Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Proud Voter

In the midst of all the excitement of today's voting, and feeling lucky that I only had to wait 30 minutes on a really weird A-N line where the M-Z's didn't understand the lineup process and all joined our line for a half hour of confusion, a coworker of mine sent out this letter. He is originally from Argentina, but has lived all over the world in his long and illustrious life.

"History in the making" said a reporter this morning. For a day like the one we living today, that is the mother of all understatements..

I first visit the USA back in 1963 (I was 27 years old by then, most of you were not even born!) .

I landed in Miami. My destination was the University of San Francisco where I was going to take a six month course on International Relations.

I had plenty of time in my hands. So why not to take a bus instead of flying, get to
see the landscape, meet a few people on the way and practice my very basic and rudimental English?

So I bought one of those tickets that allowed me to get down the bus at any place and continue my journey whenever I felt like. At the end of the day, it took me almost two weeks to get from Miami to San Francisco after 'exploring' small town and cities from Florida to Atlanta, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and beyond. I could write a whole chapter relating that my first experience of the USA. Although I had an old Kodak in my bag, I did not take any pictures, but I can close my eyes now and can see it like a movie all over again.

I had read a bit about discrimination before coming over. But I wasn't prepared to be suddenly immerse in that chapter of our history. It was all literally black and white in most of the states I travelled through: buses, restaurants, waiting lounges, hotels, you name it.

I was pushed to the front of the bus in many occasions, by an authorative driver whose mission besides driving was to inforce the rules or by the people seating in the back, themselves conscious that the rules had to be respected. I ignored all those 'rules', not in protest mind you, only that I did not know about the rules. Then after many warnings, I discovered the signs in the walls and doors and got the picture -not before I had gone to the wrong side of the room too many times to remember.

My language skills at the time were even more limited than today so there is much of what was probably said about my defiance of the rules, but trust me I can't forget first the shock, then the dismay and finally the resentment I felt. It was sad, very sad. It could not be true, I said.

After three months in San Franciso my life went on (Taiwan, Argentina,
Mexico, Hong Kong, Beijing, Mexico again) and not because I had planned it that
way, I came back to the USA in 1983. Times had somehow changed, my sad experience of he past did not hit me again in my face. And from that point on, change kept happening, all around and for the best.

But today, 45 years after those days of my life onboard a Greyhound bus, is when the change is most patent.

Barack Obama will be the next President, I think. Nothing is a given until tonight, I know that too. But the fact that most of us are expecting Obama to be the next President, that is the BIG CHANGE, in my mind. We are all in the same bus today and can freely seat wherever we wish and converse with whomever we please.

I am so proud of the USA !

I am blessed to have become a citizen of the USA, proud to be here sharing The Change with you, living this process not as a passer-by I was '63 but as one proud, very proud American. We have made history already.

God bless America, God bless you all.


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