I’m speed-blogging at a net kiosk at the Melbourne airport. The woman behind me in line at the coffee stand giggled at my ziplock bag of Australian change. “We need change purses, love,” she said, and I saw she was holding a paper napkin filled with coins. We truly are all alike in our differences.
This has been a remarkable time to be abroad. When I lived overseas in the military — in the 1980s, in England, Germany, and Korea — I became accustomed to a global perspective that you find in many countries. We need that perspective in our own country — that sense of being part of something larger than “We’re Number One.”
It’s not that each country shouldn’t have pride; when someone in Queensland suggested the United States should brag less about its accomplishments, I replied that few countries adopt as their motto, “We’re Not the Best.” But for close to a decade our presence in the world has been increasingly defined by a bellicose, over-entitled persona that should make us all wince.
We have been seen as a violent, aggressive, boorish country using more than its fair share of resources and chronically unwilling to play well with others, and based on global events, it is hard to argue otherwise. Even if many of us individually are good people — and my experience living worldwide is that most people on this planet wish one another well, have a good sense of humor about life’s inconveniences, and loathe airplane food — our performance in the ad hoc global legislature has been problematic at best, and deeply damaging at worst.
After the elections, a friend forwarded the satirical article from the Onion (I point out that it *is* satirical on behalf of my international friends) about a black man being given the worst job in the United States — a cleaning job, at that. I think everyone understands the work ahead for all of us. As I shared with more than one cab driver worried about the job Obama confronts (and every cab driver had an opinion), it’s like weight gain: it takes a while to pack on all those pounds, and it takes even longer to shed them.
More later after a long pond-hop.