Monday, November 3, 2008

Reflections on an Obama bumper sticker

As I write this, I am riding north along the I-81, heading home from Virginia. I spent the weekend in Arlington with some good friends and anxious ambitions.  We were there to campaign for Obama, the man that has half the U.S. and the rest of the world behind him.  I never read, or for that matter, write in the car because it makes me feel sick, but I would like to type a few things before I return the awful Flying J coffee to the cup from whence it came.  A few miles back, from the cocoon of empty chip bags, coffee cups, newspapers and other garbage I’ve made for my self in the back seat, I spotted an “Obama/Biden” bumper sticker on the car beside ours. 

This is no strange site. After a weekend of going door-to-door handing out Democrat literature, these blue and white stickers have become all too familiar.  But for whatever reason, seeing this specific sticker made my mind wonder.  In Canada, we just had our own little election, and I do not recall seeing one “Layton for PM” bumper sticker, “Dion 08” shirt, or a “Harper: change we can believe in” hat.  Sure, there was an obnoxious surplus of election lawn and street signs, but the parties pay for these, and go to great lengths to post them anywhere eyeballs may venture.  (On a side note, could Gille Duceppe have had creepier mug shot?)   

The Obama phenomenon has cashed in big time.  I, along with the group of Canadians I’ve been traveling with bought the last five official Obama shirts in all of northern Virginia (or so said the guy who took our $100 for the shirts).  I don’t know anyone who would pay for Canadian political paraphernalia, with the exception of my dear friend Anthony Di Domizio.  

Obviously Obama has become a pop icon, loved by his followers at home and aboard, but I don’t know if I could ever see this happening in Canada.  Sure, Trudeau instilled a similar excitement in people, but it was nothing like what’s happening in the U.S. right now.  Canadian elections are general more of a nuisance than a time of national enthusiasm.   I think the consensus is that elections are obnoxious, expensive, and too frequent.  Parliamentary democracies allow for elections to happen more often than does the American federal republic, but it seems like every other year Canadians are dragged to the polls to chose between the party that will create no change, and the party that will change even less.  It is not a surprise that our recent election saw new lows in voter turn out.

Do we need an Obama?  Do we need a new Trudeau?  What will it take to get us to the polls, and stickers on our bumpers?   Why don’t Americans drive thirteen hours to help with our elections?  And why did I drive thirteen hours to help with the American elections?  And why did my friend Alex Leduc try to change his name to Clinton?  

I’ve spent a good part of this drive contemplating these questions.   I’m not going to try and answer them now because one, typing in the car is making me sick, and two, I think these questions are going to take a fair bit of deliberation.  When I come up with some sort of answer, or more accurate questions, I’ll get back to writing.  Hopefully when I do, I’ll be sitting at my kitchen table, slightly less car sick.

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