Walking out of the International School building at the University of Amsterdam, my friends and I were stopped by a woman asking if we were Americans. For a moment, we all hesitated to answer yes, as it was not clear as to what the woman wanted.
This has become the norm for students living abroad in a time of political turmoil. I have many times been tempted to hide my nationality in order to escape the monotonous conversation every European inevitably wants to have once I reveal where I am from.
“So, what do you think of George Bush?” “What do you think about the war in Iraq?” “Why did you elect an idiot for your leader?”
I hear these questions daily, as do so many other American students studying abroad this semester. We have been warned not to seem ‘too overtly American” as to avoid confrontation and to avoid being the targets of anti-American protest. These warnings are superfluous; the anti-American sentiment abroad is everywhere you look.
A recent Washington Post article noted that U.S. embassies around the globe are reporting similar anti-Bush sentiments.
“Many people in the world increasingly think President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,” said a Feb. 24 article.
In Amsterdam, store windows and street signs are covered in posters pleading “No to war in Iraq!” most often with pictures of our president and a giant red ‘X’ through his face. Many people here do not support the ideas and policies of Bush and his Republican regime. What they do not understand is that many Americans do not either.
I am not ashamed of being an American, and I do not want to have to hide where I am from. The problem is that most people in Europe and abroad see Bush and his southern twang as a joke and symbolic for all Americans. They feel that the decisions being made by Bush are the feelings of all Americans everywhere. It is the general consensus abroad that all Americans are conservative cowboys who want to attack Iraq, just like Bush. This is simply not the case.
At recent anti-war rallies across the world, many thousands of Americans were marching, carrying anti-war and anti-Bush posters and rally gear, flashing homemade signs including “Drop Bush, Not Bombs!” and “Americans say: ‘Don’t attack Iraq!'”
Americans have been speaking out around the world. Many American citizens have told the U.S. government that we do not want a war. Millions worldwide marched on Feb. 15, but nothing has changed. There has been no change from Bush, and it appears war is on the horizon.
When people here ask me how I feel about what’s going on with the war, I tell them I am opposed to the war and hope they can understand that not all Americans agree with Bush and his policy. I tell them it is frustrating being represented by someone so different from me, and that I am trying hard to make sure people understand America is a very diverse place with too many opinions to be represented by one man.
By being here and allowing at least one person to see that not all Americans are pro-war, I feel like I am doing something, however small, to help America’s foreign relations. Our government and our media are not indicating our anti-war sentiments, and it is important that our views be heard.
-The writer is a junior majoring in journalism currently studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam.