Votez!

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About 25 years ago, I was traveling around Europe with nothing but an overstuffed backpack, which probably reeked of ripe brie from all the cheese I’d stashed into it. I was by myself, ending up befriending a Turkish woman, and we traveled together for a few weeks. She was a journalist and told me she’d gotten divorced, which meant that if she went to certain villages in her own country, she could be stoned to death.

As an American, who hadn’t spent much time outside his own country, I was taken aback. I had very limited experience with the world outside our borders and never realized how lucky we Americans are.


During our journey, at one point I told her that I’d taken the US Foreign Service exam, thinking that I might like to work abroad, but I complained that the test was really hard, “For a seven hour test, we were only given a 45 minute break!”

She just looked at me, and said, “Do you have any idea how lucky you are just to be able to take that test in the first place?” I’ll never forget those words of hers. We Americans have so many rights and privileges that we take for granted, but shouldn’t.

A friend of mine who’s African-American once told me she didn’t vote because the system has never worked for black people. I think she’s right: at times, our system hasn’t worked for a lot of people:—perhaps very notably people who are African American, but also Muslims, rich white men, grade-school teachers, 9/11 rescue workers, Catholics, business women, lesbians, expats overseas, hockey moms, and a host of others.

And yesterday I was watching Meet the Press and Senator Fred Thompson said that America shouldn’t become a “liberal welfare state” with a “European-style policy.”

I disagree with both.

As someone who’s lived in both America and Europe, each system has their pluses and minuses and although France has certain “socialist” leanings, I don’t know anyone, here or there, who could possibly think that people in France (or most other European countries) are living in a “welfare” state. Presently, we’re seeing some of the negative effects of the American system, in terms of the financial meltdown and a pricey government bailbout, yet too many people don’t have access to even basic health care, so I’m not sure that that argument is entirely convincing right now.

(Speaking of government intervention and bailouts, it’s been noted that Europe’s reaction to the financial meltdown has been better than the American one.)

I’m not going to say which continent has a better quality of life, but to use Europe as an example of what not to do is just foolish. Having lived here for six years, sure, Europe has it’s problems. But it’s delusional to think that life here is so much worse than it is in America.

Unless you’re trying to return something; then I’d have to give it to America, which wins hands-down in that department.

We all hope to create a better world. I’d like to think most people would like to improve the quality of life for themselves, as well as others. Straddling two countries, I pay taxes in America (and France), which are part of my civic duty. I don’t have kids, but I believe that by having a quality education, our young people will grown up to be better citizens. No one likes to pay taxes, but we’re happy when we call 911, the police arrive. We’re happy if there’s a fire, the firemen arrive quickly. We’re happy we have public libraries and schools, manned by people who are often unappreciated, but who work hard because they love and believe in what they’re doing.

It’s so very, very important to vote. I’m always surprised at how few Americans vote in elections, which is one of the most precious rights that we have, if not the most precious.

So take advantage of it on election day 2008—Votez!


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65 comments

  • Couldn’t agree more, David. You’ve stated it perfectly.

    This is a great reminder for those out there who are considering opting out tomorrow. Get out and vote!

  • Abso-freakin-lutely, David. Thank you. Vote!

  • David, Thanks for your post! You’ve had unique living experiences; your perspective on life in the US vs France is very helpful and useful.

  • Josh: It’s rather annoying to hear politicians using “Europe” as a demonizing term. People forget that Europe’s been around a lot longer than America and while both places have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s a shame that politicians can’t make their point without resorting to name-calling. Especially when they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • I can’t agree with you more. As someone who spent an early portion of life in Russia, it’s something that was very much instilled in me upon our arrival to the US. You are voting via absentee ballot right? Is there a deadline for that so that it arrives in time?

  • Hi, your post is very convincing and I totally agree. Being french, but living in Singapore (am I lost on this blog? Maybe) you are right when you say: “each system has their pluses and minuses”. But the essential is to vote!

  • David, I couldn’t agree more! As an ex-pat living in Finland, it has been interesting seeing a European style of governance. American and Finland both have problems in their government, they are just different problems.

    And I personally cringe every time I hear Republicans rant about the fears of “America becoming like SWEDEN!”

