Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Historical Election

As an expatriate US citizen it is still not clear how the outcome of the US elections will affect my life. Mongolia has had exceptional affection for the United States for two decades, and President Bush's visit to Mongolia in 2005 ensured that Mongolians continue to have a better opinion of the president than most Americans. I first came to Mongolia in 2002, and it has always been a place where there has been no fear or shame in being an American, which I have heard from others is not often the case in other countries. This is partly due to the fact that Americans and Mongolians seem to understand each other at a visceral level. I often remark that the only things separating the average Ohioan from the average Bayankhongorian is a language and 10,000 miles. Although different, Mongolian culture and American culture are very compatible. If you understand what makes an Ohioan tick, then you probably can also figure out what makes a Bayakhongorian tick, or vise-versa.

From a political stand point, the acceptance speech that President-Elect Obama gave last night could potentially have special significance for Mongolians as well. Mongolians have a much more optimistic view of things than one might suspect at first blush. The riot of the summer provides a good case in point. Instead of that event being the beginning of a decline in Mongolian politics, thus far it has proven to be a watershed in emphasizing the need for politicians to move towards broader purpose in their work. This is not to say things have been rosy, just that incremental progress continues to be made. I could hear President-Elect Obama's words echoing in some of the things that have occurred since July--the argument that when you give people a chance to surprise you in a positive way, they will. Of course, it is not so simple, but the ingredients for positive surprise are just as much entrenched in the ethos of Mongolian society as it is in the US, and the democratic process is an integral part of making this manifest itself in tangible ways.

One can never predict the future, but it is affirming that the United States potentially will lead the world again by positive example, and that maybe, just maybe this idea that anything is possible if you work for it will have a positive influence on the politics of Mongolia, too.

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