US Elections Paint British News Red and Blue

Donkey and Elephant Caricature by Donkey Hotey ( http://donkeyhotey.wordpress.com/)
Donkey and Elephant Caricature by Donkey Hotey ( http://donkeyhotey.wordpress.com/)

4 years ago, at this exact time, I remember being in Massachusetts, huddling around a basement TV with half of the campus dorm, clutching our knees in anticipation, as the blues and reds began to spread across the CNN digital map. Never had I imagine, that by the next election, I’d be in London and that interestingly enough, that the spirit of the election would be no less evident in the British media. 

The US Election Night special on BBC just began 2 minutes ago, with a panel of mostly British political experts analyzing the every inch of the polls, British correspondents reporting in from all of the swing states, as well as Washington DC and Chicago. It’s overwhelming.

The US elections, to my surprise, have dominated the headlines, and running order of most popular TV, online and radio programs here on the other side of the Atlantic. Everything from BBC to the free Metro handouts, Obama and Romney’s faces have been plastered to the very front, angles taken to cover the elections as many as the stars in the American flag.

A love/hate relationship? 

For a country and a people who are stereotypically known as being cynical of Americans, constantly accusing their Anglophone counterparts of butchering their prized British English language, the UK, or at least, its media is particularly interested in its former colony’s Presidential elections.

I mean, to be honest, you’d be lucky to see a trace of the Tories or Liberal Dems of the UK in the States’ television. I came home to see my flatmate tuning into the BBC Special: US Election Day, on a live two-way with Washington DC.

She turned to me:

– “I really hope Obama wins
“Why would the UK be so interested in a presidential election an ocean away?”
It’s the US, the British may act like they hate Americans, but they couldn’t be more curious

Meanwhile, Jeremy Paxman on NewsNight (more or less the British equivalent to Larry King on Late Night) stressed that this election is “crucial”  and that whoever would be the next leader could affect the “entire West” . 

So while it may overall still seem that Brits have a hypocritical eye on the Americans (another whole post on my debate against that), the other eye is a highly keen and curious one.

My sense is that, it’s the US, one of the most influential countries in the world, economically the most powerful. Entertainment wise, Hollywood dominates the world. Considering its past relationship with the US, as much as the UK would like to stay aloof, it is still very much eager to be updated with the American lot.

Blue-draped morning too blue? 

4 years ago, as the last swing state turned blue, I thought I was going to go deaf from the screams and screech that a women’s college of 2,100 would render you. I remember looking out the window, to see a girl on a tree, another topless, and a conga line of blue-faced people chanting OBAMA.

Will it be a blue-draped morning again? I won’t get into too much about my political preference for the US , but let’s just say, having been 4 years in Massachusetts, on one of the most liberal campuses of the US, I know not one soul who is voting for Romney. My facebook feed is as blue as a blue jay gets.

Much of the media that I’ve tuned into in the UK have tried to cover both sides, but there is an overall slightly sharper edge on Obama, with more discussion into how the President has or has not lived up to his voters 4 years ago, even celebrity sound bites supporting him. Whether this is because Obama is an incumbent more known to the public or there is a preference towards him can be tossed into the air.

Nevertheless, for me, this election has become less the cause and more the campaign, proven the most expensive amid the US facing still an economic downturn, jobless graduates, the poor still worst off. As hip as Jay Z and Bruce Springsteen gracing the campaign trail, as wonderful for many as a blue-draped morning may be, this whole election has become a collective of expensive stunts and grandiose words uncertain of holding truth, and more importantly, action.

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[Hanoi] Tuesday Rant

—- Doggone way to start a day

I am convinced that there is something up with my neighbor. Most mornings for the past months, it has been of habit that I scramble out into my yard at approximately 8h20, crossing my fingers that I’d make it on time to work at 8h30 (that’s what you call a race against the clock right there). Anyway, this neighbor of mine is a retired man and just happens to have a fascination for using the appearances of my dogs, Benji and Sparky as a “muse” to get his granddaughter to chug down some breakfast milk. See, I have no problem with that. It’s just I’m in this chaotic state, right? and then I swing my gate open and his first reaction would always be “Look honey!!! the dog!!!”. That I do not appreciate *blank face* What should I do now? Train Sparky to open the gate?

—- The brotherhood of the traveling Great Grandfather Tortoise and Uncle Ho

An alum from MHC came to Hanoi and during our conversation, she asked about the mysterious tortoise residing in Hoan Kiem lake which everyone was talking about in the beginning of year. I told her, of course, about the legend, about how Vietnamese people regard him as the Great Grandfather Tortoise and how his health had been declining, and how honestly I thought nothing really effective was being done about it. It’d make sense to the take the tortoise to an oceanography institute rather than give him treatment in the already-ghastly condition of the water. But no one was going to take Great Grandfather Tortoise out, for superstitious reasons. My friend scrunched her eyebrows and said “Well that’s oddly contradictory, I tried to visit the HCM Mausoleum today and they said it was closed. I looked it up and found that every year for two months, Uncle Ho gets sent to Russia for ‘maintenance’ “. Now this was information I’d never heard before, and I have no real way of confirming its truth, so don’t take my word. She ended everything by saying “If Uncle Ho can travel to Russia every year, then Great Grandfather Tortoise sure heck can take a vacation to a treatment facility”

—- Halong Bay – hooray?