  • Hear, hear!
    An american friend who lived shortly here in Oslo complained about the high prices here, asking: “Is anything cheap here really?”, to which I responded “yeah, if you get sick”…
    It’s funny watching the US campaign from an Scandinavian viewpoint: things that are highly treasured here, are used as a threath in the US election, like “welfare” for instance – over here, the politicians argue over whether the quality of our welfare state is diminishing or not, and if so – who’s to blame…
    Unfortunately, the term “socialism” has become a frightening horror concept in the US. How human beings evolving to taking care of each other, and realising life is not just about getting somewhere as an individual, but about caring for other human beings also (the two are actually related…), is a horror concept, is beyond me.
    The “socialism” we’we had here in Scandinavia has made our societies the most modern in the world – for all of it’s citizens, as we’re ranked among the highest in the world on the UN index of living conditions (along with the netherlands and Canada). Sweden is usually number 1.
    A wise person once said that a society is jugded by how it takes care of it’s weakest. I couldn’t agree more.

    Oh, and by the way: the reason why the american friend stayed here in Norway for a while? His girlfriend was taking a Phd. course in international law – because she could’nt afford it back home, and here schools and universities are free…

  • Last week, I went to see David Byrne perform in Toronto, where I live. He sang a lovely song called “One Fine Day”, and by way of introduction, he said something short and sweet about how Americans are hopeful that one fine day, change will come. For instance, November 4th. In response to the audience’s resounding applause, he suggested, “well, seeing as you’re all so excited about this too, I might recommend you hop on a bus down to Buffalo and cast some ballots…they’ll never know!”

    ha!

  • Yes, I always vote. But I was so totally disillusioned by both the 2000 and the 2004 election scams and dirty dealings that were proven to have taken place. I have also been disillusioned by all the cronyism and quid pro quo of the Clinton and Bush administrations. Geez Louise, it’s as if the Sopranos ran Washington. I think serious harm has been done to this nation because of it. I no longer trust my elected officials to do the right thing or even to prevent the wrong thing from happening. So, I make do and vote for my local and county officials who are running and try to keep my vote sincere (no libertarian or socialist candidates) in the hopes that maybe, just maybe my vote will actually matter.

  • It all is quite amazing. We not only have the duty and right to vote, we have the right to vote whether to name the sewage treatment plant after the *sitting president*. It’s not about the issue, just the fact that I can imagine the consequences for even voicing such an opinion in many places.

    I’m so glad you wrote about this today. Thanks.

  • Golly – I stood in line to vote during the “advance voting” week for three hours last Friday evening. We saw record numbers of voters (here in Atlanta anyway.)

  • I agree with you David. I would love to vote on November 4th, but as a Canadian, can’t cast a ballot — no matter what David Byrne says :-) So, I’ve donated my Facebook status to the cause of prompting people to vote.

  • I couldn’t say it better. If only this sentiment was valued and appreciated, America wouldn’t be in such a sad state.

  • Very well said, David!

  • I couldn’t agree more. I’ve lived here in Germany for 16 years now. I ccringe when Americans refer to “socialist Europe.” Germany is the number one exporter in the world in real dollars. How capitalist can you get?

    I love both Germany and the US, but frankly I have a better quality of life here — cleaner water and air, better food. We have one car and barely need it because everything is in walking or steetcar distance ((we are fortunate to work out of our home)).

    Recently we were in Orlando, Florida and could not believe how expensive it was to go out to eat. 10.00 dollars for a “vegeburger” that was a warmed up bun with quickly grilled fresh vegetables.

    Let’s hope change is a comin’!

  • I grew up in a communist country, but luckily I was too young to even begin to understand the horrors of communism and what it did to people. As I grew older, I started understanding things and my parents taught me how important it is to have your say in the grand scheme of things. Because of that, I have always voted whenever required, even for referendums and parliamentary elections, no matter how difficult it was to fit it in my schedule. It feels GOOD to vote!

  • Furthermore, your fellow traveller had lied you. Turkey is a secular country and governed by the rule of law. Consequently “stoned to death”‘s passage is not true. May be she wanted to take more attantion for herself or she wanted to use mushy passages.

