Friday, October 24, 2008

If Obama Is Elected, All Is Forgiven

“If Obama is elected, all is forgiven.” At the 2008 Conference on World Affairs, Wendy Chamberlin (U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan at the time of 9/11) was asked in a Q&A, “What is the rest of the world saying about the upcoming presidential election?” Her response: “If Obama is elected, all is forgiven.”

“Forgiven for what?” you might ask. The short answer is that the world might forgive us for George W. Bush. In case you don’t travel abroad, I can tell you that the United States of America is now the most hated nation on earth (with the possible exception of Sudan, because of Darfur). Naïve self-proclaimed patriots like to say, “Foreigners don’t hate Americans. They love Americans. They just hate our government,” and there was a time when that was absolutely true. But one of the drawbacks of democracy is that— when a president like Bush gets elected to a second term— the electorate must share the blame for everything that happens in the second term. Right or wrong, the world sees the average American as a rich, spoiled, redneck goober, and this can translate into some nasty consequences. Recent statistics (from the FBI unit that monitors foreign crime against Americans) show that 24% of all American tourists traveling in Third World countries report falling victim to burglary or assault.

Since my wife and I write about living conditions in Third World slums, based on our travel experiences to those places, this gets very personal for us. We protect ourselves by wearing jackets emblazoned with the Canadian flag, and we carry luggage with Canadian shipping stickers plastered all over, and we flat-out lie about our citizenship. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, we are Canadians. If Wendy Chamberlin was right, and if Obama becomes the next president, maybe things will change for the better. We can only hope that’s the case.

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