Fear not, friends — I bring you what I hope will be a small, cheering bit of perspective on this gloomy morning (it’s fittingly gray just outside of DC, anyway). If you were like me last night, in the immediate moment when you realized that the election was over, you may-or-may-not have had a brief, wild internal moment of, “Time to rethink democracy?”
But, of course, that’s not the answer, and if there’s anything we can all surely appreciate from yesterday’s election, it’s that we can all be proud to live in a country in which we can all so freely express our opinions, criticize our elected leaders, and peacefully decide who we’ll put at the helm of our government at regular intervals — no fear, no violence, no coups d’état for this country, thanks. It’s a very rare phenomenon in the course of human history, and I feel that we sometimes take for granted how rare it still is in the world at large today.
If I were a blogger in China, for instance, writing the same types of things about the communist regime that I do about our federal government, there’s a darn good chance that they would swoop in, take me away, lock me up and throw away the key — and you can forget about due process. The main source for news in China is the state-run propaganda machine, oops I mean media arm, and their internet ‘privileges’ only go so far as the Great Firewall of China will allow them. As for their “elections” and government transitions? They’re a running joke — if the communist regime decides to let you joke about them, that is.
While we were all awaiting the election results last night, so were Chinese internet users, eagerly following the dramatic twists and turns of an activity the likes of which they may never know. The WSJ describes it as political “porn” for dissidents:
Barack Obama was the top trending topic Wednesday morning on Sina Corp. SINA -1.08%’s popular Weibo microblogging service, while Mitt Romney was fourth.
…[W]ith China set to begin a once-a-decade leadership transition later this week, at least as many microbloggers used the occasion of the U.S. vote to comment, often pointedly, on the lack of input they have in choosing their own head of state.
“Both figuring out who the next boss will be, they call it ‘election,’ we call it ‘having a meeting,’” wrote one Weibo user…
“Strange situations: 1) We concern ourselves more with the U.S. election than with our own. 2) We are perfectly clear about how the U.S. presidential election works but are utterly ignorant about China’s,” wrote another in a post that was later deleted. …
The Global Times itself ran a report noting waiting times of up to seven hours at some early voter polling stations in Florida…
“We’ve waited 63 years and we don’t even know what a ballot looks like. Who should feel disgraced?” wrote one anonymous user.
The freedom to dissent without fear of repercussions, and the ability to participate in a democratic process — they’re truly beautiful things.