The world is a global village where no country can be isolated from others' dynamics, especially when one is the superpower. So I always closely watch the U.S. elections even though I'm not eligible to vote.
One vivid memory: I went to bed after Gore had been declared winner only to wake to see the whole sordid saga of hanging/dimpled/pregnant chad in Florida. Living in the States at the time, it was interesting to hear the local's colorful remarks as Democrats fought for a recount.
The 2008 U.S. election was far more interesting and colorful.
As a minority woman who had lived through feel-good Clinton terms and tried securing a decent job during Bush's somber post-9/11, I was torn during the primaries.
Aside from respective key messages, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each symbolized a fight I could personally identify with.
Eventually, I leaned towards Hillary because a qualified and well-prepared woman holding the Oval Office would mean more for women worldwide.
When Hillary's tough fight ended I didn't directly jump on the Obamamania wagon. I had respect for McCain and didn't want to dismiss him because his party gave us what I secretly dub the modern, crownless version of mad King George. But after McCain's gaspingly scary choice of Palin and the third televised debate, I decided that Obama was the right man for the job.
This week, American voters overwhelmingly showed the same thinking.
In a nation that prides itself as the melting pot of immigrants, his Kenya and Kansas parentage illustrates the ultimate American Dream with classic can-do attitude and thirst for change. His formative years spent off mainland USA got non-Americans hopeful of balanced views on lingering wars, heated climate, spreading recession and the chilling return of nasty nukes.
I wasn't surprised when his previous Indonesian connections started resurfacing. Indonesian society is an intricate and delicate web of communal identity, collective pride, nostalgic gratitude and often a perpetual sense of indebtedness. Thus dutifully, there were former classmates waxing eloquent on the curly dark boy who liked pulling girls' ponytails, former teachers reminiscing of a third-grader adamant on becoming president and his mother's former associates regaling their own tales.
But as Obama gradually led the polls, the sentiment took on a life of its own. People daydreamed of the special attention Indonesia would receive from the "long-lost son". My friends who'd never care about the local news, much less international politics, suddenly got misty-eyed picturing Indonesia as Uncle Sam's new best friend. Bemusing went quickly to wishful thinking bordering on illusion.
Obama's much-deserving victory was a historical leap for the United States and the world, no question. His early life exposures and seemingly maverick mother indisputably sharpened his ability to see where other people are coming from.
Yet, Barack Obama doesn't strike me as someone who plays favor because it seems like the nice thing to do, especially out of silly nostalgia or false kinship. Instead, he will likely do the right thing however unpleasant, with his well-nurtured understanding enabling him to deliver the blow in the nicest way he knows you can handle.
However endearing those roasted grasshoppers and tennis ball-sized meatballs, Indonesia was four fleeting years of his boyhood four decades ago. Many Indonesians still affectionately call him "Barry", oblivious to the fact that in college he requested everyone address him as "Barack" as part of his quest for African-American identity.
His only solid Indonesian connection is the half sister, who hasn't lived here for a while. Indonesia was even almost a liability as his opponents baselessly accused him of attending a jihadist school here. The beloved mother might've been devoted to this country, but the grown son is, first and foremost, an elected president of another country.
What Indonesians should do is take Obama as inspiration to push ourselves much harder and accelerate our progress, so that we earn the attention while a more comprehending White House prevails.
Honeymoons don't last, and Obama needs to show his constituents that his brand of diplomacy isn't a bridge to nowhere. His eclectic past got his patriotism openly questioned and led to cutting ties with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers; Indonesia doesn't have to be the next.
Having our elementary schools educate the boy was a delight, but the worthy pride is when we can stand shoulder to shoulder next to the man and show how far we have also come along.
From Indonesia, a sincere congratulations to president-elect Barack Obama.