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‘The Whole World Is Watching’

November 3rd, 2020 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, France, Hong Kong, UAE

People tend to say that ahead of various big events. Especially the breathless folk who work in media relations or advertising. It also sometimes can be heard, chanted, during a demonstration against the authorities.

The whole world is watching.

It pretty much is never true.

Sober and realistic is the way to approach this. John McKay, the USC football coach in the 1960s and 1970s, put things into perspective for his players, ahead of a key game, when he said, “And remember, no matter what happens out there, 600 million people in China don’t care.”

(Back when China’s population was 600 million.)

Occasionally, however, the “whole world is watching” is not hyperbole, and tonight we can experience one of those examples:

The U.S. presidential election.

I have witnessed this when living and working outside the U.S. — in Hong Kong (2008), the United Arab Emirates (2012) and in France (2016, 2020). The National, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, has been updating a daily elections page for weeks. French national television has bad the U.S. election as one of its lead stories for weeks.

Being aware of how the U.S. presidency election works is a topic of curiosity from one side of the globe to the other.

Not because the rest of the world thinks the U.S. is inhabited by millions of fascinating people, but because it has been the world’s premier military and economic power since 1945.

What happens in the States often holds great significance for people far away. One of two candidates is going to win an election, and someone in Uzbekistan or Colombia or Nigeria or Cambodia will be talking about it tomorrow. Not all day, no, but it will come up, and those non-Americans will weigh what it means to their country, their region or their family.

I have come to believe this because I have been in foreign lands for four U.S. presidential elections now, and I have always been impressed at how many non-Americans ask me what I think will happen, in the election back home.

More than once, I have been reminded by non-Americans that what decisions made in the land of the free and the home of the brave … matter to many people in many lands — countries many of us couldn’t find on a map.

So, “the whole world is watching” the election … about as true as it ever is going to get and I suppose the least we can do is take it seriously.


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