Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Proud to Be An American

Carlyn Lynch

For so long I have been painfully aware of the resentment most of the world has felt toward America. It was never so clear to me as it was when I went abroad last winter. I definitely felt marginalized because of my citizenship. Europeans are especially critical of George W. Bush and unfortunately, because Americans elected him for two terms, they view the people of the United States in the same harsh light.

Everyone I met over there wanted to talk politics and it was always interesting to hear the international perspective on American foreign and domestic policy. People in other countries are so much more informed about us than we are about them.

One man I met said to me, "There are two worlds, America and the rest of the world," so it makes sense that the other world was extremely vigilant during our world's presidential election.

Every time I would have one of those overseas political conversations, inevitably the person I was talking to would ask me what I thought about Barack Obama and almost every time they asked there was a glimmer of hope in their eyes. It was my experience that Obama was overwhelmingly favored by the international community. This theory was further validated by the fervor following Obama's election to the white house.

The most exciting part of the election for me was the outpouring emotion felt around the world. World leaders were falling all over themselves to praise the new president-elect and videos of crowds around the world bursting into applause were all over the internet. In one day, America's image was restored.

I was still riding this wave of emotion the day after the election when I was assigned to cover the international reaction to Obama. Ohio University is a great place to uncover international students and faculty, and fellow reporter Danielle Sills and I were able to interview four people from four different countries about their thoughts on Obama.

Only one interviewee said that her country may have benefitted more from a Republican president, but she personally favored Obama's ideals. The other three could not have been more excited about the president-elect. I actually cried after interviewing Ismail Elmahdi, an African faculty member, who was quite emotional discussing what an Obama presidency would mean for the world.

Abdul Warsame, a Somalian student, said something about the election that I have never heard an international person say, "It made me want to be an American so I could have some part in making the change." It feels good to have people around the world be proud of us again.

The hope that Americans have given the world is so powerful, it's difficult not to get emotional when you think about what the new White House means to everybody everywhere.

It is a huge victory for America's ideal of equality to have a biracial man elected president. It is proof of how far our country has come in the last century. The only thing that concerns me is hateful words and actions by racially motivated groups. I hope that this huge step our country has taken is not marred by hatefulness or violence.

One of the most concerning things for me following the election was the reaction of some of my peers on Facebook. There was a lot of excitement or gracious acceptance surrounding Obama's election, but there was also a surprising amount of hateful or divisive messages.

One "girl next door" who I went to high school with had a digitally altered image of Obama titled "Obama Bin Laden" as her Facebook picture with an accompanying message reading, "Forgive them Lord, they know not what they've done."

That kind of thinking is very scary to me. There is going to be a segment of the population waiting for Obama to fall on his face. He is inheriting a lot of really difficult problems from the current administration and I hope the country can come together behind our new president to fix those problems and look to the future, not cling to past prejudice.

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