Like I explain in my book, The Absentee Ballot, recognizing traits unique to the United States and Americans became easier after I had been abroad for a while. I didn’t notice our idiosyncrasies because they bombarded me daily.
One of the most glaring American deficiencies is our obsession with acceptance. We are consumed by wearing the latest trend, living in the most beautiful house and driving the best car. I was reminded yesterday when I parked outside of a golf shop and sat in the car while my husband went inside. I watched a man exit the store and open the car door of a late model black Mercedes, with shiny rims and windows with a gangster tint, sitting in the spot adjacent mine. His hair was perfectly coiffed, his clothes spiffy and a diamond encrusted Rolex sparkled on his wrist. My mind then drifted to a Milanese Rolex dealer who once told me that Rolex only makes the diamond face for the American market; Europeans would never wear them. Sure, they might buy a watch costing five-hundred thousand Euros, but it wouldn’t contain diamonds and no one would ever know.
This story does have a point, apart from materialism. The diamonds we wear, the Guccis we carry, and the BMWs we drive aren’t for our benefit. They are for the benefit of the guy at work and everyone else we come in contact with. Like this psychological need to impress, we have become unhinged in our recent desire to re-curry favor in the international community. It’s like there are three hundred million Sally Fields standing on the world stage demanding “like me, really really like me.”
Barack Obama isn’t just the first black American to receive a major party nomination; apparently he’s the only one who can make the world like us again. A Washington Post article starts out by pointing to our tattered reputation abroad. It goes on to explore the global reaction of Obama’s nomination.
From India: Sunila Patel “A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different.”
It’s nice that Ms Patel is concerned about our racial tolerance, but maybe she should worry about the fissures within her own community. Just how tolerant are the Hindus toward the Muslims and vice-versa. And how evolved is a society based on a caste system and one in which males having more value than females.
From Britain. “Obama is the exciting image of what we always hoped America was,” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a British foreign policy institute.
What were you hoping America was? Tolerant? Racially diverse? Multicultural? Compassionate? One question. Who was the last black, or nominee of Indian or Pakistani descent to become Prime Minister of Britain? Maybe I missed him or her in my history books. Perhaps Mr. Niblett is simply excited at the possibility of having a fellow socialist in the Oval Office.
From Germany: Obama also has strong support in Europe, the heartland of anti-Bush sentiment. “Germany is Obama country,” said Karsten Voight, the German government’s coordinator for German-North American cooperation. “He seems to strike a chord with average Germans.”
Which average Germans would those be? Is she referring to “evolved” citizens like herself who work in think tanks and universities, or the ones desecrating Jewish graves and inciting racial violence throughout the Fatherland?
I voted twice for Bush, and he has proven worthy of a spot in a ‘who is the worst President in the last hundred years?’ debate. The dollar is a shadow of its former self, healthcare costs have skyrocketed, gas prices have ballooned, relations with our allies have suffered, wages have stagnated, and our federal budget has expanded to unprecedented levels. And for all of the Bush apologists who point to an increase in security, try traveling internationally. While machine gun toting and profiling Italian police roam Malpensa airport in Milan, our security asks us to take off our shoes. I’ve smuggled cheese each and every trip and until they catch my cheese, I won’t admit that the country is safer.
Bush’s poor performance aside, when did a President become a reason to celebrate or despise a country? Do we hate Venezuelans because of Chavez? Are Iranians evil because of Ahmadinejad?
It is too simplistic to characterize a nation based on the election of its President. It is also unhealthy for Americans to elect a President based on a desire to be liked.