I've travelled a lot since 2000. I've been on 4 continents, the only white face in the room countless times. I've lived outside of the USA for longer than I've been in it. And to my discredit, I've often found myself wishing that I weren't an American citizen.
An old man on a train in Morocco asked me where I was from. I replied that I was from America. He said, "Ah, Bill Clinton," and started cackling. I was pretty embarrassed then. Little did I know...
In 2000 I watched the election from my boarding house in Madrid. I watched the Floridian fiasco play out to Spanish guffaws and ridicule. When Bush finally won, I wondered what was wrong. How did a nepotistic loser gain the highest office in the land?
I once got pinned into a crowd of pissed-off North Africans in 2000, demanding my nationality. I told them I was German and they left me alone.
I watched the Towers fall on a sunny, beautiful morning at Purdue University. People cried, constantly phoning, trying to reach family and friends. Some douchebags in my classes tried to convince the profs that we should have a day off from classes and get out early. One professor said we should just "continue on, because what the people who did this want more than anything was to disrupt our lives, and we can't let them."
I flew to Denver a month after, when the TSA changed the rules for baggage while I was gone, and I was stuck trying to repack everything at the check-in counter to match their specifications. The next three years were spent exactly as the professor said the terrorists wanted: in fear, confusion, orange alerts and duct tape. Shoes off at the airport, suspicion of everyone, some asshole driving a car into the mosque in Plainfield. My Indian girlfriend going to a supermarket in Carmel, IN and being treated like she was going to blow the place up. Racist fucks.
I don't even want to get into Iraq. Trillions of dollars squandered, thousands of dead Americans, multiples of that are now maimed or scarred, physically and/or mentally for life. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, with at least a million chased from their country by ethnic strife. All because Saddam was bad, he had WMD, was complicit in 9/11, we needed to free the Iraqis. Bullshit. As Friedman said, we wanted to flex our muscles and tell the A-rabs to Suck. On. This. Yes, that's turned out well.
I went to Japan, where it's still reasonably pleasant to be an American, unless you live near a military base, where 18-year olds drunk on hormones and booze brawl and make general nuisances of themselves. Don't get me started on the military. It's hard to thank someone for their service when they're busy puking on your shoes or starting a brawl or raping the occasional Japanese schoolgirl.
Bush: worst President in post-WWII America, probably since the Civil War. A drug addict, failed businessman, draft dodger (yes, poppy pulling strings so you don't have to fight is dodging) and 'Christian' who should by all rights have been living in a halfway house were his daddy not rich. I was raised by my family to make your way on your own merits. This sad excuse for a man hasn't ever done that.
Two more months, then our long, national nightmare will end. We've elected a charismatic man, someone who truly worked their way up from nothing. The poor guy's grandmother passed away mere days before the election, the last person to raise him that was alive.
I don't expect him to be perfect, contrary to what many say, I don't believe he's the be-all end-all of our hopes. Him getting elected was half the battle. Now making sure he carries through on his promises and trying to get him to relinquish the powers Bush has seized for the office is the other half. And we won't win all of them. But we'll do better under him than under anyone else.
The McCain campaign used dirty tricks, claiming he was a socialist, with one hand egging the racists on, while with the other hand pretending to distance themselves. McCain probably isn't that racist, and he attempted to tamp down some of the more extreme stuff. But he certainly took what he could, and didn't bother to do much about it. Maverick my ass. Anyone who still thinks he's an independent man is deluded. He's only for his own glorification.
But that's in the past. We've got a long way to go. Civil unions for gays have been banned in at least 3 states and gay adoptions banned in Arkansas. Energy policy needs tackling, we've wasted 8 years to take the lead internationally. We seriously need national healthcare. We're the only developed nation without some form of national healthcare. We need fix so many things that have been broken or left untended for so long. Worried about Obama raising taxes? Shoulda thought about that before you cheered on two wars replete with war profiteering and watched our economy tank. Conservatives always trumpet personal responsibility, but they never want to take responsibility for the fallout from their bad ideas. Suck it up, boys.
We're on our way to something better, I hope. Get on board folks. Whatever comes, it's going to be interesting. And I'm finally proud to be an American again.