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For American Expats, the US Election Is Especially Nerve-wracking

Posted: 06/11/2012 07:27

I'm bringing the guacamole and tortilla chips, Jen is organising the beer for our results-watching party at her house. The other Jen has opted to attend the Democrats Abroad party where she will celebrate or commiserate en masse. But we'll all be doing the same thing tonight: finding out what our lives as expats will be for the next four years.

Like millions of observers around the world we'll be closely watching the U.S. elections, seeing whether Obama or Mitt edges ahead. Unlike the other observers, we're in the unusual position of being intimately tied to the results and divided from our fellow Americans.

We've voted - not early and often but by absentee ballot - we avidly follow the ups and down of the political scrapping in home states and in Washington, D.C. Many parts of our lives are still directly affected by US policies (yes, paying taxes in both the UK and US is AWESOME!) or indirectly through our families.

Yet we live, and are citizens of, another country as well. I live an ocean away from my American family and friends, going about my daily business as part of another culture.

What that does mean is that we have something that millions of Americans back home don't: perspective about our home country. We can see how America's actions not only affect people within its borders but how those actions shape perceptions outside of its borders. We can see how the country is moving with or against other leaders or opinions around the world.

During president Obama's tenure I've watched America's reputation be salvaged, and I've seen its rhetoric move from shining city on a hill to political player in the real world.

Living in the UK, I'm more aware of what's happening in politics from Saudi Arabia to Russia, from Japan to France. Perhaps that's why I'm so fretful about what will happen if Mitt Romney is elected today. I see the attitudes espoused by him and Paul Ryan and wonder what the hell happened over there, that this team - with their retro view of America uber alles and scarily dismissive view of women's autonomy - are seen as the kind of people Americans want in charge.

When I first arrived in London more than ten years ago, George Bush was in office and I was a Texan transplant, by way of New York City. "How could you elect that guy?" people would demand from me at cocktail parties, before enumerating his shortcomings. I hurried to explain that I'd voted against him in Texas and again in the presidential race.

But of course that doesn't matter. I was an American and I was responsible for what he did.

I'll be up tonight watching nervously for the returns from Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, fervently hoping for an Obama win. Then all there is to do is watch and wait from my privileged vantage point, to see what my home country will become over the next four years.

 

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