Thursday, November 20, 2008

Following the Election from Afar

We were out of the country during the presidential election, and time-shifted enough that we couldn't easily get the results as they happened. When we left on vacation Obama was definitely leading, but his winning wasn't something you could feel really confident about.

On the other hand, I was a little annoyed that before I left, _two_ of my relatives sent me that funny customized video about how I didn't vote and cost the democrats the election - when I was, in fact, the only member of my family who had already voted! But it was amusing, at least the first time.

McCain Makeru

So we woke up on - was it Wednesday? - in Japan and got on the internet at our hotel to find out what had happened. Obama won. Yay. We looked a bit at the state-by-state reports and news coverage, but we didn't get the speeches or anything. I even forgot to get a newspaper that day (I hear they were hot commodities elsewhere).

And then we got dressed and got food and went out to tour Tokyo.

But later that day, we were in a Japanese government building to use the free observation towers. A man stopped us in the lobby and asked the stereotypical Japanese-to-foreigner question "where from?" (though he was a bit more sophisticated and I think he actually asked what country we were from). We said America*, and he said something about Obama's win. I told him we were happy about that. He seemed happy too.

At this point I'll say that he didn't look like a government worker - not only was he not wearing a black suit and white shirt, he wasn't wearing a suit at all, I think he had a khaki green canvas blazer. And he had a slightly wild beard. Perhaps an academic.

And then he told us this story. In Japanese, McCain gets transliterated as ma-ke-in. There's another word in Japanese, makeru, which means, as he delicately put it, "to not win." So ma-ke-in, ma-ke-ru was a popular slogan in his circle during the campaign.

We actually saw him again that day, on a subway platform at rush hour, but we were on the train and couldn't say hi.

* Actually I would normally answer "United States," since that's more precise (Canada and Mexico and all those southern countries are in America too) but you have to say "America" in Japan because that's the word they expect.

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