  • I agree, completely! I think it interesting to hear Europeans thoughts on the U.S., and I think they need to remember it (the U.S.) is a young country, and will screw up at times – will have self interest(s) at times. Which country has not in their history (ries)? Well, there have been a few. :D I am hoping we can come together as a nation; repair and improve things. I really cannot fathom the fear mongering going on or a want for a reliving of the stirred up 60′s revolutions. Let us move on toward a better future!

  • David, how perfect that you chose day before the election to talk about how important it is to vote. I think this year more Americans than ever will cast there vote for change. I voted early and I felt proud as a peacock after doing so. The lines were long but it was fun to talk to the people on line while waiting.

    Love your blog and appreciate your take on things.

    Estelle

  • Wow, you too, with the foreign service exam? I had family friends in the embassy here, and I started studying, but when it came down to the sit-down part I thought: I really don’t want anyone telling me where to go work for the rest of my life…so I didn’t go through with it.

    I’m not sure if it’s my age, the times we’re living in, or the fact that I live out of the US but I have to say that I am very proud to be able to vote in this election…and I’ve done so! I even modified the banner on Ms. Adventures for this month! :) GooooObama!

  • First of all, thank you for your amazing, wonderful blog! More power to you.

    I live in Orange County, California, where the idea of raising taxes and “spreading the wealth” creates mayhem among the rich (I’m not, by the way). But among my middle-class friends, I’m the only one who supports universal health care, free education for everyone. When will people realize that there is no such thing as “free lunch”?

    I tell my kids why I vote for a certain candidate and first and foremost why I VOTE! NO one can tell me or intimidate me that my vote doesn’t count. You can’t have another 2000 election happen . . . again.

  • I agree with you 100%

  • Hey David,

    What’s the unemployment rate these days in France?

    Stick to food David, you just don’t have the knowledge to comment on politics, government etc..now go get a hug from some guy in Paris.

    Born in Europe, lived in Europe. NO THANK YOU!!!!

    Europeans are like children always waiting for somebody to take care of them. So weak and cheap–especially cheap.

  • I voted last week via fax. There are so many ways to vote nowadays and so many times you can vote that if someone hasn’t voted and could have I consider that person lacking in character,
    I really thought that the opportunity to vote for a person of color or a woman would never come in my lifetime, and in this one year I have been able to do both. About time, America.
    2000 I could swallow with difficulty. 2004 made me lose faith in the American public.

  • I agree with you too, and as others have said, you have conveyed it exceedingly well here! It IS hugely important… Thank you!
    Of course I can’t vote in the US poll, but I will be voting on the 8th here in New Zealand and I hope your other Kiwi readers will be doing likewise!

  • I appreciate those who are not afraid of sharing their opinion, moreover, i completely appreciate the point of view from abroad, thank you for sharing.

    and I’ll be voting for “that one” come 7AM tomorrow
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eyesawfoto/2923533021/

  • I turned 18 last year and one of the first things I did was scrounge up a voter registration and turned it. I’m a naturalized citizen, so I think that voting is such a gift and something that, since I have the right to do it, must be taken advantage of! I’m also studying history in university right now, and knowing how hard our ancestors fought for suffrage…it seems like I’m throwing it in their faces if I don’t go out there and vote! Not to mention the thousands of people living in the States who aren’t citizens and wish they could have their input counted!

    Thanks for this piece, David. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Am I terribly naive in thinking we’re going to get record-breaking turnout at the polls tomorrow? I’ve never heard such an overwhelming call to civic duty not only from bloggers like yourself but from people in all walks of life and from every corner of the world. It’s truly heartening. I hope in 36 hours things will look significantly brighter and that we Americans will once again be celebrated for our good sense and sound judgment. It’s time.

  • agreed! i can vote because i am a citizen of the US, but my mother is not. so, voting for me truly is a gift not to be wasted or taken for granted.

  • You might want to know that Google Ads has put up a “Yes on Prop 8″ ad on this blog, which I’m quite sure you would not support! You might want to tweak your settings to ban it.

  • Thanks everyone for your comments and I wanted to reiterate that if a candidate needs to demonize ‘Europe’ to win, then they need to reevaluate their policies, if they’re not able to use them to convince voters to vote for them.

    Karen & Kate: You, and several others, sent messages about the anti-No on 8 ads that are appearing on the site. There are a lot of bloggers who are upset about this, and this is the first time this kind of tactic’s been used, so we’re scrambling to combat it.

