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Pay Attention: Americans Who Live Abroad Are Still Americans

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Our American election of Barack Obama has presented a profound moment of world unity. We have all seen the celebratory images on the Internet and television, which spread across the globe like an explosive wildfire. This worldwide Obama jamboree has burned up the airwaves and cable lines. We Americans have been humbled by our own emotion -- the immensity of our joy and relief -- and we have been moved by the passion of our old and new friends, wherever they may live. No matter the continent on which they are rooted to their bits of earth and love their children and dream their dreams. We have felt the connection.

Before this movement for change that Barack Obama built, who among us thought this solidarity -- this harmony -- was possible after the last eight devastating years? This particular euphoria we feel may not last forever, but let us wallow in it now as the Obama transition moves forward.

I've read many accounts of the new pride Americans now feel. I am among them. After the thrilling moment when we were told Obama had won, I said to my group of friends: I have an announcement. I am really proud of my country. I am proud to be an American again. I've read and heard this same sentiment echoed time and time again from other Americans no matter where they live. The Bush years nearly did us in -- at home and abroad -- but could we have elected Obama without them? In some perverse way, should we thank W. for his absolute incompetence? Dick Cheney for his evilness?

Before you reactionaries start screaming that you've always been proud of your country, let me say this: I have always loved my country. I have loved and had the utmost respect for our soldiers who have lived and died for our country. I've always loved my state, the earth where I was born and I was formed. I love my people, and I am connected to them.

But pride is something else. I have not been proud of what the Bush White House has shoved down our throats for the last eight years. I have been embarrassed for us. This administration has destroyed and humiliated the electorate he was supposed to uphold and protect -- and wreaked havoc on the world surrounding us. But enough of that. We are moving on.

But I have one last thing to say to my fellow Americans who rant and rave about their fellow countrymen who live abroad -- and I don't care where they reside: We have moved abroad for many different reasons -- including those of us who are in the military. Those of us who have moved for jobs. Those of us who are retired -- or have friends and family whom we want to be closer to. Those of us who want to help others who are less fortunate or those who desire a less materialistic or expensive life. It is cheaper to live in some other nations, and our dollars will go further. Some of us have a different view of life and the world and see ourselves in exotic pictures. That is our right, too. The reasons Americans live abroad are many and varied, but no matter what, we are fulfilling our destinies. We pay our taxes to the IRS. And we are still Americans.

We Americans have the freedom to decide for ourselves what we as individuals want to do. We are fortunate enough to have the freedom to travel, experience other cultures, and broaden our horizons. Why did our Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin live in France? To strengthen the ties between our two countries. To gain support for the New World, which we certainly were then -- and still are in many ways. By the way, they both loved their time in Paris. Of course, there were many others who lived in England and France (and other countries).

The fact that some of us Americans don't live within our country's borders doesn't make us less American. We may even feel more American than you, because we are isolated from our countrymen. We may miss the familiar even if we enjoy our fresh environment.

There are various reports of how many Americans live abroad, but this is from Transitions Abroad:

According to recent estimates by the U.S. State Department, there are 6.6 million Americans living overseas, a little more than the entire population of the state of Massachusetts.

So stop your rants and raves. We come in force. In this time of unifying America, accept your cousins who don't live at home. Stop feeling threatened. What is the point?

Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. She is tired of getting criticized by some people for living in France and being a turncoat American. For God's sakes, she's from Arkansas and still sounds Southern. How much more American can you get? To check out more of her work, go to www.betharnold.com.