I recently started receiving some SPAM from the United States Democratic Party and although I continually unsubscribe from them, they keep coming. I don’t know how my email address ended on their list but it wasn’t welcome, not because of their message but simply because I didn’t need to be convinced that it was a better position than those of the Republican Party.
It was almost six years ago when I moved to Fiji from the United States. At the time, the culture of fear which gripped that country in the shadow of the September 11th attacks was pretty thick and the mobilisation for more violence was everywhere. I remember a disagreement with someone I used to work with concerning the war-mongering view America was taking to the rest of the world. His stated opinion was that we had no choice but to kill and destroy in order to show the world that America would not sit back and be attacked without severe consequences. Although I was as furious, shocked and distressed by the 9/11 attacks as anyone, something didn’t gel with me insofar as the direction the US was headed and I told him so. His response?
“If you’re not happy, you can leave.”
So that’s what I did.
Americans abroad have the right to vote and about one month from now, the world will know who’s going to be the next President of the United States. The stakes have never been higher for the country to try and reclaim some of the respect that the administration of George W. Bush has flushed down the international toilet or perhaps more appropriately, has left floating in the bowl. I will be the first person to admit that Americans have a worldview that can, at times, be quite different from the rest of the globe but what the Bush administration has accomplished during their past two terms has effectively alienated billions of people to the good things the US has to offer. It’s something that most Americans spending extended amounts of time outside the country can feel and as a lasting legacy for that administration, it’s inexcusable.
Should people in Fiji care about this? Absolutely. The continuing emergence of personal connections around the planet, brought on in large part by the Internet, has made the world significantly smaller. Acting with what appears to be a total disregard for the opinions and perspectives of so many other countries has made America appear to be a foolish, dangerous and blood-thirsty nation. No one would deny the influence and power the country still holds but its respect and its brand has diminished greatly.
So here Americans are...on the cusp of a new election. Once again, we have two choices and once again, the prospects of the “other side” winning is scary and incomprehensible to most voters. John McCain, a true American hero with a record of commitment and service that no one can dispute, selects Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as a Vice-Presidential running-mate. She is a woman entirely inadequate for the position and for many American citizens who live abroad, she’s an embarrassment. In a connected world, a requirement for the job should be some familiarity with the world beyond the Alaskan border (just being able to see Russia on a clear day doesn’t count). Before last year, Governor Palin never even had a passport or interacted with a foreign head of state.
Americans abroad also have a real responsibility to vote in these elections and this year, it’s a voice which can speak up for the rest of the world.
I obviously couldn’t and wouldn’t speak for all Americans but I can speak for a handful when I plead with countries around the world to not lose faith in America’s abilities to fight the danger that has grown within itself. Many of the decisions made over the past eight years were done purely out of fear and the country will feel the impact of those choices for many years to come. So many Americans are just now waking up to this realisation.
Like those unsolicited emails I keep receiving and appear unable to unsubscribe from, perhaps we need these constant reminders that there are alternative messages out there trying to get through. I hope Americans everywhere do wake up to the importance of their vote this year and make steps at joining the rest of the world in wanting to see change.
- MaiLife, October 2008