Thursday, October 09, 2008

How to Spell his Name

It was just a B. I had drawn them many times with the standard Cape Verdean blue pen—four white rings around the base and tip, a pinched top, in the hands of students or guards or secretaries. This particular pen belonged to the U.S. Embassy in downtime Praia. A thick glass separated the waiting room from the office. It would have made any American convenience store owner weep with envy. There was a cooler with amazingly cold water, posters about visas in Portuguese and English. And now a blue “b” drawn on a write-in ballot.
President/Vice President. Home address. Date of birth.
I liked writing his name, but it felt silly. After so much pomp, it had come down to this? To me, holding a pen, trying to remember how to spell his name? I thought about chads, about how the devil is in the details, and how “e” misleadingly comes before “i” in “Hussein”. That our hallowed democracies should depend, even in part, on the orthography of its dyslexic citizens abroad!
I also had butterflies. My bizarre Peace Corps extra-curricular—of plopping down at the internet to watch debate footage in buffering jolts, to scan opinion pages, and forwarded op/eds—had been silly, when my daily conversations were about corn and rain and zouk songs. But suddenly it was relevant. I was a part of that strange parallel universe of "bailouts" and "surges". So much so that though it affected me little, I could affect it. No matter how far away, how uninformed, or how dyslexic, I got to help pick.
Barack Hussein Obama/Biden.
(Joe, right? Yeah, Joe.)