    Unfortunately because I’m on a foreign server, those ads aren’t showing up on my site, and I’m taking steps to halt them.

    amused: I am not an expert on current affairs and employment rates (although that information is available on the internet), but I am an expert in living abroad as an American. And I don’t think the message to vote is especially limited to people with in-depth knowledge of statistics and politics.

    One of the fundamental rights of Americans is the freedom to speak, which I happen to think is quite important. So many people don’t have that right, and it’s one we take for granted. People from all walks of like have opinions and are entitled to express them, from celebrities, to politicians, to bakers. That’s what makes the world more interesting. While it would be nice to make the voices go away that we don’t want to hear, I’m interested in hearing other opinions from people that I may not agree with, which includes some right-wing politicians, but if presented rationally and with intelligence, those are voices that add something to the conversation.

    Unfortunately because of things like cable tv stations with the announcers yelling, that’s become what we consider ‘conversation.’ It’d be nice to have a return to civil discussion where the events are debated, to create change and improvement in the system, not to just stir up dissent. I don’t think the message for people to vote is especially controversial and I hope that all people vote, as their civic duty.

    Levent: That was 30 years ago so it may have been true then. Being Arabic, and having Arabic friends, I hear the practice is still in effect in some places even to this day. In fact, a friend was at a gay bar in Istanbul a few months ago and the police raided it, confining everyone to the space and not permitting anyone to leave, threatening arrest and subsequent conviction. He was shocked about it, and rightfully so.

    We Americans, as well as others, forget that those things do take place in other countries. And I think many of us are lucky to live in places where we don’t have to worry about that. It’s so easy not to think about them, or change the channel. I loved Turkey and I’m sure things have changed in the past 30 years.

  • What a let down to read your blog and find the Yes on 8 ad at the bottom. I guess your rant about freedom of speech “One of the fundamental rights of Americans is the freedom to speak, which I happen to think is quite important.” does not carry over to the rights of Californians to be married. You think people who love each other should lose the right to be married? Sounds like you infringe on others rights while claiming a right to speak. How about a right to act. What’s so scary about same sex marriage to you, David? Hmmm?

    Hi Kate: Please see message above. I addressed your concerns and am working to block the ads, which I didn’t know were appearing. -dl

  • Thank you for the shout-out to muslims like me. I hope our new President does not have Islamophobia…it’s come to a point where another holocaust like event seems inevitable. People should realize that true muslims do not do the atrocious acts that everyone blames them for. It’s the exremists, and they shouldn’t be called muslim from any angle.
    P.S: That is horrible to hear about your Turkish friend! I can’t believe people still follow pagan rituals. In India(where I am from) some rural villages burn the widow along with her husband’s body when he dies…..can you believe that?

  • Phew! Thanks David – glad I was wrong! I apolgize. Looks like I need to talk to Google. I did a search and see that they are causing quite a stir with this very underhanded action.

  • Living on the border of a swing state, I am so glad to read your post today, David. I’m about fed up with politicians and other, ahem, groups, exploiting ignorance in advertising, robocalls, and interviews. The lack of civilized discourse on issues and the screaming accusations that have replaced such discussion make me more nauseated the closer November 4th draws. I’ve begun to wonder if I’d make it through to now without just shutting off the tv and phone, and ignoring all media until I cast my vote. Let’s just hope and work toward the whole process going as smoothly and fairly as it possibly can.

  • This is my first ever comment..I read the blog everyday and enjoy it very much…but at the end of the blog today was an ad for “vote yes” on prop 8….I am so saddened to see that commercial on this blog…that prop takes away rights from people..I am not gay but how dare we think we could do that.

    Thats my only comment..my sadness over the ad on this blog.
    People please…vote NO on 8 in calif…and protect peoples rights.

  • David,

    I’m writing from California on Nov. 3 about the Ad from Google that says ‘Yes on Prop. 8′. I’m sure you have no control over the ads Google runs on your site. But it is very strange to see a ‘Yes for Prop 8′ ad on your site. I just realized that I am the second to comment on the ad.

    If anyone reads this, lives in California and has not yet voted, VOTE NO on Prop. 8!

