A global input into a national decision.
Seldom is the topic of this column taken from a long list of planned topics that wait being unthawed. This time the unplanned stimulus comes from a video interview of foreign-born residents in New York. The question put to them was their view of Obama. How would they vote in November?
Inquiries reflecting the views of “the man in the street” often induce shudders that travel down the spine of your columnists. (The pronouncements of some politicians are not entirely exempt.) Sidewalk interviews from America confirm the worse prejudices about the country. Asking the passers-by is a popular art form practiced stateside. When done in Europe, the results reflecting unawareness and irrationality are equally discouraging. US-made ignorance’s boldness has much to do with the courage by which imbecility and lack of knowledge are fearlessly exhibited for all to see. The support comes from a popular culture and from a school system programmed to produce not education but good feeling that ends in failure. Unawareness facilitates the unabashed voicing of unfounded judgments. The justification of these proclamations is “my view is as good as yours, because we are all created equal”. Frequently, the upshot is sad hilarity.
The “resident aliens” stopped to inquire about the “President Alien” did not represent all immigrant categories. By the choice of the locale, legitimate and qualified professionals were missed. Given that built-in bias, the results were predictable. Regardless of their English, most respondents knew who Obama is and supported him because “he is for poor people”. Presumably, this was not to insinuate that he is for the poor to the extent that he wants more of them. Furthermore, the consensus was that, due to his and the respondent’s common ethnic background, the President deserves support. Yellow striped wasps support yellow striped wasps. Questioning that right is “racism”. Indeed, supporting or rejecting somebody solely because of his pigmentation is racism. However, by Orwellian “newspeak”, only in the case of the low-pigmented does voting by color meets the prerequisites for applying the racism curse.
The foregoing is in many ways also a European reaction. It tries to prove, involving race, ethnicity as the cause of the preferences of Obama’s critics. This is being shared with you as an opener to depict Europe’s position in the matter of America’s election.
The United States, being Europe’s major, that is only ally, explains the interest in the pending decision. The more so, since America is also Europe’s preferred enemy. “Preferred,” points here to an odd relationship. Globally, no country attracts more attention than does the USA. America is perceived here as the source of all good and bad trends. Conveniently, the “bad”, which spreads because the locals love to indulge in it, furnishes an excuse that brings with it, free of charge, the coveted absolution for “sins”. This happens by blaming the source of the temptation and not those that do something foolish “because it comes from America”.
Take fast food. Modern life style creates a market for it since we travel more than our ancestors and because women have unlearned to cook to prove their emancipation. Modernity spreads from its pioneer. That makes eagerly consumed fast food -from hamburgers to tacos and kebab- in a condemning way, “American”. Money and easy availability have made Americans fat. Thereafter, that ailment infected Europeans. Now then, let us return to reality. If you eat too much of anything –except unbuttered popcorn- you will get obese. Rotund persons are responsible for eating too much and for, politely put, becoming “horizontally challenged”. Regardless of this, the “Americans” are blamed for their sinning by carpers that sit in extra-wide chairs in the eatery under the “arch”.
America is also a favored enemy. Not for what she does, rather for what she is unlikely to do. Snapping at the calves of the Russians, the Chinese or even the smaller but combative fry, such as Arabs or Serbs, has consequences. Most scary is that they bite back and that they go for the throat. Moral posturers prefer immunity for loud professions. The USA does not retaliate and, if the accuser needs succor, she forgets bygones and hurries to help. The result is that, one can look good being a brave David and play the role risk-free against an always-amicable Goliath.
American elections are of interest in officially friendly and informally hostile countries. One often hears that the “world” should have a say about who will be the US’ President. In a way, the wish is understandable. The President is the world most powerful person. At the same time, he is also the leader of several alliances. It is part of the picture that foreign opinion, or the impression of it, has an impact on American voters.
We must note that, America’s decision is not always the choice of foreign crowds. The Kennedy mania –shared by this writer before he became a citizen- has been universal. As the originally suppressed facts emerge, it is clear that, we were self-drugged by our projected hopes and that we, therefore, ignored the facts. To the extent that the writer remembers, he understood how the winning votes from Chicago were “created” and, indicating a major weakness of his character, he did not care. The next “European” President was Carter. Reagan after him provoked loud dislike. The graffiti’s were as colorful as was the Kremlin’s opposition loud. Then Clinton got the nod as a clarinet player. Obama, being the certified anti-racist’s choice, received approval because of a background that one was not supposed to notice. While admittedly not all Republicans were good presidents, a correlation emerges. To the extent that a candidate is to the left of whatever and that he is willing to “negotiate” about characteristically “American ways”, he will gather endorsement from abroad.
Given a fashionable anti-American instinct that takes sides when America’s chooses, it is evident that now as before, “Europe votes for Obama”. This is an additional, even if minor reason, to cast one’s ballot accordingly. This time, too, folks that have erred by adjusting to the standards set by outsiders, must be, at least in their own way, right in their choice.