the process. My guess is that deep down you despise democracy. The voters have made their choice - decisively - and you refuse to accept it.

Joe Noory on :

I have volunteered in campaigns, and no, they aren't all won by sweating people and branding them with fear, playing games for mere power over angry popular factions, and riot-exciting class-warfare arguments. All you have to do is walk off of the plantation to discover that.

Don S on :

I'm not an enthusiastic Palin supporter although I did like some things about here. She would have to have a lot of growth before she is proper 'persidential timber' in my view. But it's possible if she learns what she must over the next 4 or 8 years. Huckabee is simply impossible dead stop, for a whole range of reasons. Palin has potential, Huckabee does not. And either Guiliani or Romney could be President tomorrow. Jindal is a bit like Obama but with more real-world experience. Though Obama is likely to learn a helluva lot in 4 years....

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