I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to study abroad in France during the summer between my junior and senior years of college. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget and that is everything the cliches about studying abroad promised. I stayed with an amazing host family and lived the language.
But more importantly, I lived as an American in a foreign land.
I was in France in the summer of 2002. This was less than one year after 9/11 and nearly a year before the infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on May 1, 2003. Needless to say it was a trying time to be an American abroad.
My host family taught me many things, but one of the things that really struck me was the fact that, unlike stereotypes the did not hate Americans. Americans, for example, had helped France out in World War I and saved it from the Nazis in World War II. But it seems that since then, we've done nothing but tarnish our own image.
One day I was walking down the streets of the small city where I frequented after class. On the light posts there were posters for a protest. A protest against American invasion of Iraq. On the posters was a picture of George W. Bush, riding a rocket with a cowboy hat on. The perfect Kubrickian-masterpiece. I've never been a W fan, but at first I was a bit miffed. Then I read what it really meant--they don't hate me as an American, they hate my country's policies. And rightfully so.
One night, my host family had over one of their former host-students for dinner who happened to be in town. He was a citizen of Kuwait. Imagine the tension at the dinner table that night with my country invading the country just to the north of him, claiming to be liberators yet again. Imagine the tension at the dinner table that night with many in my country calling for the heads of so many innocent Arabic and Muslim people as some battle cry. He was an unbelievably nice person, but I couldn't help but see Americans through his eyes that night and, for once, I was the outsider.
I have thought of these experiences over the past six years in dealing with our foreign relations debacle. I think they really speak for themselves.
I just hope when I go back to France, I'm greeted with a little less angst for being an American and a little more hope for the future. I am convinced that this can only happen if Obama is elected. McCain is a great war hero. Do you honestly think that he isn't going to want a war of his own, whether it's Iran, North Korea or somewhere entirely different? And do you think our armed services can take another unncessary, time consuming and life-wasting war? I think not.
I mentioned the other day about how McCain's issues section has no section on foreign relations. This is indicative as to what a McCain presidency would bring--more disdain from the world community. You think the Bush Doctrine was bad? Think of what the McCain doctrine would be.
I seriously question whether America will last as a country for the rest of my natural life, but I know with McCain that it won't. We have to stop depriving ourselves of our own opportunities and relationships and get back in there with diplomacy and true world leadership.
We need, in otherwords, relationship counseling with our allies. I, for one, think Obama should be in the driver's seat.