It’s an interesting time in America and the rest of the world. Being abroad during this election season, is giving me a different perspective. Your first thought may be I’m missing something. But the US elections are huge news everywhere and just as important to the rest of the world as they are to us. Thankfully though I’m not inundated by media and lip-flapping pundits here-perhaps because most of it is French so I just can’t understand it anyway, nor do I normally have a TV.
While in Berlin, I went to www.votefromaborad.org and was able to print out my absentee ballot application and a ‘write-in ballot’ and mail it in. The process was mostly painless, except that once I mailed that and they received it a couple weeks later, I then actually had to fill out a second more ‘official ballot’ that they emailed to me and then I could fax that from France to the NJ elections office (oh yeah, I’m voting in NJ where my current permanent address is at dad’s and NJ is inching a bit closer to becoming a swing state) and then had to mail them the hard copy. Thankfully there are no chads on my ballot–hanging, dimpled, or otherwise. So the process is either really accurate and careful OR I just voted three times.
One day I was hanging out at a café in Berlin called St. Oberhotz where a large number of laptopers and expats seem to hang out downing coffees and sucking in the free wifi all day. There was a guy sitting at a hightop table near the door with a small sign affixed to a clipboard that read: US Voters – Help. This expat American voluntarily sat here once a week and helped overseas Americans register to vote and find the necessary links to be able to fill out their absentee ballot. I told him I had already sent my ballot in, but he continued to look up the name and phone number for me of the woman I should call at the NJ elections office to confirm she’d received my ballot.
Then a few weeks later I found myself in Paris joining a fellow expat New Yorker I’d met through Couchsurfing, at a ‘Democrats Abroad’ debate party. Since most of Europe is 7 hours ahead of New York, it’s hard to watch the debates here unless you want to tune into the BBC or CNN International at 4am. So the following night they scheduled an event for the many expats living in Paris who wanted to watch the Obama/McCain town hall faceoff. It was held in a lovely cinema-style screening room in Paris’ Cine-Aqua, a sort of Aquarium.
Proud to be American
I am more proud than ever to be voting in this election. During my travels over the last two years, I’ve gone from criticizing my own country, to defending it, and back again. It’s hard to be the one “American” in the room trying to explain all the aspects of being American-many of which I have come to appreciate more while away-but something else I just can’t do. I am American, but I am certainly not a spokesperson for all Americans or the United States government.
I am proud of where I come from and very lucky in many ways. But I think this is something hard to even appreciate when it’s all you know. It’s actually the foreigners that sometimes make me more aware of how fortunate I am to be free and have so many opportunities in my grasp. That being said, since I have never really lived in another country, how can I say the US is the best one? How do I know that growing up in France or Sweden wouldn’t provide the same opportunities or perhaps even more? I can’t say this. Who can – unless they’ve actually done it. Unfortunately, in today’s world, being an “American” has become complex and comes with many stereotypes and stigmas. I want to be proud to be an American because, of course, I love my country. But this does not have to mean I love everything.
Just please vote.