  • I live in America , travel in Europe, and have American friends who live in England, so I often have interesting discussions about politics. There is a lot of misunderstanding on both the American and European sides of issues. Europeans sometimes believe we Americans are our movies, which is not true, and Americans think we are constantly being talked down to as if we are children or complete barbarians, which I hope is not true. Also, no one speaks for all Americans, so I would hope that it is understood that most people here don’t subscribe to that Europe-is-wrong attitude. Those idiots make the news, but they don’t represent very many people.
    The impending seismic shift in presidents will be very interesting and might answer many American-European questions:.Are Europeans just anti-Bush or is the current feeling deeper? When the new president makes a decision that is unpopular in Europe will he be given any benefit of the doubt? Will the term “cowboy” continue to be a perjorative term in Europe? (Joke.) All will be revealed shortly.

  • A brilliant appeal. Every American needs to appreciate his or her vote. It’s a special gift.

  • What I hate is people is who don’t vote, but complain about the government – Hey either vote or be quiet.

  • If people click on the “Yes of 8″ ads the sponsors of the ad are charged money – multiple clicks cost those jerks; go for it. I’m here in New Orleans, under my framed poster with “Change” at the bottom, waiting nervously to vote tomorrow. We’ve called, we’ve donated, I’ve attempted reasoning with ill-informed potential voters, trying to gently redirect them. If the top 1/2% of the wealthiest in the world are left out of statistics, the U.S.’s standing in richest countries drops to 7th or 8th. The life expectancy here is 1 year longer than Cuba; we have the highest rate of infant mortality in the industrial world. How do so many perceive us as the best? I’m going for hope now, after watching a president shot on my T.V. when I was 6, the same year several dozen parents, friends of my parents, died flying out of Orly, on a trip to raise money for the arts. When 11, another great man shot when running for president, and then a father of a classmate shot in Memphis trying to improve the lot of his people, and those of all poor in the U.S. And then the next president soiled that position. A great man has come forward once more. It’s time for hope again, for belief, to know we can be great, and tomorrow night we’re having a huge celebration, with all my neighbors, whooping it up. Then, time to work, and this time, a difference will happen. I don’t care how corny this sounds; my country may be getting its heart back.

  • Thanks for taking the time to encourage your readers to vote. I will !

  • I am a Turkish female living in USA. I found your experience with a Turkish journalist is very inadequate to make a comment about my native country. Turkey has been a secular country and it was one of the first country (believe me before USA) to give rights women to vote and to be voted. It is very sad she misrepresented her culture. Especially 25 years ago, I was 8 years old and I do not remember people who divorced could be stoned to death. We do have laws and we do not follow some religious rules in my country 25 years ago or 50 years ago.
    Please if you want to use a reference about another country, you need to check your facts before that!

  • Teresa and Suzi: Thanks for your message. I do not support proposition 8 and if you scroll up to my previous comment, you’ll see how I feel about them, and what I’m doing to stop them.

    Zeynep: That was what I was told by a native and maybe she was incorrect. My friend who was harassed by the police, well…that’s been documented by various news sources. I linked to one above.

    Turkey is a modern, wonderful country and I’m certain things have changed for the better. (And I do hope she was incorrect, as I wish my friend’s story was incorrect.) As someone who is of Arabic descent, I know that certain countries in that region don’t have the best record on human rights issues.

    I’ve read articles in various places, including Amnesty International and The Washington Post. I think (and hope) that’s all in the past, and presume that Turkey is making great strides in overcoming some of its past errors. Let’s hope that after the 2008 US election, Americans will make similar strides, especially in regards to places like the Guantanamo prison.

  • THIS IS WHAT YOU CALL FREEDOM IN AMERICA. TOO MUCH FREEDOM AND FREE SPEECH TO THE EXTEND THAT EVERYONE OWNS A GUN. DO YOU KNOW BY KEEPING AN EMPTY GUN CAN LEND YOU IN JAIL WHILE LOADED ONE WILL SEND YOU TO THE GALLOW IN SINGAPORE.

    STILL REMEMBER MICHAEL FAY WHO WAS CANNED BY OUR GOVERNMENT FOR VANDALISING PROPERTIES. HE WILL REMEMBER FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE BY THE CANNED MARKS ON HIS BUM.

    OUR CITY IS SAFE AND SOUND. EVERYONE CAN SLEEP SOUNDLY WITHOUT WORRYING FOR THEIR CHILDREN STILL OUT IN THE STREET LATE.

