Saturday, July 19, 2008

Obama in Afghanistan

This was something of a surprise, which it actually should have been: Barack Obama went to Afghanistan. It should be a surprise because of security reasons. Good for him. I think that's a positive.

There's one bit of conventional wisdom about this trip that bothers me. The NY Times sums up the political implications of Obama going overseas:

While the trip carries political risk, particularly if Mr. Obama makes a mistake — the three broadcast network news anchors will be along for the latter parts of the trip — or is seen as the preferred candidate of Europe and other parts of the world, his advisers believe it offers a significant opportunity for him to be seen as a leader who can improve America’s image.

That part about Obama being "the preferred candidate of Europe" is annoying. It plays into the stereotype of many Americans as anti-foreigner, or anti-European. But what about the Americans who have positive experiences of foreign countries? Every large American corporation - most of which are run by white men - has operations in other countries. I think we can assume that the people running Ford, GM, IBM, Coke, Microsoft, Apple, Disney, and McDonalds, among others, would be thrilled to see an American politician score points with Europeans. Not only do they want to do business there, they want to encourage people from other countries to come here - to study, to go on vacation, and even to work!

Can we please move beyond the idea that the most important voters in this country are automatically conservative white people who are viscerally opposed to basic liberal ideals?