Bring me home to my new America


by Colette Davidson • 11/6/08 • I’ve been on the road now for almost ten years – hopping between countries, landing softly in Minneapolis from time to time to rest my wings, then parting again. Each experience brings a new flavor, a new host of challenges that puts the world in perspective. From these voyages, I have learned one thing – I am not proud to be an American. Until now.

Kolet ink is the blog of Colette Davidson, a freelance writer for the TC Daily Planet and a former assistant editor of the Uptown Neighborhood News. She recently moved to Perigueux, France to work as an assistant editor for the monthly English newspaper French News.

I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in probably my life, I can truly say that I am proud to be an American. When I find myself in a North African, Muslim market in Marseille or in downtown Beijing or in the mountains of India, I can say in a strong voice, “I’m American,” if anyone should ask – and they always do when they hear my accent.

For years the joke was, “I’ll pretend I’m Canadian.” I had already planned to use the line during my upcoming trip to Morocco. It’ll be safer, I thought. I won’t have to explain myself, my heritage, my president. Not anymore.

Obama’s election has not only brought freedom and strength and hope to the African-American community, but it has given a new liberty to the American community at large. Now, like never before, Americans are free to walk this earth, not legally (because we always held a superior position in that area compared to the rest of the world) but personally as well.

When I walked into work yesterday here in France, I leapt in the air and yelped with my co-workers. They were almost as excited as I was. Most of them had stayed up a little later than usual watching the election coverage – to which there was an entire channel devoted – or listened to the news on their way to work, screaming in their cars. Walking in the door, I felt that perhaps they looked at me differently, in a new light. And certainly in a more positive one.

Obama’s election as president has opened the flood gates of international communication and respect. No matter what Obama does in the next year, he is the face and symbol of optimism and transformation. Citizens across the world have a new outlook on the future of America and the future of their own country. To think that in all his calls to “change the world” – he actually could.

Of course none of these changes will happen overnight. Just as we were getting excited, the major news media told us to hold our tongues and jump under the blankets – we shouldn’t start partying yet. They reminded us that Obama has a long road ahead and more issues to tackle than we’ve seen for an incoming president in decades.

But we have hope. For all its cheesiness, Obama’s mantras of “yes we can,” “hope,” and “change” have become not only campaign strategies but real basis for his presidential plans. Reality has struck that Obama actually does have the power and inspiration to follow through on these messages, however vague and intangible they may be. And most would say that he already has, just getting us this far.

Like almost everyone in France, I look to the future of my country with anticipation and pride. I have spent the last ten years of my nomadic life trying to defend a country I didn’t believe in, to distance myself from its pastures and to find a different culture and country to call my own. For the first time, all I want to do now is pack my bags for the U.S. and embrace my nationality in a big fat bear hug.

Being “proud to be American” no longer means a cowboy hat, a hamburger and a beer belly. Obama has shifted the American image in the flash of an instant and I don’t know if things will ever go back to the way they were before.

I leave next week to come home to America for the first time in nine months. I am petrified that I won’t want to get on my plane back to France. Falling asleep at night has taken on a new challenge. I am chomping on the bit to see Minnesota post Obama-mania and my new America.

Yes we did.