  • And yesterday I was watching Meet the Press and Senator Fred Thompson said that America shouldn’t become a “liberal welfare state” with a “European-style policy.”

    Wow – thinly veiled racism and not-so-thinly veiled jingoism – great job, Fred.

    Be glad you live in Europe, David.

    In spite of great political discourse such as Fred’s, I will be voting tomorrow.

  • Christine Tham: Apparently, in addition to your government’s micromanaging of your lives like banning chewing gum and dictating what sort of English you may speak, they’ve also taken away your ability to turn off caps lock. Don’t you just love generalizations?

    Not everyone here owns a gun, and I sleep quite soundly at night, thankyouverymuch.

  • David, you are so right in your call. But, as a very long time reader, a woman of 38 years and of Turkish origin (of which the first 25 years were in Turkey), I have to tell you how sad it made me to see that your one and only and prominent example for unacceptable human rights and freedom conditions was Turkey.
    Sure, Turkey still has gotten issues and is struggling to get them solved. It is not the paradise. I am aware that the everyday life and society sometimes have different rules in effect than the really modern laws that are (and have been, even 30 years ago) in effect. I am sure 30 years ago a divorced woman would in some villages of Turkey be considered “unprotected game”. But stoned to death? Really. And I am aware that you just heard what she told you, but using this as the opening paragraph of such an important issue, I am thinking that maybe you should have given this more thought and research and maybe used another example.
    You are totally right about the problems gays and transgenders still encounter, though, and I am very sorry about this.
    And just a footnote: Turkey is not an arabic country.

  • It’s Nov 4 and the polls will be opening in about a half hour here in Boston. Dixville Notch NH voted at midnight and Obama won 15-6.
    It’s great to see such hope out there. This election cycle went on far too long and became just too nasty–I wonder if there is any dirt left anywhere to mix with water after all the mudslinging that has taken place both on national and statewide elections. I’m sure that the founding fathers never envisioned a mean-spirited process that would drag out almost 2 years. I’m sure that one of your European readers can correct me if I’m wrong, but calling for parliamentary elections to take place as needed and it doesn’t seem to take as long to get the process done as we have watched here. Elected American officials who make offensive remarks about European systems have not done their homework and I wonder about their educational backgrounds altogether. At some point in the future, Americans have to learn from their European elder “siblings”, because they have clearly “been there, done that” and know much better. We’ve had a great start, but we have a lot of catching up to do.
    I hope that the polling places are jammed as are expected to be today and we don’t have repeats of 2000 and 2004 with ballot fights, etc.
    I hope that you were able to get to a special location in Paris to vote already.
    I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the CT Supreme Court passed a law which will now allow gay marriage in that state. However, there is a ballot question there for a Constitutional Convention –probably to have vote to overturn the ruling in hidden terms. The CT atty gen, Richard Blumenthal is against the convention. And there has been talk about his running for the US Senate against Lieberman in a couple of years–I hope it happens.
    I really appreciate the wonderful viewpoints of those who write from Europe and elsewhere–it is a wonderful breath of fresh air.

  • Like you, I live between the two continents. I am European but have been living in the US for 10 years now. I couldn’t agree with you more, both systems have their pros and cons, but I do believe that for a country to progress and continue being competitive in the world, education of the young generations is a must. I don’t think that people who complain about paying taxes realize how much of the future of their own well being is in the hands of those around them whose education they might be contributing to. The same applies for health care and many more other things. What’s the point of living in a mansion if your neighbor lives in a shack? Besides, those complaining about socialist Europe… haven’t they realized that socialism is measured by the government’s amount of economic intervention? Hasn’t the US government just in a way bought out all these financial institutions? Isn’t that by definition “socialism”?

  • David – thanks for ‘coming out’ :-) Your post and many of your commenters have clarified what it is that sends so many US citizens hysterical at the very word ‘socialism’, and it made me realize just how differently the word ‘welfare’ resonates in the US to anywhere else. It is worth pointing out that all government is socialist to some extent (and that the conservative position in France is socialism). People bandy these words thinking they are deadly weapons without looking them up in the dictionary first.

