Saturday, November 8, 2008

Vive Obama

It suddenly just got a lot easier to be an American in Paris. I don’t know what this means for the future of my blog, but I suppose the future of the world is more important.

This post is going to be less snarky than usual because since Tuesday, my equilibrium has been thrown off. The sarcasm and cynicism that generally guide me have subsided, and my heart has been flooded with unfamiliar feelings… warmth, genuineness, humanity, hope and…. could it be… patriotism? As patriotism is a feeling I have never before experienced, it took me a while to recognize it. I never realized how badly I wanted to like my country until, at long last, I kind of do.

When I first moved to Paris, I felt that my non-Frenchness attracted a lot of attention—both negative and positive—that I didn’t necessarily want. One early acquaintance asked me if I owned a gun, which was kind of funny except that he wasn't kidding.

So just when I’d learned to blend in a bit more and spent hours working on my French scowl, Obama went and turned the tide of history. I threw a little Gobama soiree on Wednesday night, and when I was shopping in my neighborhood, I couldn’t help but gush to everyone I encountered… the wine guy, the cheese guy, even the saucisson guy. I’ve never been so thrilled to announce my citizenship and to declare Il faut fêter! (“We must party!”) They concurred and were equally eager to share their opinions about the election.

Here’s the thing: French people care about American politics. The opposite is not always true. For many Americans (Sarah Palin included), their knowledge of the French political landscape extends no further than Carla Bruni’s evolving wardrobe. But from what I can tell, your average French person is informed and invested in American politics. Most of the French people I know were following the election as closely as I was, which leads me to the reassuring conclusion that French people want to like the United States; they just need a good reason to do so.

And now they have one!

In the mayhem following the announcement, I was a little sad not to be in New York to celebrate with my compatriots, who pranced through the streets like a pack of wild squirrels on the loose. One friend wrote, “Union Square last night was a big hippie party with drum circles and thousands of people chanting ‘yes we can.’ I think you would have enjoyed it.” Friend, what are you implying?

But in all seriousness, it has also been amazing to experience the election from abroad, where its potential global impact is truly tangible.

Last night, I was walking with a friend and two girls asked us for a lighter. Then they asked us where we were from. A week ago, I would have said “Canada.” But last night, we were excited to say “We’re from the States,” and after we did, the first thing they said was “Vive Obama.”

It was an incredibly poignant moment—almost too poignant—except that it was completely genuine. We chatted a bit, and they went on to say how impressed they were that the U.S. had elected a black president—a possibility they felt could not happen in France anytime soon.

In a state of stupefied joy on the day after the election, I agreed to be interviewed (in French) on RMC, a French radio station. I’m sure I made no sense, but I didn’t care. After eight years of darkness and shame, it was amazing to be able to speak openly, freely, and happily about the (now very real) concepts of hope, change, unity, teamwork… and a new puppy in the White House! I told the crazy French talking heads that I’m finally “not embarrassed to be American,” and I think I meant it... for now.

So I may continue to have trouble opening various doors around Paris. And I may drop my shoe into the Metro tracks once in a while. And I may be conspicuously not-French…

But I did help to elect Obama, and I’m going to assume that counteracts my past and future faux pas.

Vive Obama.

Click here for Radio Podcast

I come on about 1/3 of the way through and ramble for a couple minutes.


Jean-Laurent said...

Tu as gagne un T-shirt RMC !!! How lucky you are :-)

Anonymous said...

I was going to read your entire blog until I came across the statement "it's suddenly cool to be an American again" that was posted after the 2008 election. What a totally inappropriate thing to say - goodbye.

Chau said...

It always amazes me when Americans are embarrassed by their own country. You should be so proud and grateful. Do you know how unique and WONDERFUL our country is? As an immigrant to the U.S., I'm so thankful that my family is able to live here. As an immigrant, I know how much good America has done for other countries. Europe, with her finger in every pot in Africa dares to criticize the U.S. for being in the middle east? When there is a natural disaster, who does the world turn to? Who gives the most money both from the government and from the pockets of her own citizens? Who sends the most troops and volunteers to help? Years after the earthquake in Pakistan and the tsunami in Southeast Asia, American soldiers were still helping the people while the rest of the world had already moved on. Earlier this summer, American navy ships blocked China's ships from encroaching on Vietnamese territory without conflict, just by their sheer presence. People are angry that the U.S. thinks of herself as the police of the world, but you know what? The small countries are grateful. The ones who DON’T have any protection from terrorists, corrupt governments, dictators…the bad guys. If Americans ever put a stop to their generosity, the world will regret and miss those days..

So the next time someone asks where you’re from, maybe you should think about just simply and proudly saying, “I’m American.”

Anonymous said...

Don't you know that when people don't like you it's usually jealousy!

I just got back from Paris and yes it is a beautiful city but there is no place like America-NO PLACE!

We are a beautiful country. Yes, Parisians "like" you now because of Socialist Obama. Ever hear the expression
"Misery Loves Company!"
Thank god we have an election this year! Let's get back to being Americans. Who cares if people don't like us (that's their problem)
Proud to be an American!

P.S. I hope you don't mind me being an outspoken American. This is your blog and I applaud you for speaking your mind so eloquently(you have a beautiful writing style, just have disagreement with the content)

Tory (A Moveable Beast) said...

Hi Anyonymous. We're clearly on different sides of the political fence, but I'm all for being outspoken. Thanks for commenting!

Elise said...

I loved your post! I am part Canadian as well, and often toyed with the idea of running away during the Bush years.

Of course I am much happier since Obama has been elected, but I had also started to feel more patriotism from watching many documentaries on America's history. Now I am only ashamed of half the country.

As for another comment written, I don't really see how wanting to help all Americans is unAmerican. I guess I will never really understand this.


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