Today, I was coerced into sitting in on and talking at a rally for votes for Ha Long Bay to become one of the next 7 natural wonders of the world. I felt a little hesitant because I can’t help but feel, we were using national television to just push and push people to vote and vote, without really carrying through the message. Don’t misjudge my patriotism here, the whole thing about the country having a natural wonder – dandy and I did call for people’s support publicly :|. But let’s take a few steps back shall we, what exactly is this going to mean? There is no doubt about Ha Long Bay being a natural beauty queen, but honestly you can’t rely on looks in this race. If you were thinking on that alone, then every one of those final 28 deserves to be recognized, because you simply can’t put uniquely geographical, historical and cultural beauties and stack them on a ladder, one on top of the other. The world is not a pyramid, be it social paradigms have led us to think so.

If you are voting, think about your own experience in Ha Long, think about what further could be done to make that experience the next time you do have it better. Because as far as my experience goes, there are as many hurdles in environmental, tourism and public space management in Halong as there are hills of riveting beauty across this precious bay. Yes I voted once and today my co-worker says, “you know you can text as many votes as you want and you can also create new emails to vote more”. What is the point of voting, if you’re going to manually multiply your own support? It’s becoming a race of who’s got a bigger population and who’s going to spare more time.

If you are voting just because simply you’re Vietnamese and you must vote for Ha Long Bay – If you are voting just because a world natural wonder title is a must-have – If you are voting now and are going to forget about what’s going to happen to the bay the day it does get to that top 7-list – then with all due respect, your votes, be it 150 text-messages are empty.

If a vote and the title mean that somehow, finally more attention would be given to rid the waters of floating cans and plastic bags, ensure that overnight boats are truly safe, that the tourist spots won’t be riddled with okay to mediocre service, and that a plethora of other issues, which I won’t go into, are resolved – then by all means, vote and text your hearts out.

No hard feelings, and the best be it, not for the title, not for the country’s pride, but for the bay 🙂

[Babbles] Of whacked-out events and missing MHC

In a matter of a week, an earthquake with ensuing aftershocks hit the East Coast, meanwhile Hurricane Irene  is lurking somewhere in the Atlantic, ready to rummage in as well. I know the earthquake was only moderate, but a piece of the National Cathedral – my beloved in DC, broke off for crying out loud and the 150-year-old Smithsonian tower, my home for two summers now has cracks all over…And who would have suspected a freaking tremor let alone an entire earthquake in the East Coast, felt up to New England, for that matter?

I hadn’t been back to the school’s website in so long, but today found myself opening the burnt orangey/yellow page that was my homepage for 4 years again to this: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/news/channels/22/stories/5683026

A warning on Hurricane Irene, possible case of flooding and “loss of communications” on campus grounds. I don’t think I recall ever having to deal with anything as huge , with the exception of that snow storm, Valentines’ Day of 2007 when my PVTA bus was stuck on Rt 116 for 4 hours. But again, that’s snow, a snow storm in New England is as common as campus breakfast: occasionally loved, frequently neglected, and best avoided…but flooding? Nature’s gone and whacked out in the States with this series of happenings I’m telling you and ,I have no idea how serious all of this is going to get, but I’m crossing my fingers from Hanoi here for the safest and best over there. The status from which I got this link off of on facebook compared Irene to a category 1 storm in Vietnam which is nothing…but I’m doubting those remarks considering how everyone on the East Coasts seem quite flustered with it all. The fact that it’s a hurricane coming to the Pioneer Valley alone (MHC context wise), that’s enough to get your pants tied up in a bunch. Keep me updated, I am, you know, half way around the world here. Glad to hear some of you (you know who you are ) are at least stocking up, be it booze and chips, you have the awareness and preparation mode set, lol 😀

Missing MHC, Missing DC, thoughts to all my loved ones, that includes people and structures! (no more trees falling on campus dorms, please)

[News] Of the heat and hijab-wearing – completely unrelated of course

 


It is not an overstatement to say that I’m literally melting like ice-cream left out of the fridge for too long in the extreme heat that has taken over Hanoi. It has been 39, 40 degrees C aka 98, 99 F, no lie, for 4 days straight. Never have I wished so much for the wind to blow west, just so it can take Lao’s heatwave and spread it around Thailand rather than our already humidity-stricken eastern coast, no offense to the Thai people. My aunt went to Bangkok the other day and said you guys have it breezy and nice there, so you can understand my bitterness after a week of heat/humidity attack. It rained once yesterday bringing the temperature down to 34 C but it has shot up again today and is aiming once again for 40 C tomorrow…and it’s only June. I must say I never was a fan for warm climates, I complained daily every Massachusetts winter of my college days but this is still by far the more unbearable of the two.

Yesterday news-reading brought back memories of a project I did from first year…so long ago, and yet the hijab/burka controversy has been one to last decades in France. Don’t get me wrong, I love the country, the culture, and can’t wait to visit again but I can’t help but rethink the statement about France being xenophobic. France here perhaps being the administration in general, especially Mr.Sarkozy there creating some commission to invent a set of laws to prevent as much as possible the wearing of a hijab. He has gone so far as to say that wearing a hijab, I quote, “reduces the dignity of a Muslim woman”. I mean, seriously, what does a French white man of his status know about a Muslim woman’s “dignity”? because from interviews with these women, many have said to have their hijabs taken away would be the loss of dignity. Those who have chosen not to wear the hijab have their choice and have voiced their support for the freedom to choose. Is hijab-wearing truly religious or it is cultural? either one way or the other, shouldn’t one be able express one’s religion just in the way a Christian wears a cross or a Jewish wears a kippah and in the case of culture, shouldn’t it also be able to transcend borders as long as it’s not imposing? Why all this talk of a woman’s right coming out of male politicians instead of just saying outright how France’s history of State/Church separation hates this kind of free expression, how despite France’s highest Muslim population in Western Europe, France will still always be French. The ban on hijab-wearing in state schools is already enough, why continue to push it so far?