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Tuesday April 24, 2001

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Hiding behind my flag

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By Jessica Lee

In less than a month, I will be stepping out from under the Bald Eagle wings of the United States and heading to Europe with nothing but a backpack.

The 71-day trek may be what I need to take an honest look at what it means to be "American." I have heard it all - people are going to hate you because you are American. Don't flash the U.S. flag anywhere. Better yet, take a Canadian flag.

Yes, I confess, I am a bit nervous about treading in the non-American world, a place that generally looks negatively at the good ol' stars and stripes.

The actions undertaken both internationally and domestically by our "elected" Bush administration has only caused my fears to deepen. Dominique Moisi, an analyst at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris recently noted, "We resent not what America does, but what America has become, if it is truly represented by the Bush Administration."

Hold on! I will be the first person to loudly confess that Bush does not represent any of my values. He is making decisions that not many agree with around here. But, how do I explain why we elected a guy to be president who is not working in direct response to what the American people want? I suppose I could wear a T-shirt in Europe that reads, "The people didn't elect Bush. Bush elected Bush."

Our administration is succeeding pretty darn well at pissing off the rest of the world. The European Union seems to be tip-toeing around our chubby, greedy and unpredictable self.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine remarked, "But it is such a historical irony, that at the moment when the United States is the unchallenged superpower, a hyperpower, at the pinnacle of its economic, political, and military might and cultural influence around the world, they have this man as president."

At least I won't have to convince the man next to me in the pub that Bush is not the sharpest gardening tool in the shed.

I can't wait to explain to the other students in the hostel why we backed out of the Kyoto Treaty because it "might make a dent in our economy." Michaela Honicke, a specialist on transatlantic relations at the German Foreign Policy Society in Berlin said, "It looks like total unilateralism, saying 'we don't care at all what is happening in the rest of the world.'"

Basically, that means the United States is in pursuit of a foreign policy without allies. Check out Webster's, it's in there.

Not only aren't Bush's environmental policies flying domestically, but now the rest of the world is scoffing at us. Americans only cause the most pollution and consume the most goods, after all. Maybe we should just give them a free Big Mac to shut them up.

I suppose my plan should be to travel Europe incognito. Who knows, maybe if I don't speak, I might be able to pass as a fair-skinned Greek. And as long as I don't say something like, "What's up homie?" I will just be labeled "North American." After all, the only difference between Americans and Canadians is that we have guns.

But, that's the thing. I don't want have to renounce my nationality in order to tour another country, especially in our so called "ally" nations. Yet, many U.S. policy decisions are making our trans-Atlantic friends a bit nervous.

And that is making me uneasy.

I love my country, and recalling our venture for freedom gives me the goose bumps. Yet on the Fourth of July, wherever I am, I plan to celebrate it silently.