Dateline: 20 January 2008, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hi Everybody!

Well, we just passed the three-month point in our trip and we’re both feeling twinges of homesickness. We find our thoughts turning to puppies, houses, gardens, and of course friends and family (that’d be you). Missing home… *sigh*… what to do… hey, let’s turn on CNN! (Thank you, Jaliya Guesthouse with cable tv.)

So we turned on CNN, where the big news of the day is about the U.S. presidential primaries, especially McCain’s win in the South Carolina Republican primary. And on the Democrat side, Clinton and Obama seem to be neck and neck.

What an interesting primary season! How are things there? What do you think about the choices of candidates, on either or both sides? How are people feeling in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Montana, California, Alabama? How is the news coverage? News-wise, we feel kind of lucky that we’re only getting bits and pieces — the frosting on the election-news cake, enough to make it interesting without the overload that you all might be feeling there. On the other hand, this means we’re getting only the surface view (frosting) of the candidates — but maybe that’s not so different from what we’d get there anyway? 😉 We’re also missing out on just being able to talk about it with friends and family, so we’re hoping our “comments” box will fill up with your thoughts, hopes, doubts, etc… (hint, hint…)

From this distance at least, it’s exciting because this primary feels quite different from the usual.

On the Democrat side, we have a really experienced woman who is like contender number 1 (omg! in our lifetime! yesss!), and a young but rock-solid black man who is like contender number 2 (omg! in our lifetime! can this really be happening!). Amazing.

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And the choices are interesting on the Republican side, too. Each candidate seems unique, and none of them quite fits the “GOP” stereotype. One, Ron Paul, even has a sense of humor.

What would really be a dream come true is if come November, we can look at the choices on the ballot and feel that no matter which party wins, our next president will get our country moving in a positive direction. A year ago we probably NEVER would have thought this possible — the divide between “Bush” and “us,” so vast, felt like a divide between “Republican” and “Democrat.” But it doesn’t have to be!  The most amazing thing would be if our next President, whoever he/she is, is someone who does NOT stoke these idiotic fires of “red state/blue state,” “culture war,” “with us or against us.”

Kate says: Some people stoke these fires on purpose, but some stoke them simply by virtue of who they are and how people already feel about them. This is one reason why I’m worried about a Clinton presidential candidacy. I’m worried that so many people already think they “hate” her and everything she’s ever touched. I don’t want 4 or 4X more years where our country is divided into “President-Lovers” and “President-Haters.” Enough. I want to be excited about a Clinton-Obama ticket, but even moreso, I want some sense of unity in our country’s support for its president. What do other people think/say about this? Are there signs of rising Hillary-hatred, or am I worrying for nothing?

Derry says: I’m more sanguine about this than Kate. Hillary is, after all, quite the centrist. And I would like to think that the fires of polarization are subsiding. Fatigue if nothing else. That said, I do find dynastic presidencies in general off-putting: we end up voting, for or against, a package that includes irrelevancies tied the past.

As for the Republican side of the ballot, we both breathed a huge sigh of relief while listening to McCain speak today. He has a wealth of experience in both the military and the legislature, and seems highly capable, grounded, intelligent, etc., etc. No, we don’t necessarily agree on various policy points, but there’s not this feeling that we’ll be DOOMED if he is elected president. What a huge relief, like a dark cloud lifting. Maybe he would even choose Ron Paul as his running mate! 🙂

OK we don’t want to jinx ourselves by getting too optimistic too early, and we don’t know enough about all the Republican candidates (McCain included) to know if our relief is warranted (oh no! maybe it’s just another trap! {:-0 ). But we’re going to hope for just what we said: a November ballot where no matter which party wins, we’re not doomed. (Or at least not because of our president.)

What do you think? Your civic engagement can help alleviate our homesickness — it’s a win-win! Let’s discuss!

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