So, we're in Copenhagen, and our chatty cabbie is more than happy to make smalltalk as he inevitably drives us far beyond our intended destination, in an effort to run up the cab fare. And what exactly could we do to stop him? It's not like we know where we're going.
Inevitably, since we're Americans, the issue of politics comes up, because, hey, it always does. And I'm bracing myself for the worst, because 5 years ago when I made my first trip to Europe, all I heard at all turns was "why, why, why could you Americans put Bush back in office again?" I wouldn't call the Roman tailor who assailed me with this question as he sized my brother up for a custom made suit hostile. He wasn't. But even after I exclaimed to him repeatedly that I voted for "that other guy", the sentiment was the same. Americans are suckers. Everyone knew Bush was a loser. The same thing was echoed as I went on to Paris and London. I didn't get the impression that any of these folks were America-haters (perhaps they just either wanted my money, or actually cared what a foreigner thought about their country), but they surely didn't have a mostly favorable impression of my country.
All this is why the recent comments of Newt Gingrich, that he wasn't a "citizen of the world", but rather a "citizen of the United States" were so ignorant. Like it or not, the United States, despite how many weapons we can brandish, does not exist on a planet all by itself. This underhanded dig at Obama is so trivially stoopid because Obama's actual quote in Berlin was that he came before the Germans as "fellow citizens of the world", which isn't exactly bad thing, is it? It wasn't a bad thing when Reagan called himself the very same term decades earlier. You know, Reagan, that guy Conservatives
Bush, a guy who hadn't even travelled overseas prior to becoming President, bought this very same "Citizen of the US, f*ck the World!" ethos to office, and well, let's just say he burned a lot of bridges in the process. Obama's trying his best to mend those bridges, and seems to get assailed as an apologist everytime he opens his mouth to state his obviously necessary mission. Needless to say, I agree with this President. Sometimes you need to apologize. This isn't a sign weakness, it's a sign of self-awareness.
All of which brings me back to the Danish Cabbie. The topic inevitably made it around to Obama, and he, like the dozens of other folks I, as a wideyed American encountered on my trip, positively beamed.
"Yes, Obama. I like Obama. He is my President too."
Imagine that. It almost made up for the unnecessarily inflated fare. Almost.
Question: Does America's image in the eyes of other countries matter, or do we own enough nukes to not really give a sh*t what other countries think?