Even though I was in Germany while Barack Obama held his speech in Berlin on July 24th, I was not in the state capital at the time and didn’t join the 200,000 people attending in person. Of course, there is much to say about the event, the speech, the agenda, the reasons for place and time of the speech, Merkel’s refusal to allow him to speak in front of the Brandenburger Tor (although I’ve always found the “Goldene Else”, in front of which he did speak, personally more significant due to the brilliant Wim Wenders film “Der Himmel Ueber Berlin”/”Wings of Desire”), the chances of Obama being elected, the chances that he would deliver what he promises, etc.
But what struck me most during this time is the stark contrast between the conversations with my friends and family today versus the ones during a visit to Europe in the summer of 2001. Right after Bush had taken (over) the office, all I heard was: What’s wrong with you? Why did the Americans elect him? He’s against the environment (not signing Kyoto agreement) and for killing people (death penalty) and a war monger (threats to attack China – this was pre-9/11).
In 2008 however, I encounter smiles and excitement. Just like in the US, there is a wave of enthusiasm and hope for a brighter, more peaceful future spreading in Europe through the charisma and encouraging speeches of Barack Obama. Again I can’t answer the current questions: Will he be elected? Will he hold what he promises? At least I don’t look at annoyed faces asking me to explain or justify something I had nothing to do with (I’m not eligible to vote), and instead I just get to smile and nod and say: yeah, maybe everything can get better.
No doubt, Germany would elect Barack Obama as the president of the USA. And for this very selfish reason, I hope the American voters do the same so that on my visit to Europe next year, I might not have to encounter a bunch of grumpy people asking: What’s with that war-mongering McCain guy and why did you elect him?