As an American living in Geneva, Switzerland, I have not yet met a European who would vote for McCain (and that was before his 'mystifying', 'baffling', 'bizarre' choice of Sarah Palin as his
We live on the European continent where even visitors have excellent health care, solid educational opportunity, equal pay for women, distinct separation of church and state, gold standard environmental regulations. The center 'right' in Europe is more comparable to US
Democrats 'left', on social and fiscal issues.
So the choice of Palin for the McCain ticket is utterly terrifying to Europeans. It is all they want to talk about. They are worried. They are even more worried than usual for their beloved US of A.
I remember sitting in a living room in Geneva at a peace meeting in 2003, the night before our invasion of Iraq. There, one American woman sought to explain how George W. Bush was an aberration and that we mustn't over react and forget the essential goodness of the American people. An Indian banker smiled indulgently at her. He said, "We are willing to forgive you if only vote in George W. Bush once. That would have been a mistake. It was a mistake. But if you vote him back in, in 2004 that will be what the character of the American people looks like. That will be an expression of who you really are." He paused. "And if that is who you really are, I don't know if we can ever forgive you."
He was a disappointed lover of America; a once passionate and adoring believer in our Dream.
We assured him that the American people would not be so foolish as to elect W. twice.
I often think of that banker, and of another conversation I had with an Ambassador friend. In late November 2004 I explained to the Ambassador (of a large unnamable European nation) that I thought the US election may have been stolen in Ohio. He moved his hands dismissively. "So what? Okay. They stole 100,000 votes! Let's even say it was a million! We are more than aware, you know, about how you conduct elections and disenfranchise voters. But let's say they stole a million votes! Who cares? HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE OTHER FORTY TO FORTY FIVE MILLION who DID vote for him?" He continued impatiently. "You are OVER! OVER! Call us Old Europe all you want. But a country that elects these kinds of fellows over and over again cannot lead the world. You can not lead us or anybody else. Not anymore."
He was a cuckolded lover; a man betrayed; wounded and furious because somehow his Dream had died.
"You are wrong," I said quietly and walked away. But I was shaken. This was coming from an Ally! It was coming from a politician and a diplomat. His words, "What about that forty million who did vote for Bush?" still echo.
Now, here we are in 2008. Europe is even more roiled, confused, and dismayed at how we American people might pick the same team with the same failed economic, same failed social, and same failed foreign policies. The same team that has brought us to the breakdown of the
global economic system.
Now, people on trams, total strangers, working class people, old ladies, students, young mothers, kids, everyone is asking, "Is it true?" "Are you guys crazy or what?" "Are Americans REALLY not going to elect Barack Obama?" "What is happening to you?" "What happened to
you?" " What is wrong with you people?" And the killer, "But we were so full of hope!"
I don't believe that Americans truly appreciate what a profound symbol of possibility we Americans are, and America is, for the world. I know that Americans do not understand how profoundly disappointed, heartbroken really, the world has been in the last eight years of this
I am not sure if our relationship can stand the strain of another four years of ineptitude, corruption or heartbreak. At some point the love affair will never be able to re kindle.
This week OffTheBus is publishing a variety of stories that cover the presidential election from an international perspective.