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October 25, 2008

Greetings from Toronto
Posted by Patrick at 01:56 PM * 51 comments

The whole world is holding its breath.

Comments on Greetings from Toronto:
#1 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:04 PM:

It would be nice to have a President that foreigners actually respect, you know?

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Actual Toronto Star story here, but it was the image I found most striking.

There are T-shirts featuring heroic images of Obama for sale in multiple shop windows along Spadina.

People's hopes are so high, and not just inside the US. They want him to win. But I think they also want their old image of the US back, the US as something to admire and aspire to. That image was always part fantasy. But so is any kind of hope. It keeps people going. I hope--I think--he gets that. He has billions of people's hearts in his hands.

#3 ::: Pixelfish ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Connie@1: Hell, I'd be happy with a president I respect.

#4 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:33 PM:

"Without a vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29:18.

#5 ::: Carol Witt ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:33 PM:

*waves to Patrick from Scarborough (eastern Toronto)*

We have to be hopeful about the US race here. Our fellow citizens keep voting for the conservatives and Harper!

My husband (who has voted already) asked me last night if we can go to Toronto's Democrats Abroad gathering on election night. I don't enjoy crowds, but it could be interesting to share the experience.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:35 PM:

Patrick @ 2... I think they also want their old image of the US back, the US as something to admire and aspire to. That image was always part fantasy. But so is any kind of hope.

They climbed up the ramp to the ship. It was already filled with American soldiers returning home. They ran to the railing, and Kicsi thought how odd it was that they were all so anxious to get a last look at the land they were leaving. Vörös's hair was a small dot of color among the people on the dock. He waved at her.

The ship left the dock. She waved back to him and continued to wave until he was out of sight. The coastline faded as slowly as a smile fade.

She turned and looked to the west, to America.

(From Lisa Goldstein's The Red Magician)

#7 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:38 PM:

Patrick @#2 -- I want my old image of the US back. Yes, it was never a fully accurate image -- and it was still a point to aspire towards.

#8 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Serge: Right. Right. Right. Right. Right.

#9 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:48 PM:

The Economist has a global electoral map. McCain is leading in Cuba, Algeria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Georgia, and Iraq. Everybody else, Obama.

#10 ::: Nicholas Tam ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Black Canadians? That's it? I can tell you, on the ground, that even over here in Alberta (ostensibly the bastion of Canadian conservatism) we're ready to celebrate - independent of ethnicity, independent of colour, and in many cases independent of what the myth of ideology tells us we're "supposed" to support. The sentiment among those who follow politics up here: wariness at what Obama's occasionally protectionistic tendencies may mean for us, outweighed by the utter unacceptability of his defeat.

Have you seen the global electoral college?

#11 ::: Nicholas Tam ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:55 PM:

(Alas, I see Mr Hamilton (#9) beat me to the punch. Well met, well met.)

#12 ::: Sophie ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 03:21 PM:

I'd probably be guilty of making a horrifically sweeping generalisation if I said that everybody in Europe were rooting for Obama. But this at least I know to be true: here in Ireland, I, my family, and all my friends are busily engaged in chewing our nails to the quick as we watch the race unfold (that is, when we're not keeping our fingers firmly crossed for an Obama victory).

#13 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 03:41 PM:

That is truly weird. Are they sure that Cuba wants McCain? Did they perhaps confuse the Miami Mafia with the island?

Because, um, this is not at all what I'm hearing coming from the island.

Love, C.

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Good lord. Let's hope the xenophobic wing of the Republican party doesn't see that map, or it'll be fodder for another string of attack ads and Palin-yammer.

#15 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Constance (#13): Maybe Raúl wants to keep the embargo-excuse in play to explain the Cuban economy, and he figures that McCain's his best bet in that regard.

After all, he's probably got more Internet connectivity than the rest of the population combined....

#16 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 04:00 PM:

I agree the Cuba results are a bit suss, but remember they're polling people with intartubez access who read the Economist. That skews the results different ways in different countries, doesn't it?

#17 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 05:23 PM:

This white Canadian is pulling for Obama. (She also happens to be an American citizen, and utterly thrilled to have been able to cast her ballot already via early voting.)

It will be really, really nice to have a US president who's competent and in touch with reality. I know my country of birth and my country of residence often have differences, and we Canucks sometimes dislike the US on principle--we're not the 51st state, after all, y'know! and all that--but that gets worse with leaders like the current one, and better with ones who at least deal with the rest of the world like adults. At the worst of times, it feels like Canada is being dragged along to destruction by its proximity to the US, and that's scary. At the best of times, we're siblings arguing, but still affectionate towards each other. I'd love to see that happen again, and while Obama won't fix everything wrong, he's hella better than the other guy.

#18 ::: Sten Thaning ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Another problem with the Economist map: it doesn't seem to check whether you actually happen to be in the country you claim. I had no problem voting as a 83 year old female from Libya.

It is actually worse than that -- it doesn't even seem to check IP addresses, just users, for purposes of preventing multiple votes. I could spend a couple of hours registring a new user for every single country in the world, if I wanted to, say, give McCain some much-needed help in the poll.

