22 February 2007

Debating with Strangers

I originally sent this as a rant in an e-mail to a handful of friends. I needed to vent after it happened once again. While it is a rare occurrence, it is extremely frustrating when it does happen and I tend to obsess about it.

I didn't intend to post it in my blog, mostly because I didn't want to deal with flaming.

But after the e-mail went out, some of my friends e-mailed me back and encouraged me to post it. In addition, I saw another perspective on this same topic posted yesterday by the Expatters.

The likelihood of something like this occurring varies depending upon what country you are in and what is happening on the American political scene at the time. But it is an illustration of what sometimes happens to Americans living or travelling abroad.

So to prevent any offensive comments, I am going to turn on comments moderation for a little while.

'Cause it's My Blog. And I can censor if I want to!

If you wish to comment on it, please do. I expect I will approve most comments anyway...


It has only happened a few times since moving to Switzerland. When it does I am always taken by surprise.

I will be out in public, minding my own business, when a complete stranger will somehow recognize me as an American and launch into a session of Bush-Bashing.

I do not mind having an open and respectful debate about political issues with people I know, or at the very least, people with whom I am marginally acquainted. Indeed, I rather enjoy it. But I never quite know how to react when it is a confrontational stranger in a public place.

Simply put, I do not want to spend my time discussing American politics with a stranger on a train or a street corner or wherever I happen to be. So I generally make some innocuous comment to deflect it or just turn and walk away.

However, what I would like to do is say this:

Oh, you don't agree with President Bush's foreign policy? I'm certain he would like to hear your views personally. Hold on a second, let me get my mobile. I've got his direct number in my speed dial.

Given how you approached me, you must have somehow known that I am one of his personal advisors. But then, I am certain that the elected officials in your country listen to everything you say as well. Oh, it's ringing now...

Bummer, it went to voice mail. He must have stepped out of the Oval Office for a minute. I'll leave a message: "Yo, GW. Global here calling from Zürich. Say, I've got someone standing next to me who would like to speak with you regarding your foreign policy. Could you give me a jingle back? You know my number. Talk to you in a few!"

He should call back in a minute. While we're waiting, why don't we chat about something else?

I know, how about the Swiss Banking Laws?

The practice of some Swiss Cantons of giving tax breaks to multi-millionaires and multinational corporations?

Or maybe you would prefer to discuss the new Swiss Immigration Laws that passed last autumn?

What's that you say? You don't want to discuss any of these topics with a stranger?

So what, exactly, made you think I did?

This post does not represent the views of the American government, the American people or any individual except the post's author. Because, after all, the United Status Census Department estimates there are 298,444,215 people living in the United States as of July 2006. And that number doesn't include the number of US citizens living abroad.

Believe it or not, we all have different opinions and beliefs and values. It's a pretty diverse population!


Jul said...

Yep, I have personally been blamed for everything from the death penalty to crappy Hollywood movies. Just comes with the territory of being from a big, fat, obnoxious country. To avoid it, I suggest changing your nationality to Liechtensteinian.

The Big Finn said...

Just tell him that since he doesn't vote, he doesn't have a right to complain!

GL's D said...

Go get'm Gretchen. That happened to your mother and I in Munich while waiting for trolly. She was Flemmish, I suggested another Battle of the Bulge, but this time don't invite the Americans. She got mad and departed.

GL's D said...

What the hell, now I need approval to comment. Some would say thats CENCERSHIP!!!!

Sara said...

I haven't been accosted by random strangers other than one French train worker who started saying how Bush sucks, I just kind of walked away but now regret not going into a 20 minute rant about the French train system!

andrea said...

This happens to me constantly in London. I go through phases where I bite my tongue and smile and walk away and others where I just have to say my piece. It is only going to get worse over the next two years!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I've been told I'm a babykiller, a murder, on and on. Personally I like to think I'm Supergirl because apparently I'm waging war in Iraq, oppressing illegal Irish immigrants, damning Africa with foreign policy and doing all of this all by my very own self. My god, I'm practically invincible!