Friday, October 24, 2008

Only In America

I loved Nicholas Kristof’s column yesterday.

In particular, I loved reading this:
The other day I had a conversation with a Beijing friend and I mentioned that Barack Obama was leading in the presidential race:

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!

What an amazing country, indeed. I’m not measuring any drapes here, but I love the message that an Obama presidency would send to the world, if we’re so fortunate as to win this election. It tells the world that we truly are the land of opportunity for everyone. It’s not just a slogan; it’s real.

America’s reputation around the world has taken a hit. As Kristof writes, we’re associated with some pretty bad stuff these days: Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and extraordinary rendition, Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the world economy.

Last time the Mister and I went to Italy, in 2005, I was shocked at the anti-Americanism I picked up, for the first time ever. Italy, remember, was an ally in Iraq. Silvio Berlusconi is a George W. Bush BFF. So I was shocked to witness Americans heckled and verbally harassed on three difference occasions. These were not “ugly Americans,” they were typical tourists enjoying a holiday. They did not deserve this treatment.

And I thought: George Bush has ruined our vacation. Kristof writes:

In his endorsement, Mr. Powell added that an Obama election “will also not only electrify our country, I think it’ll electrify the world.” You can already see that. A 22-nation survey by the BBC found that voters abroad preferred Mr. Obama to Mr. McCain in every single country — by four to one over all. Nearly half of those in the BBC poll said that the election of Mr. Obama, an African-American, would “fundamentally change” their perceptions of the United States.

America has some fences to mend overseas. I don’t see a McCain presidency doing that. Sending Barack Obama to the White House will send a profound statement to the world that we're ready to change.