#19 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 07:02 PM:

My son is five now, and is just becoming aware of the political process. The thing that gives me most hope for the world is that he will grow up, seeing Barack Obama as President, and he will not understand that there's anything extraordinary about it. He will just think that's the way things are.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 07:31 PM:



I watched this twice today.

#21 ::: Lola Raincoat ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 10:35 PM:

I'm a US citizen living in Toronto. I can tell you it's not just people of African descent here who are praying and hoping. It's all of us. I haven't seen so much good will here toward the US since 9/11.

#22 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 11:23 PM:

*waves to Lola et all from Ottawa*

What she said. Man, it's gonna be so embarrassing when you have Obama and we have Harper... but it'll be a weird sort of pleasure being embarrassed.

#23 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 11:45 PM:

Alex @19 -- I had a similar thought. My daughter will be 3 in December, and if Obama is elected he will be the first president she remembers. Our children will grow up in a different world, and it needs to be the best one we can give them.

#24 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 12:07 AM:

This is the first election my 10-year-old brother remembers, I think. And he's firmly in the Obama camp, despite the disagreements on specific policies that his parents and I have over his head. (I still don't know how my parents voted last week: two days before we went in to early-vote, my dad was considering writing in Ron Paul because he dislikes McCain but wasn't sure he could support Obama being pro-choice.) My 12-year-old sister reports back that while most of her dance class are Republicans, one is wearing a "Republicans for Obama" button. Both kids are clearly impressed by the anti-war things they've heard from their parents and me. I hope the first few years of their political awareness shows them good people overturning previous bad decisions. I'd like despair not to be the first thing they associate with voting.

#25 ::: Steve Kopka ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 02:02 AM:

Just pointing out the other headline:

Help make Christmas joyful for all our kids.

#26 ::: Sebastian ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 02:50 AM:

Please, please, please. I'm (here in Edmonton, AB) watching fivethirtyeight every day and hoping that all the signs aren't wrong. It's been such a long 8 years. If conservative Alberta can vote in a (left-wing) NDP MP, then Obama can win -- can't he?

Can't he?


#27 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 03:56 AM:

UK resident and white/biracial Canadian here, fingers crossed.

The typical conversation when I meet new people:

"I couldn't help but notice...are you American?"

"No, Canadian."

"Oh, I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have assumed..."

Though I will always feel some sibling rivalry with the States, it would be very nice to have that exchange go differently in future...

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 07:44 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 20... Thanks for the link. Change, indeed. Let's hope that, when Obama doesn't make all the changes we wish for, people won't turn on him. Sainthood is a fickle thing in America.

#29 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 08:32 AM:

For the first time I'm going to be sitting up watching the progress of the American election as closely and as excitedly as I would a local (Australian) one. Like it or not, what happens in America is important all over the world - 900 pound gorilla and all that.

I can almost always find someone I want to lose an election, but it's not often that I find someone I actively want to win, someone who is more than the lesser of two evils. And I've got a feeling Obama might be a good one.

According to an article in the Melbourne Age today, 75% of Australians would cast a vote for Obama if they could, which sounds about right. Unfortunately the context of the article was a scare piece reporting the comments of a Liberal (translation: our local center-right party, not the American meaning of the term) think tank warning that if Obama came to power the "special relationship" between America and Australia would be threatened. I respond to this with a rude noise for a number of reasons.

#30 ::: Joe Clark ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 10:57 AM:

“The whole world” isn’t doing *anything*. That’s good writing there, Hayden.

#31 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 12:50 PM:

Joe (presumably not formerly The Right Honourable) Clark:

I think you will find that the gentleman's name is Nielsen Hayden.

#32 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Well, I've just cast my first ever absentee vote, as a new expatriate (or ex-parrot, as the case may be.) I am monstrously suspicious of optimism, and hope is a four-letter word. HOWEVER, There is something about. Something in the air...If I might be indulged to quote a great American:

Could be!
Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

(Courtesy, Stephen Sondheim).

#33 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Joe Clark @30, you don't get good writing by insisting on the precision of legal documents everywhere. And if you want to be pedantic, it helps to get basic facts right, such as the names of the people you're addressing.

#34 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 04:29 PM:

I am pretty certain -- speaking as a British liberal -- that Obama will disappoint me.

But I'm fairly certain the disappointments will amount to the usual symptoms of discovering that a new political leader cannot, in fact, walk on water and cure The King's Evil.

Whereas McCain -- and what comes after -- is a thing of horror.

#35 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 04:46 PM:

Charlie Stross (34) *and I can't believe I'm replying to one of my favorite novelists* Of course Obama will be disappointing. If McCain (and afterwards) was elected you wouldn't have time for disappointment. Either the smear of light across the sky or the earth-grounding concussion would alert you - the time has come. Admittedly, I'm not sure what would come first. Surely some of the hard-core boffins here will be happy to explain.

#36 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 04:58 PM:

I studied abroad in Greece this past spring. In an attempt to stay informed, I picked up the International Herald Tribune as often as I could. Now, this was still in serious primary season, but I was struck by the number of opinions, both by guest columnists and in letters to the editor, expressing how inspiring it was that Barack Obama was even running for president, let alone that he might be elected. I had not appreciated how much it could mean to the rest of the world, if he - as a biracial man - were to become president of the United States. How much that alone would change how we as a nation are perceived. Sitting in my apartment in Athens, I discovered I was more than a little inspired, myself.

