Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Changing Reactions: Thank You, Mr. Obama

Little nice things I notice: Three times in the last week, someone has noticed my appalling accent when speaking bad French and reacted nicely, offering a few English words. One person even said I had a nice accent, but I know she was lying, just to be nice. It has always struck me as grossly unfair that when Americans speak French, we usually sound like rubes killing a beautiful language. When French people speak English, it makes me want to melt. Just listen to this:

I have been living as an American in Europe for over 20 years (as a dual Dutch-American citizen for the last five years). I have never seen open hostility or anti-Americanism directed at me, perhaps because at least for the last eight years I have been as disillusioned with the US government as pretty much anybody. While I never got hostility, most people let me struggle along. I was in France, so I should be at least trying to speak French.

This week though, that changed subtly. When hearing me speak, or talk with my wife, they smiled. I am sure they were thinking of a tall, skinny man speaking from a podium in Chicago to adoring crowds, and the hope he provides. Even the most anti-American Europeans (and several Canadians) I have met make a distinction between the government and the people (for the last 8 years bad and still good, respectively). Those smiles show that hope travels around the world that these two can be reconciled. 

For this too, thank you Mr. Obama.

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