Hi Blog. This was a fast turnaround. I got a call last night during dinner for some quotes from the AFP, and less than four hours later it’s up on the Net. About my reactions to the Obama election. The reporter wanted reactions from Americans abroad, so I asked if it would be okay to speak as a former American. Even better, she said.
RANT ALERT, but it’s about time: Over the course of a twenty-minute conversation I talked inter alia about the shame I felt as America became the conservatory of Neoconism. As the sole superpower deciding to remake the world in its own (ignorant) image, it betrayed its ideals through renditioning, signing statements, torture memos and waterboarding, Guantanamo, wiretapping, a widening gap between rich and poor and a net decline in incomes for the nation’s poor, fingerprinting foreigners and denying them habeas corpus, two wars built on lies and the profit motive that are ultimately bankrupting the country all over again, topped off by a worldwide financial crisis resulting from this administration’s misbegotten policies. And so on. How I no longer felt like an American anymore and was happy to have given up my affiliation to it. More in my next column. Here’s hoping Obama restores America’s image to the world. The reporter essentially took my first and last quotes and took away the word “former” from “the American side of me”.
Anyway, it’s an article worth writing as these reactions matter. Good riddance Bush, in all likelihood (given the unprecedented damage done to the country at home and millions of people abroad) America’s worst president in history. I doubt I am far from alone in that appraisal from other people with American roots overseas. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Obama win injects a Cool America factor
BERLIN (AFP) — Barack Obama’s victory in the US election has given Americans an almost overnight excuse to stop hiding their passports.
Americans around the world have reported being congratulated by strangers in the street. Obama t-shirts are on sale in stores in Paris and London, and after years of criticism over Iraq, climate change and other disputes, newspaper headlines have proclaimed that the United States is cool again.
“YES, WE CAN be friends!” splashed Germany’s top selling Bild daily on its front page Thursday. “We have fallen in love with the new, the different, the good America. ‘Obamerica’.”
Elena Fuetsch, a US student in Russia, learned about Obama’s victory on an overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow and was congratulated by a group of French students.
“One of them told me: ‘I never thought I would be telling this to an American, but congratulations on your president. We’re very proud of you’,” Fuetsch recalled.
“Many of us are still in somewhat pinch me mode,” said Roland Pearson, spokesman for the Johannesburg-based volunteer organisation Americans in Africa for Obama.
“I was out today shopping and a gentleman asked me whether I was American and I said yes. He said ‘oh, you must be celebrating along with all the rest of us’. No one said that in 2000 and no one said that in 2004.”
Eric Hansen, who has lived in Germany for more than 20 years and written several books on German culture from the US perspective, said Europeans “have waited just as much as Americans have waited to be able to change their opinions about America.
“I think that this old dream of an idealised America, this myth, is something that people need. It is allowed now, it is permissable to have it again.”
But while there was a sense of immediate common joy, Pearson, in Johannesburg and other expatriates, said global perceptions of the United States would take time to change after eight years under President George W. Bush.
“It’s only been 48 hours. Transforming a world view takes a little bit longer than that,” said Pearson. “Right now people are working on the level of emotion.”
Scott Saarlas, a 45-year-old American who now lives in Ethiopia, said: “There will be a lot of Americans who’ll feel more accepted and not be embarrassed to say that they are Americans in front of foreigners.
“I’d like to hope that it will be a lot easier now for us to travel overseas, but it’s too early to say at the moment.”
Jackie P. Chan, an American from San Francisco working in Hong Kong for an investment group, said Obama’s victory would be the first step to changing perceptions.
“We will have to see how the US government runs once Obama and the newly elected Democratic majority starts working in January,” she said.
“I think I will be proud to be American again when we pull out of the Middle East and stop spending billions a year of taxpayers’ money; when we develop better relationships with other countries based on shared ideals and values, and not interests like oil, and when we become more open-minded about the world and less US-centric.”
In [Sapporo], university lecturer and rights activist Arudou Debito, or formerly David Aldwinckle, said he abandoned his US citizenship in 2002 during the Bush administration.
Debito, 43, who now has a Japanese passport, welcomed the Obama victory as “the end of the dark age” and said he hoped the new president “may make the [former] American side of me proud again.”
But Hansen, the writer in Germany, said that it was often hard to be an American abroad even before Bush.
“It suffered before. When I came to Germany under (Ronald) Reagan, and then George Bush senior marched into Kuwait, and I heard the same sayings — ‘no blood for oil’ and that relationships with America had reached a nadir and all these things.
“It happens regularly. The perception of America sinks to a low point but it also regularly goes up,” said Hansen.