Tuesday, January 20

Obama's Inauguration - as Seen from Abroad

As the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, America has always signified for me, a place of hope, success, progress, and a place where anyone – despite their background -- could make it if they wanted to. Those words on the base of the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” have long stood out as a reminder to every American whose ancestors came from another land. A gift from France, she proudly stands as a beacon to those who long for a better life.

When those towers fell right at her very feet, the entire world was shaken. Living in Italy, bustling Milan fell silent. People wept openly in the streets, candlelight vigils were held in front of the Embassy, and overnight, American flags sprung up on nearly every balcony, over car windows and across store fronts. Despite her gaping wound, everyone knew that America would stand upright again, and shine her light across the globe. I was proud to be American and, as such, a spokesperson for a country looked up to by so many from so far.

Sadly, almost as fast as those flags went up, they disappeared. Solidarity turned to cynicism, defending the innocent turned to war profiteering, and candlelight vigils became hostile street protests. Anti-American graffiti was splayed across every wall and, after more than once getting mobbed, I was afraid to drive my car with those glaring Michigan plates. For those of us living abroad, the hostility was palpable. The last 8 years have been sown with international discord, personal discomfort, and the depressing fact that democratic America was not only looked down upon, but was driven into the same category usually reserved for despot dictators.

With the arrival onto the political scene of the improbable candidate, Barack Obama, a sea change seemed to be brewing. With his election, it felt more like a tsunami. In Rome, Bangladeshi car washers would give me the thumbs up when seeing my ‘Obama 08’ bumper sticker, Italian newspapers followed his ascent almost as closely as their own elections, and Europeans gathered in pubs and piazzas from Scotland to Sicily to watch the election results throughout the night.

With Barack Obama’s inauguration, the swearing in of a son of an immigrant who yearned for a better life, a man without a European-like political dynasty to prop him up, a man who embodies the very ‘melting pot’ that is America, we have shown the world that once again, what America truly represents:
that it is still a place where anyone can rise to greatness; where an education at top universities is possible, despite your meager means; where the oldest democracy in the world can still shift power without violence, corruption or coups and where a house built by slaves can one day be inhabited by a mixed race family.

When Barack Obama takes his oath, once again, Lady Liberty can proudly shine her light and lead the way – bringing back hope to people, wherever they are, who look to her example for the very values that all of us Americans hold true, wherever we may be.


Anonymous said...

I feel like the "Dark Ages" are over. There is hope ahead.

Anonymous said...

Fantastico! brava Lucy.. Living in London during the twin towers attack I can tell you that we had the world at our feet and after we had the sympathy of the world we lost it an in instant.. well written and so true..

Romerican said...

Fantastic post! Brava.

Disassociated Press said...

You are right on target! I live in Tuscany as well and have noticed some hostile attitudes as well. I am glad to see that I am not the only one who noticed.

Antonio said...

Obama to me menas a fresh change to years of "dodgy" behaviours, years when America s you correctly write went from being the perpetrator of crimes to be the victim and then back again.

Years when even the strongest against paranoia could not feel this sense of discomfort and curiosity to go beyond the statement in the news and uncover some crazy plot to show how things truly are.

I'm glad America finally made it and did what Italians are not able to do: change for good... even though we are assuming things yet and no real actions have been made since we are at the very beginning of Barak's presidency.

Let's really hope that WE CAN (not only win the election but make this a better World).

Antonio said...

and sorry for my worst english ever :) I wrote it all at once eheheh

Nice post

Dave514 said...

Francesca et Alia:
I'm curious. I have two questions for you all:

1. What are your top ten specific positive changes do you expect from Obama?

2. Which of them do you really think will take place in the first four years?


Irreverent Italy said...

1. No 'preventive' wars - effective immediately

2. No secretive Vice Presidency & "energy" commissions funded by petro companies -- effective immediately

3. Joining Kyoto -- by year 2

4. Adhering to Geneva conventions - effective immediately

5. No "no-bid contracts" for buddies at Haliburton -- effective immediately

6. Utilizing our allies instead of shunning them -- effective immediately

7. War on Iran -- probably never

8. Keeping abortion legal -- effective immediately

9. Restoring our national parks & animals to their protective status -- probably within year 2

10. Putting monies into infrastructure & education instead of trillions per month in Iraq - within year 1

11. Revoking the tax breaks for the richest 5% and putting them back to Clinton period levels (when everyone was almost destitute, I'm sure) -- within year 1

12. Closing gitmo -- within year 1

13. Keeping Darwinism in the school text books

14. Restoring our image in the world -- effective immediately

Do you really want me to go on???

Personally, if he does NONE of the above and spends the next 4 years drinking gin&tonics in a jacuzzi in the East Wing, it'll still be an improvement.

Irreverent Italy said...

You might want to take a look at this: Paris Mayor holds an inaugural bash for Obama?? I thought it was a joke.
This, from the country that got totally dissed (remember "freedom fries"??? by the last administration -- although I'm sure the French were happy for that name change) and the general trashing of them for not participating in our little war (albeit for their own gluttonous reasons)...

It's a new world.


Bill Maher also did an excellent expose' on all the wonderful things the French gave us (including the oft-derided form of liberty & democracy) ... You can find it on youtube. In case you're interested.

But, don't worry Dave, I'm not a French socialist!!!

Dave514 said...

You could go on if you want. However, after asking this same question of a number of people it's very surprising how few have any idea of what "change" they voted for.

They weren't even afraid that they might get "changes" they didn't want.


Irreverent Italy said...

I would probably agree with you there. Although I know in your heart of hearts you're a closet Bushie! ;)

Antonio said...

Sorry Davide but I guess you DID believe that Mr. Obama had just a little bit of tan there right?

Or you just don't see the power behind this?

Irreverent Italy said...

Meanwhile Antonio, I have a little bone to pick with you, too! (don't think you got off so easily)...

This European knee jerk idea that America as 'perpetrator of crimes' (even pre-Bush) is terribly sophomoric. I'm not saying they haven't had their hands in a lot of dirty little affairs from Latin America, to weapons, to even the invasion of Grenada and much more.

But, I would like to offer up the idea that on the whole, America has been a force for good. Our (evil) pharmaceutical companies have saved millions of lives, our businessmen have educated zillions by funding universities and research foundations (instead of just building fabulous homes in Tunisia for their offspring), we have not had a colonial past and all that came with that (see: Algeria), and even with the bombing of Belgrade, we saved thousands of Muslims from certain 'ethnic cleansing'. If it'd been left to the Europeans, they'd still be wringing their hands over what to do in Bosnia. Bill Gates is vaccinating Africa and Americans donate the greatest amount of money to others. The list goes on.
If you want to really talk about subjugation, I reference Tianenmen Square, or the offing of Russian journalists and opposition.
On the whole, Americans don't kill the men and rape the women...so this idea of the Evil Empire just because we build Walmarts is simply unfair.
Watch what happens when the Chinese make it their century. Free speech will only be the first thing to go out the window. Just ask the Tibetans.

Dave514 said...

Now up-date and re-write your article based on what he's accomplished and what the majority of Americans think. Then re-write again after the mid-terms.