It’s big moments such as the election that make me feel very isolated and far away from home. I watch the events of yesterday unfold from a distance of 6,000 miles and wish I could be closer. There’s no one I can share it with here. The English Husband is, to put it bluntly, not American and sometimes I feel the difference in our cultures pretty acutely. I sense that the kids will be somewhat alien to me, too, if we continue to stay here.
But I have to hand it to the Brits – they know how to cover a US election. What I’m always impressed with as an American in a foreign country is just how much news coverage the US gets, the election included. We are not talking about a 3-minute segment with a pundit in the UK who talks about the differences between Democrats and Republicans.
The biggest media outlets in the UK, including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, have thrown huge resources at this election and they have an army of reporters and correspondents in the United States, giving a literal blow-by-blow account of what happens. The BBC, for instance, aired its famous, live election-night program that started at 11.35pm GMT yesterday; it goes on until the winner is declared. It wrapped up today at 7am, with the presenters and guests starting to look a little worse for wear.
I didn’t stay up to watch it, but it’s a testament to how much the US matters that the BBC does it at all. I can’t imagine ABC News doing something like this for the UK’s election. My guess is that anchor Diane Sawyer would do one of her famous dewy-eyed looks at the camera, announce the result in 10 seconds and then cut to a 1-minute recorded package.
In my dreams
Two nights before the election I have a restless sleep that’s punctuated by dreams related to politics. Last night it’s more specific. I have dreams about Mitt Romney winning the presidency. In my dreams, the headlines read: ‘Mitt just tips it. Yip.’ I toss and turn, wake up and then toss some more. In the middle of the night I want to go over to the television and turn it on, to see what’s happened, but I know I’ll get sucked in and stare at it like a zombie.
In the morning I switch on the TV as Obama’s victory speech is being broadcast live. My mother calls me at 7.15am, just before I go to work. The first word out of my mouth is simply ‘Obama’. At that moment I wish, more than anything, that I could be there in person to hug her.
In London, without exception, I can tell you that the mood is one of jubilation. In the office I can hear many people breathing sighs of relief while saying how happy they are that he’s been given another term. They’re not even American, but they seem to care. He’s a popular man here and in other parts of Europe. The world respects America more because he is in office. Of that I have no doubt.
On a funny footnote, the BBC reported today that a woman who lives near Obama’s ancestral village in Kenya has named her newborn twins Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Perhaps she is expecting that they will grow up waging bitter childlike wars against each other.