#37 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Hello, Joe. Do you plan to stick around and converse, or was that just a random drive-by?

#38 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 05:26 PM:

It's likely the Toronto Joe Clark that's well known for his highly opinionated writing and attacks; certainly not the Right Honourable. Given that one of his well known hobby horses is correctness on the part of others, it's a shame that he's not applying the same standard to himself.

#39 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 05:50 PM:

xeger@ 38: Ah, thank you; I was unaware of Toronto Joe, and thought it might have been either an unconscious or a slightly inspired pseud. :)

The Once But Probably Not Future Right Honourable and Sometime Honourable Joe (and why is it impossible to make that locution without sounding as if he'd fallen from Grace, in stages, instead of merely retiring from politics?) is more interesting, better mannered, and rather more loquacious.

#40 ::: Pocketeer ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 09:24 PM:

holding our breath?
We're not holding our breath. In fact, the collective amount of hot air expended should be factored into current climate models.

In Winnipeg, tossing around "The Latest" about that leadership campaign in that other country just south of us is basic conversation fodder where I live. Better than our non-event election. Harper. Feh. blah. pfft. moving on...

Growing up I somehow came to see the US as this crazy conflicted place that didn't seem all that great (sometimes pretty awful, actually)... but it always seemed to be aspiring to some great image of itself. Then (it seemed to me) it stopped aspiring for a while.

I think that apathy might be cracking. "Way" back Obama and Hillary were still fighting it out I remarked to a friend that even if he didn't enact all that much change, Obama as De Prez could effect a great change the mindset of America at Large. He could change the way they thought about themselves and their country. His campaign, and his "image", has always seems to be based on believing people actually want to know details. about things. Like, important things. That affect them personally and stuff.

Sure, I know he's great with the rhetoric, too. But I still stand by the comment.

#41 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 11:35 PM:

dlbowman76, #35, Charlie has a blog where you can reply to him more frequently.

#42 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2008, 11:50 PM:

I take it for granted that Obama can't accomplish any more than a tiny fraction of what we want to see: the damage done to the U.S. will take more than 4 or even 8 years to repair, I fear.

But my hope is that he will set the machinery into motion that will lead to that distant recovery.

#43 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 12:15 AM:

Y'know, as long as Obama makes it possible for Ginsberg, Souter, and Stevens to retire without being replaced by ultra-right-wing loonies, I'm prepared to be disappointed in him from time to time.

#44 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 03:53 AM:

Do you guys remember that story where a woman at a McCain rally said she was afraid of Obama the Muslim terrorist, and McCain said to her that she shouldn't be afraid, that Obama wasn't really a Muslim or a terrorist?

In that same spirit I say to dlbowman76@35 that neither McCain nor Palin in office would trigger global nuclear holocaust. This is the kind of thing people point to when they say things like "Bush Derangement Syndrome". There's enough bad stuff that they really would do, that we can talk about, without having to descend to that level.

#45 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 07:09 AM:

David Goldfarb (44): Point taken, and my previous post was meant to be a touch more sarcastic than apparently it came off. But this is an interesting question. How can we definitively know that neither McCain nor Palin would escalate a military confrontation to the point where a regional nuclear exchange could occur? I'm frankly unwilling to assume that that could never happen, considering the temperaments of the PNAC members who are now his chief foreign policy advisors (See Messrs Scheunemann, Kagan, and Kristol.)

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 07:22 AM:

Janet Lafler @ 43... I'm with you. I expect he'll do what he can so that the country becomes a better place. I know I'll look at some some of his actions and wonder "Why did you do that?" But I'll try to remember what was said to the Sorbonne, in 1910, by Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
#47 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 10:30 AM:

Tlönista #27 : nothing much has changed. Back in the 60s and 70s (because of that war) USian hitchhikers overseas would sew little Canadian flags on their backpacks (at least in places where the locals might not distinguish the accents). Nobody would give them a ride if they had a US flag.

#48 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 10:43 AM:

For heaven's sake, you guys, stop thinking that the race is over and Obama is certain to win. He isn't. What with the convoluted electoral system, and the Weasels' skill at dirty politics, Obama can still lose. McCain can't win cleanly, but he can get past the post first if he's given a chance. There's still work to do.

Stop cheering - specially if you're Canadian or European - until you hear the result next week.

#49 ::: Ephemeral mists ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 02:20 PM:

I really hope he wins it!

#50 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2008, 04:37 PM:

Marna Nightingale @39:

Once a Rt. Hon., always a Rt. Hon. (I have no idea why this particular bit of trivia is stuck in my head, presumably from Grade 9 History class.)


Other than that, I am entirely of your opinion.

#51 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2008, 06:15 PM:

There's a nice set of visualizations of how the world views the US election here.

And as a (non-black, non-white) Canadian living in the US, I was stoked to discover that, even though I can't vote, I can donate (since I have a green card).

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