Friday, November 23, 2007

Sitting on the sidelines?

I was at our family's Thanskgiving dinner party last night, lovely ornate setting, good company, fine wine. Conversation turned to politics and my brother, otherwise intelligent, started holding forth about how leadership was the real issue. "America needs to regain it's global role", asserting the leadership that the world expects from it as the global model of democracy, guarantor of the peace, and engine of economic growth and innovation.

Living in both Europe and the US, I just don't find much substance in these sorts of talk-radio assertions. I said that, from what I'd seen, Europe, at least, wasn't looking to the US for leadership, and that the global discourse had really moved on. I was ready with some evidence of their weariness of foreign adventures, economic engineering, cultural provincialism, and faith-based leadership, but never got that engagement.

Instead, my brother accused me of simply contributing to America's decline by sitting on the sidelines in Europe.  In his view, I had no legitimate standing to comment on America's role, and shouldn't comment or criticize until I was prepared to come back and vote, teach in a classroom, and become part of the solution. Never mind that my chosen field of biotechnology was driven offshore by our own government, that I do supervise university students, or that I am on global assignment for a US company. I sort of laughed it off, reminding him that at least I do absentee vote.

But it's disquieting; I think it's the first time that I've been challenged as 'Un-American" simply for living in Europe...

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