Isaac and I are back from our first European tour with loads of stories to tell, but before the personal stuff, I’d like to comment on the global.
It was quite a relief (to me, at least — I think Isaac suffered from withdrawal) to be away from the incessant media coverage of the election in the states. Our European hosts said their media was dominated by American election coverage, but it was muted to us, especially since we were away from television for most of the trip. (I think the only TV we saw was in airports.) Now that we’re home, and after watching the news, we have to share our European experience.
Everywhere we went, three different countries, we had the most interesting election conversations with complete strangers on buses and trains, in airports, restaurants and museums, and just crossing the street by the simple expediency of wearing Obama buttons. (What the heck, if you’re going to look like a rubber-necking American tourist anyway, you might as well wear a badge proclaiming your country of origin.) Universally, the response was friendly and positive. (Of course, it’s possible that the disapproving Europeans were too polite to comment. We did get the occasional sidewise look, but there’s no way to know if it was because of Obama, or just because we were American.)
Most striking was the reaction of security guards. As you can imagine, in the course of international travel, you encounter a lot of security guards. Every single one, whether in an airport, or a transit station, or a public building spoke positively about Obama. They hate Bush. They dismissed McCain (and mocked Palin). It was Obama the anti-terrorist security forces want in office. One subway security guard told us he was Iraqi. “Bush must go. Obama.” Two guards in two different countries polished the button — “Obama!” Finally, as we left the Netherlands, I left my Obama button with an airport security guard who begged to have it — “We can’t get them here.”
Sarah Palin is on the TV speaking as I write. She calls Obama a socialist, as if she is not governor of the most socialist, share-the-wealth state in America (her words, not mine, conveniently forgotten now). A few minutes earlier, McCain was speaking live with his “bad guys will test Obama” rhetoric, as if every president is not tested. I remember the disdain of those who are really on the front lines fighting for the security of everyday people in everyday situations.
Who is really going to make us more secure in this anxious world? Who will better help us restore our reputation in the rest of the world? Who is getting our votes?
Obama. You betcha.