We're out there. All around the world. We look just like our neighbors. But we're the lucky ones. We've got the golden tickets. Come November - even though we live outside the country - we get to vote for president of the United States.
An estimated six million Americans live overseas. We're teachers and aid workers; bankers and businesspeople; students, soldiers and CEOs. Every single one of us is an unofficial ambassador for our country, living every day on the front lines of global public opinion.
And, frankly, what we're hearing isn't good. Our friends and colleagues know that we need to wind up the war in Iraq sooner rather than later. They know that the science of global warming - not to mention Middle Eastern politics - demands a 21st century response based on big ideas, not Big Oil. And they are absolutely baffled that the richest country in the world is unable (or unwilling) to provide basic healthcare for all its citizens.
I've lived overseas for a number of years now. In the days and months following the attacks of September 11, there was the most incredible outpouring of support and solidarity. But I can tell you firsthand that after seven years of George W. Bush's strong-arm tactics with allies and enemies alike, this goodwill has all but dried up.
I can't count the number of times I have heard, "Well, you're different, but most Americans..." Or "I love America, but..." The rest of the sentence usually relates to a lack of knowledge, concern, and even interest in the world beyond our own borders. These aren't people who are inclined to hate America. These are average folks who long for the day that America will engage in the world like it has in the past.
As proud Americans, we are fiercely independent. But that independence will never override our interdependence in today's complex world.
The worldwide outpouring of interest in Barack Obama's candidacy should be seen for what it is: a rejection of the feeble and failed diplomacy of the Bush administration. This election is our big chance to reverse our fortunes on the world stage. The world does not want to see Obama elected because they hate America. Quite the opposite.
This week OffTheBus is publishing a variety of stories that cover the presidential election from an international perspective.