Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The View from Fez - in New York!

In an exclusive report from Times Square, The View From Fez writer, Suzanna Clarke, reports on election night in the Big Apple. Suzanna is in New York to launch her book, A House in Fez which will be published by Simon & Schuster next week.

Majid & son Abdou - the smile says it all.

Suzanna reports:

When Barack Obama's victory was announced, the crowd in Times Square, New York, released the pent up energy that had been held in for eight long years. They shrieked and danced in the street, high-fived and hugged one another. Cars drove past honking, passengers hanging out of windows. A chant began that continued for hours, "Obama, Obama, Yes We Can."

"We've shown the world that we can elect a black man," a black man said as he shook my hand. "Unity has prevailed. Next time it's a woman's turn."

There was never any doubt that the state of New York would deliver for Barak Obama – and it did - thirty-seven Electoral College votes that were a sign of the huge swing to come.

In the bleachers in Times Square were the faces that make up this polyglot nation: black , Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian. The sense of good will was palpable, despite the continually swelling crowd. Stallholders distributed free pop-corn and pretzels. One young black man continually called out Obama's name as he hugged every woman in sight.

As it became apparent that Obama's lead was unassailable, fire trucks drove past hooting their horns and flashing their lights. More vehicles joined in and the crowd went wild, until the entire city was consumed in horns, whistles, and exuberant cheers. At that moment, democracy felt like a truly wondrous thing.

Earlier in the night I'd attended a panel discussion with top analysts and experts from the World Policy Journal, including veteran New York Times and CBS News correspondent David A. Andelman; Jack Devine, veteran head of the clandestine services of the CIA and academic Nina Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev.

"I voted for the first time today," Khrushcheva said, to a rousing reception. "And I voted for Barack Obama." She reflected on the fact that her great-grandfather had stood up against John F. Kennedy, and here she was, helping to elect the man who was being compared to him.

As I caught a yellow taxi to Times Square, the driver was highly emotional. "Thank God," he cried. "Bush has brought this country to its knees. At last we have a President who can talk to the rest of the world. Maybe there is hope after all."

Words & photographs: Suzanna Clarke


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