On Jan. 20, 2009, I hope to retire my favorite and most popular travel t-shirt. Titled “The American Tourist Apology T-Shirt,” it has those words on the front in six U.N. languages. On the back, in the same languages it simply says. “I am sorry, I know our president is an idiot, I didn’t vote for him.”
I have been stopped on the street in several countries when I have worn the shirt, and the comments have all been positive. There may be foreigners who like George W. Bush, but if so, they are pretty quiet about it. In China, an incredibly polite country, I wasn’t wearing the shirt when I asked a guide, “So what do you think about President Bush?” His response, “We admired very much your President Clinton.”
Now we are choosing a new leader, and while the average American may not pay very much attention to foreign policy, the rest of the world is paying a lot of attention to ours. Pick up any newspaper, from Canada to Europe to Asia to Africa, and there’s a good bet there will be an election story, often on the front page.
One site, iftheworldcouldvote.com, currently has over half a million votes from around the world, including 202 different countries. Admittedly the survey is unscientific and skewed towards English-speaking computer users who are probably younger than average. As of Oct. 29, however, over 86 percent of the world is voting for Barack Obama. With John McCain leading only in Albania and Macedonia.
Any change, whether we choose a young mixed-race man, or an older war hero, will clearly be viewed as a good thing. The London Times in fact, just ran a story about the worst US presidents of all time. (No, W. didn’t quite make the very worst in its estimation.)
Our president will have to do a lot more than impress people in other countries. But wouldn’t it be nice for a change to go abroad, and instead of apologizing (or pretending we are Canadian) just to say “Yes, I’m an American, and yes, isn’t it great we elected him president?”
(Note from the author: the views expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of tripso.com )