Monday, January 7, 2008

Obama in Lebanon

Dave and I arrived 10 minutes late for Barack Obama's question-and-answer session in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and got stuck a block from the Opera House when the police shut down traffic in front of the village green.

I parked in the gap between two legal spaces and we went and milled with the overflow crowd: a mix of high-school students, moms with strollers, and retirees in ski jackets, with a few Japanese tourists thrown in.

Senator Obama came out and gave a brief speech and shook a few hands before returning to the audience inside. I think the words were probably ordinary but the impression was hopeful, even substantive.

We lived in Shanghai in 2004 and Tokyo in 2000, so it's been a while since I've shared any geography with a presidential election. When you're that many time zones away, the primaries seem like nothing more than the prelude to an abstract sorrow.

But in person, Obama is anything but sorrowful. He is the kind of guy I would vote for on gut instinct, neither an ugly American nor a quiet one. Just before he appeared, a man was hauled off the steps in handcuffs, muttering to himself. After Obama left, you could hear people talking about how glad they were to have been there.

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