By Paul James
Growing up as a kid in the East End of London, I was fascinated by all that the USA had to offer, as were most of the impressionable young generation of my day. The aura pervading the music, movie and sports industries was upon maturity replaced by an appreciation of the economic, political and more pointedly, military eminence the US has on the planet and the influence this nation that comprises but 5% of world population has on each and every human being.
Uncle Sam coughs, the world sneezes.
Naturally, it follows that the President of the United States of America is the most powerful administrative office on the planet.
In this contest a recent opinion poll surveyed by the BBC suggests that Obama leads McCain by a four to one margin. The poll also explored the expected impact of the US election. In 17 of the 22 countries surveyed the most common view is that, if Barack Obama is elected president, America’s relations with the rest of the world are likely to get better. If John McCain is elected, the most common view in 19 countries is that relations will stay about the same as they are now. As things stand now, there is nothing but timid obeisance to American might which is presently being wielded with the recklessness of a bull in a china shop.
Why should this be of consequence to Americans?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the next POTUS could be greeted enthusiastically abroad by cheering crowds like Kennedy or even Reagan were, instead of having the tightly choreographed security extravaganzas that the hugely unpopular incumbent (Bush) does?
Doesn’t it follow that an American President who was popular abroad might be able to accomplish far more than the current administration, which has seen members of the “coalition of the willing” walk away from Iraq, and few countries willing to carry more of the burden in Afghanistan?
Wouldn’t it bode well for the possibility of actually achieving some of the vital and urgent tasks that globally we all must face vis-à-vis energy, our shared environment and the economy?
Weren’t you just plain embarrassed, as I was during the recent debacle in the Caucasus Mountains when McCain appeared to salivate at the prospect of confrontation remarking, rather presumptuously, that we were ‘all Georgians’, i.e., ready to genuflexively kick some Russian butt, Cold War style? Wasn’t it somewhat heartening to hear the pragmatic tones emanating from Obama who criticized Russia’s actions and called for reconstruction aid for Georgia but opined that kicking Moscow out of the G8 would do little good and harm U.S. efforts to work with Russia on other issues?
Barack Obama is symbolic of change; the change the rest of the world is looking for in the US. Of A. Change to a more tolerant, mature society, worthy of the respect it commands. In 2008, as in 2004, Americans need a president who can heal the image wounds of the Bush era. His very being acknowledges the diversity that is America. A Kenyan father and an American mother, born in Hawaii and partly raised in Indonesia his rapprochement with the View From Afar is in diametric opposition to McCain’s, whose direct dealings abroad thus far have come at the figurative point of a gun – a point he emphasizes narcissistically and ad nausea in his stump speeches.
Viewed up close by this naturalized American, I watched the huge party conventions that prelude Election ’08 from suburban Atlanta. I saw the lucid, eloquent and emotive delivery of Obama’s acceptance speech and compared that to the repetitive, self-indulgent and wooden delivery of McCain and said to myself:
“I don’t get it. It’s like chalk and cheese the difference is so stark. Obama should win by a landslide!”
Yet the polls illustrate the large disparity between the View From Afar and the view from within.
I don’t get it.
Paul James is a blogger and IT Professional originally from London, England. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, BWFO Founder Patricia Wilson-Smith and their three sons.