    Re your Turkish travelling acquaintance – you may have caused some offence by reporting what she told you, but it has produced a very interesting and balanced peripheral discussion.

    As a non-American with many American friends I have tried to be as informed as possible about this election campaign and its protagonists. I do hope the result does not ruin Obama’s life.

  • David

    I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately too many people would rather sit on their butts and complain that voting is a waste of time because there is nothing in it for them. They feel that their singular voices are not being heard. Well if all of those disillusioned people actually got up off the sofa and decided to actually vote, they’d be surprised to see that yes indeed, their voices are being heard. Voting is free, painless and gives you the opportunity to express your opinion. There are several countries where that opportunity is either a luxury, or a privilege for the chosen few. If people in this country don’t wake up and realize that exercising your right to vote is the way to be heard, then they should stay on the sofa and complain to the dog.

  • Hande: I used that as an example, since it was the first time, as an American abroad, it struck me that there were a vast number of people who didn’t have the same rights as others. I have friends who are Lebanese who to this day, witness appalling acts perpetrated by both the government and other groups, too. And if people really want to read about current day atrocities, mandatory reading is What is the What.

    (And you’re right about Turkey not being an Arabic country, it’s consider Eurasian.) There’s more information at the Amnesty International website. Violence against women is certainly not limited to Turkey; it happens everywhere, I’m afraid. Even in the good ‘ol US of A. And I think like the situation in Darfour, the more it’s brought to light, the more chance we have to overcome it.

    Sandra: There were some pundits joking about Hillary vs. Sarah in 2012; now that’s one debate I’d like to see!

    Aran: Yes, it’s interesting splitting time between two countries. We should do a swap someday…Eskerrik asko!

  • David, you are right. I certainly second What is the What, an eye-opening reading for all of us “Westerners”. And I am aware that the example you gave with Turkey had a special place in your experience. Just the extremeness, the singularity and (in my mind and experience) wrongness of it made me sad, you might understand. Maybe we can make a foodie trip to Turkey sometime, I would love to be your guide!

    Hande: Living abroad, I try to be sensitive to cultural differences, which is another lesson I’ve learned over the past few years. Would love to go to Turkey again. Truth be told: It was my absolute very favorite place I visited on that one year trip, and I spent a full month traveling across the country. I was fortunate to see more than Istanbul, which was really amazing. The Turkish people were very kind (except the guy that wouldn’t let me leave his shop until I bought a carpet) and I loved the food, too. Let me know when you want to go, and we’ll invite Nicky and Oliver to come along…and visit Cenk along the way, too! -xo dl

  • :-)
    I have been pestering Nicky and Oliver for 2,5 years now! My father is from (Gazi)Antep (=great food!) and during a 3 week trip to eastern Turkey 2 years ago I also saw a lot of things I hadn’t known till then, too. Let’s really try to organize something for next year.

  • Even 30 years ago not such a thing happened in Turkey,for sure.It is not even happening in Arabic countries for that reason (divorce).My grandpa is 82 years old and he doesn’t even remember anything like that in Turkey.I’m sure she wanted to get more attention from you.
    About voting though,I couldn’t agree more..

  • David, I read your post having just returned from voting here in New York City and I struck by a few things that you wrote.

    I don’t agree with people who choose not to vote, not to participate in the system because they think the system doesn’t work for them. The only way that it can work is for the people who feel disenfranchised to vote in both the primary and general elections, to sign petitions to get more people on the ballot, and to get out there and canvas other voters so that they will do the right thing. Not to participate guarantees that the system will marginalize you because you have marginalized yourself. And I am really sick and tired of hearing people who opt out complain about how things work.

    I also think it is unacceptable that 40 million Americans don’t have health insurance and millions more have inadequate health insurance or lack reliable access to health care. I think everybody in America should be allowed to participate in Medicare (the government insurance program for the elderly and disabled for those who don’t know). I happen to think that good healthcare is a basic human right.

    Politicians in America have spent decade after decade demonizing welfare, erroneously convincing a great many people that everybody on welfare was bilking the taxpayers of huge amounts of cash. Welfare is not a bad thing. Socialism is not a bad word. What is wrong with from each according to ability to each according to need? Isn’t that some of what we do with taxes? Insurance? School funding, infrastructure funding, public transportation, and so on? So why not healthcare?

