I desperately want to finish that by saying, “…the day the music died.” But I won’t.
Every generation has their question. “Where were you when…” From shootings to national tragedies, our where-were-you questions tend to be a bit morbid. But, it’s something that people never forget. I will never forget where I was, the emotions that washed over me, that September morning. Standing aghast in my pjs in front our common room TV in Faithful 419. Everyone has their story. Not just Americans. The world over, people remember that fateful moment. And they shared in our national pain and sorrow.
Yesterday. Our generation got the opportunity for a fresh kind of Question. Where were you the day our great nation changed history forever, electing Barak Obama as its President? Most people I know where probably snug in their pjs, curled on the couch or in bed, glued to their pick of news channels. Where was I when I heard the news? Stuck in mid-day traffic in Manila in a taxi, on my way to the airport to return to Hong Kong, being accompanied by new friends Zarla and Chickay. Chickay received a call on her cell phone, and whoever it was on the other line said, “Is Liza with you? Obama won!” Minutes later, over the staticy radio, the news was announced in the Philippines. “America has *static* new Presid*static* Obama *static.” And I’ll admit, I danced a little. Right there, in a taxi in the middle of mid-day Manila traffic. Zarla and Chickay gave yelps of joy for me. This time, they got to share in our nation’s joy and hope.
It was a good feeling to share that moment with these two special women. I had just spent the last month sharing in and experiencing their culture. I visited Muslim communities under military patrol for no reason; a seaside community built on stilts to avoid the constant flooding that comes with rainy season and no city drainage; homes of migrant families; a month-long boycott camp set up on the street in front of a restaurant; and an underground recording studio for the punk movement. While the election matters of my nation splayed the front pages of their nation’s papers every day in the week leading up to November 4, there were other issues, some would say bigger issues, going on right in front of me, that never made the news. Stories of violence, oppression, hunger, anger, injustice, bigotry, fear. And stories of hope, grace, peace, kindness, beauty, truth. These stories intermingled and told themselves to me daily. At night, I slept, hearing their words repeated over and over. During the day, I witnessed the people behind these stories display a great amount of courage as they faced a new day of struggle with hope and tenacity.
So when people say that this election affects the world over, they are right. And they are wrong. Yes, the whole world was watching. Is watching. Will be watching. Yes, American policies affect other countries. The wars America wage destroy more than the countries we invade. The capitalist system we live under serves as a model for some, and a warning for others. Yet, at the same time, the world marches on, regardless of who is in power. Families still cling to the hope that they will one day not be torn apart by the need to search for work abroad. Children still fight daily battles for opportunities at education and a balanced meal. Rice paddies still need to be harvested. While it may seem like the world has stopped to celebrate this day, this very historic day; truth be told, the sun has risen and set on this side of the world, and lives have gone on. As they should.
Even my little dance in the taxi was short lived. An exciting moment to be sure. One to always be remembered and treasured. But in my last few moments with Chickay and Zarla, I didn’t want to spend them talking about American politics. So we talked about other things. Philippine things. And that was good too.