All eyes on the U.S.A.

Michael
Michael Johansen
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Telling the Americans who they should vote for is a mistake. It looks so tempting because, from the outside, the choice seems so obvious, but they would react badly.
Americans don't like being told what to do.
Who can blame them? It's their sovereign right as a nation to choose their own leaders without interference from a bunch of foreigners.
And, while one is keeping one's mouth shut, one should also beware of predicting how they'll actually vote.
A reputation for wisdom and foresight can so easily shatter. For instance, one of the columnists on these pages (no, not Dear Abby or Miss Manners) once confidently predicted during the Republican primary campaigns of the late 1980s that no George Bush would ever be U.S. president.
Now, two Bushes later, who can foretell how the Americans will cast their ballots and who (hopefully by grace of the popular vote) will become president?
Regardless of whether it's anybody else's business or not, those questions are foremost in the minds of just about every politically aware person on the planet.
If a billion or more wishes were granted the franchise would be extended to the entire world.
If that were to happen the winner would be sure to win by an immense landslide and the runner-up, along with his questionable side-kick, would hardly show at all.
But, back in the real world, even if nobody who's not a U.S. citizen has a say in the election, it already overshadows all the more local (i.e. national and/or continental) concerns of the planet outside of the United States, either because the importance of those matters seems to pale in comparison, or because the outcome of the issues largely depends on who gets in.
Just like four years ago and four years before that, the Americans have a choice between someone who will deal with other nations intelligently, fairly and peacefully and someone who will let the wars go on and on, between a political party that strives to represent tolerance and inclusion and a party that increasingly appeals to base emotions like fear and bigotry, between a future in which the United States could help heal the world by eliminating pollution and cleaning up the environment (as all countries, including Canada, should be doing) and a future in which the natural Earth will continue to be sacrificed to greed and oil.
However, in spite of the general realization that the world needs an American president who can steer his country off its current destructive road, there are still plenty of people in and out of the United States who both favour and pray for the latter options - but more in than out. Whether their motives are open-eyed or deluded is almost irrelevant, since the results are the same: on the one side it's a voter exercising his or her rights, but on the other it's a desperation that can only make itself heard through desperate acts.
Some commentators have predicted some kind of pre-election incident, an attempt by foreign malcontents to influence the vote - usually in whichever way promotes anarchy - but perhaps the opposite will happen.

Election day pause?
Maybe, as the Americans go to the polls and the world holds its breath, there'll be something like the famous First World War Christmas truce, when against all orders the opposing soldiers lay down their weapons and celebrated the holiday together.
Maybe there will actually be a lull in the fighting around the world, since few will want to miss a minute of the polling results as they come in from across the United States.
Maybe everybody will be sitting still and quiet as all eyes are on the nearest television screens.
If that happens, no matter who wins the election, at least some good will have come of it - even if it's only a few hours of peace, only a calm in a continuing storm.

Michael Johansen writes from Labrador

Organizations: U.S.A.

Geographic location: United States, Canada, Labrador

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