Finally, it’s over! At last we get the chance to defend ourselves from all the criticism the world has thrown at us during the past few years.
Sure, some of it was much deserved, but we have suffered enough. With a new president and a new optimism among many Americans (despite the economy), there’s hope again.
Sitting and looking at the quiet of the Swiss Alps, I was listening to the BBC World Service and its American editor, Justin Webb, before the election. In comments he would later reprise in a column in The Times of London, Webb said, “It doesn’t matter who wins! Seriously, guys”—I do wish the English would stop trying to sound American—“America is about to become, once again, the coolest place on earth.”
Thank God someone was saying nice things about us! I took a big sip of Swiss coffee to calm my excitement.
“An era is ending,” Webb continued. “If you still think the U.S. is home to all that is fatty and unwholesome and militaristic and cloth-eared and generally low-grade, and not much else, it may be time to give the Yanks another chance.”
Americans have always been resilient, inventive and generally fair. So let’s not go overboard the way Webb does when he says that we are “being born again.” The question is, born into what? America has been blamed for so many things lately, it has been unfair. It’s irritating to hear Europeans claim that the global financial crisis began with the U.S. when the European banks jumped in headfirst and were just as greedy—if not more so. Hello, UBS! Hello, Iceland! Hello, Northern Rock! They all wanted a piece of the action.
But now that we have President-elect Barack Obama—and don’t forget his wife, Michelle, an intellectual bombshell—watch out! Now no one can say we aren’t truly a democracy in which anyone can be president.
As Webb said: “Suddenly we are reminded of why 55 million people have chosen to come to America in the roughly 400 years since that journey became possible. We are reminded of why Americans are so deeply, annoyingly attached to their nation and their system. We are reminded of how vibrant that system can be.”
It’s great to think that we are not divided but united and that we have proved the world wrong about what we really are and what we really can be. When the chips are down, we are not, unlike the French, negative about ourselves.
But American politics isn’t really my bag, especially since I’m an old Austrian countess (which means I have to bow my head in embarrassment when I think of some of my country’s past political leaders). Still, you can’t beat the Obamas: their youth, their vibrance and their optimism. That’s what America is.