    But there is hope today. So many people who have felt disenfranchised by the system are voting today, joining the unprecedented millions who have voted already. I have hope that at the end of the day today Obama will be president and the Democratic Party will really control both houses of the Congress. We need this not just for ourselves but because we need to rebuild our relationships with Europeans and the rest of the world.

    And to think I came to your blog to get away from politics for a few minutes and to think about food.

  • Hande: Let’s do it! I’m anxious to go back. We should confab with Nicky & Oliver…

    Susan NYC: There was an article in the New Yorker a few months ago (I tried to find it to link to, but couldn’t) saying that there was a good argument for people not to vote. The reason being is that people tend to vote in directions that benefit themselves, not ones that benefit society at large. Therefore, a lot of people voting in their own best interests doesn’t produce the best outcome. I think there’s some truth to that.

    Often if people aren’t up-to-date on the issues and initiatives, which happens a lot in California when there are so many propositions that people just tend to vote “no” on them since they’re so confounding, they get rejected. Elsewhere, I imagine that people will often vote with their hearts (or wallets) rather than with their heads. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but may not produce the best outcome for society at large.

    It was an interesting theory and one I’ve heard a few other people espouse as well.

  • I have always been rather disturbed by the welfare=socialism rhetoric in US politics. We have a brilliant (not perfect, of course) national health system in Australia, it is so good private health insurers have to be supported up by the government to survive, in the name of competition. Any government which tried to remove our ‘socialist’ (a word used to innapropriately it is devoid of meaning these days) welfare system would be annihilated in the polls.

  • Dear David,
    I totally agree with you about voting.But I have to tell you that Turkish women have the right to vote and to be elected since 1930 whereas in southern states of USA, colored people have been voting for the last 43 years only and women have been voting since 1946 in France.
    Please do not be confused ;Turkey and Arabia are two DIFFERENT countries.I don’t know how you could put a label on such a free county where the three religions have been leaving in peace since centuries based an one wierd view.
    I am so sorry to read such a review on one of my favorite blogs.

    Bahar: Thanks for your thoughts. I did correct myself previously that Turkey is not Arabic, and indeed is Eurasian. Unfortunately, like most other countries, Turkey is not exempt from violence and discrimination toward women as well as other minorities.

    Am glad you like the blog and am happy to present a variety of opinions, which sometimes shed light on subjects, ones that aren’t discussed nearly enough. Appreciate your contribution! -dl

    (PS: In the US, “African American” is now the acceptable term used for most of the black people in our society.)

  • I was so proud to see my countrymen lined up around the block an hour before the polls opened. Action over apathy. Now, the challenge is to keep it going.

  • Penso che anche noi dovremmo esser un pò più nazionalisti… o per lo meno dare il giustointeresse a ciò che ci fa andare avanti, spero che qualcosa possa cambiare se è questo quello che la gente vuole, se è per questo che ha dato il suo voto.
    scusa il testo in italiano…

  • Hi David..my apologies..I had not seen your previous comment.

    Like I said earlier..I love your blog…gives me a chance to experience another part of the world even though I cannot travel.

    One of my best friends is from Lyon so I discuss things with her..but your blog is a daily look inside and I totally enjoy it!

    Thanks for taking us along on your ride.

    Happy Reader here
    Suzi

  • David – I wonder what you and your readers think of a country where, for over 80 years it has been compulsory to register to be a voter when you become 18 (21 before 1973) and it has been compulsory to vote!
    (Well, that last is not actually true but it IS compulsory to either attend a polling booth or submit a postal vote – but the ballot paper may be left blank or marked in an invalid way if you really don’t want to vote.)
    The penalty for not “voting” is a $25 fine, unless you are incapacitated on polling day for some reason, over 75 or out of the country (or State, if it is a State election.)

    This country also has an Electoral Commission which oversees the whole system of voting. It maintains the rolls, prints the ballot papers, hires temporary staff on election day, rents the polling halls, provides the booths, counts the votes and declares the winners. Because it is expected that everyone will vote there, is sufficient of everything available so that the longest one may expect to wait is about 15 minutes.

    Of course, no political party then needs to spend money trying to get people to vote.

    The country I refer to is Australia.

    (I note that it is compulsory to vote in French Senate elections – but it is not enforced. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_voting)