Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A tale of two presidents

Today I got the front-seat view of a little movie I like to call "National leaders are absurdly influential on the psychology of individuals."

I opened my office window to a sunny day and felt a movie-like euphoria (complete with birds chirping and babies laughing): Bush is gone and, more importantly, Obama is President.

We'd just watched his speech dubbed in Spanish. Some of his key WOW lines came out more like yonoentiendoniuncoño, but nevertheless I gazed starry-eyed at the screen, still in disbelief that he is President. It’s like a national dream from which we'll wake up next month. (Maybe the wakeup will happen when, three weeks into his term, Fox News demands, “WHERE’S THE CHANGE?”)

I’m reading articles about “getting used to the new president,” as if our national senses have been numbed by two Bush terms and must be reawakened to adjust to positive feelings towards our leader.


While I don’t yet burst with pride every time I explain, soy de Estados Unidos, I can see a light at the end of the awkwardness-as-a-result-of-my-nationality tunnel. And watching his speech from Venezuela made me yearn for the chance to be in Washington and feel the energy of his symbolic triumph.
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Below my office window, though, student marches are starting. Next month, there will be another constitutional referendum to eliminate term limits here. I had the impression that Venezuelans are tired of being bombarded with this kind of thing (what my friend calls crisis fatigue), until I blindly stuck my camera out the window and caught this girl:


They’re mockingly wearing red shirts that say “NO” on the back. Red is Chavez’s color, so when Vero spotted them on the street below, she groaned and got all, ay coño aqui vienen los revolucionarios (“oh f*ck here come the revolutionaries again...”)

Despite the idea that
afuera todo es más arrecho (“everything is much better outside of Venezuela”… read that link if you are a Spanish speaker--it is hilarious), Venezuelans I know are way more proud to be from here than gringos are to be from the U.S. At the same time, there is far more political strife here and often, things don’t work the way people want them to (like when you're sitting in traffic for 30 minutes to turn a corner, or when the water dies for five days during your 20-person Thanksgiving dinner and you can’t wash any dishes so the chiripas—mini cockroaches—step up to the task). But in general Venezuelans seem pleased with themselves when they talk about where they are from. This is especially true for some when they completely separate their national identity from their nation's highest representative, as if the two were totally irreconcilable.

I, on the other hand, get more of a “alrighty well, let’s change the subject!” feeling when I have to talk about my home country in general. But I didn’t get that feeling today.

1 comment:

Cory said...

WOW that is an intense photo, you should submit it somewhere, like national geographic. That cartoon is hilarious-- it really felt like the entire city of Boulder was in a light hearted, blissful mood...everyone was smiling at the coffee shops and stores on Pearl..aand it was like 65 and sunny, birds chirping haha