One World, 194 Passports

As I was cooking up a pot of Moroccan Garbanzo Bean soup for tonight’s book club potluck, I tuned into National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation“ talk show. Today, it became “Talk of the World” as a forum between hosts Neal Conan and Ted Koppel and callers from around the globe. The topic? The election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

As I listened, I kept having to pause my vegetable chopping to blink back tears. All the callers—from South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu to a man from Provence—expressed their joy over Obama’s election. Tutu disparaged the Bush administration and said Obama was renewing the world’s hope. Human rights activists Natan Sharansky (Israeli) and Hanan Ashrawi (Palestinian) thought perhaps Obama could bring peace to their region.

The Obama love-fest was certainly heart-warming. (And I can only imagine how intimidating it is to our president-elect to have the entire planet pinning its hopes on him!)

I’m happy that as an American I’ll be able to hold my head higher when I travel the world. After 2004, when the country re-elected Bush, I felt especially ashamed and even a little fearful of going abroad.

That year before the election I spent three weeks traveling in Ireland. The people seem very pro-American—possibly because so many of the Irish immigrated to the United States during the famine years. When I met and talked to them they were gracious, even when the conversation turned to politics. When I explained that I abhorred Bush, though, the atmosphere brightened and people visibly relaxed.

A Thin Line Between Love & Hate

There are certainly countries where the governments are extremely anti-American, but I believe that most people in other countries are less hateful toward Americans than we realize. They may find some of us spoiled, oblivious and insensitive, but only a handful wish us, as a nation, real harm.

That said, however, the last eight years have made our country look bad in the world’s eyes. Now, perhaps, Americans can redeem ourselves. It will be interesting to see if we feel safer when we perceive that the world likes us again. (And now that the fear-mongering heads of state are exiting.)

  • Have you, dear reader, ever changed itineraries because you feared traveling in a place that might be hostile to Americans?
  • Have you ever pretended to be a different nationality, say, Canadian?
  • Have you encountered either good will or bad will in foreign countries?
  • Do you think you’ll feel safer as an international traveler once Obama is in the White House?

Now back to my Moroccan-influenced soup.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor