As I write this, Barack Obama is celebrating his victory in the South Carolina primary. I wanted to share two things we noticed a year ago while living in Europe.
1.) While touring Brussels with our group of college students, John noticed Obama's picture proudly displayed in some apartment windows in an up-and-coming immigrant neighborhood there.
2.) While walking to posh Regent's Park, London (my mom says none other than Sir Paul McCartney has a townhouse there), we noticed our first Obama campaign poster in a window overlooking the beautiful park. We were really floored...an Obama poster in London in spring 2007???
I am acutely aware that people reading this blog come from a range of political persuasions (all of which you can find in my politically diverse extended family, and I've voted both sides of the aisle) but the interesting thing for me as someone who likes to travel is this: in electing someone to be (among other things) a figurehead of our nation, we are in many ways telegraphing to the rest of the world who we think we are. When we were in Belgium etc last year, we often felt sheepish saying we were American, given our current position among the nations of the world.
The head of the Antwerp program, before we left the U.S., made a presentation about the ways in which our students needed to keep a low profile . It was a rather funny PowerPoint presentation which included, among other things, not wearing a leather jacket with a giant American eagle emblazoned on the back, ha ha. But once we were over there, this was serious business. There were places of business we were told to avoid because there had been trouble when Americans went there (not many, but still!). And I remember wanting to go in those places, to prove that we are not all the same. Naive, yes. But still. You might also remember the conversation with Grumpy Flemish Bus Passenger in early March (search the blog for the anecdote).
I am certainly not saying that if Barack Obama becomes President that all of this will suddenly disappear, but I just wonder what it would be like to travel out of the country under something other than a Bush or Clinton administration. I've actually never done it, since my first trip to Europe was in 1993...
What would it be like, to put a different face on America? Guess we'll see.