The debates are over. The countdown is on. With Election Day less than a week away, pressure lies on the chests of Americans everywhere as they await the chance to cast their vote in what is said to be one of the most important presidential elections in the history of the nation. However, while anxiety creeps in and national concerns intensify, Americans aren’t the only ones holding their breath.
What perceptions do people living throughout Europe, Latin America and the Middle East have of America? Have decisions by the American government been as important globally as they are to the United States? Exploring their country’s historical ties with America, present-day attitude toward American government, and post-election predictions, MSU international students and faculty members originating from different areas of the world answer these pressing questions as they communicate their experiences and opinions.[attitude]
Passing Time
Although Italian instructor Giovanna Lammers was only a baby when her father returned home to Bologna, Italy from fighting in World War II, she said memories of the battle and the sight of her war-worn father are something she’ll never forget.
“I still have memories of my father’s cheeks sunken in, holding tables as he walked through the house as if he were an old man,” Lammers said. “He was only 32 years old. And he was one of the lucky ones- he came home.”
With foreign countries forming relationships with the United States throughout the centuries, journalism professor Folu Ogundimu said history has contributed a great deal to international outlook on the global super power.
“The past plays a large role,” Ogundimu said. “Keep in mind that every country will express its attitude toward the United States based on historical and strategic issues countries have with the United States.”
Showing gratitude for the past, Lammers said not to forget that thanks to America, Italy didn’t fall to Germany in World War II. “Italians are very grateful to Americans,” she said. However, as she described seeing President George Bush shake hands with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Lammers said Bush “rubbed elbows everyday” to show that he had support for his decision to wage war on Iraq in 2002.
“After September 11, Italians were so moved and felt so bad,” she said. “There was a tremendous love for Americans. It was important to control this guy [Saddam Hussein], but not to go to war. They felt it was done in haste and unilaterally.”
Lammers said Berlusconi lost votes in Italy’s midterm election as a result of his support for President Bush during the war.
“[Italians] lost the love for Bush,” she said. “War was rammed down the throat of American people. There could have been a more peaceful way to control Saddam Hussein.”
While Lammers’ opinion remained firm, speech pathology sophomore Aliah Alsarraf, a student from Kuwait, said her country also supported America’s decision to go to war in the beginning.
Recalling Kuwait’s past relations with the United States, Alsarraf, who was six years old at the time, described the 1990 Iraqi invasion when her country received help from the American government. Alsarraf said her cousin was captured as a prisoner of war during the invasion and that her family and friends do not know where to find him even today.
“I remember how horrifying it was, no food or electricity. I remember, at that time, George Bush ‘the father’ came and helped us out. America and Kuwait have been good friends and allies since forever.”
[aliah] The Kuwaiti student was taking the TOEFL exam to apply to MSU when George W. Bush invaded Iraq. To avoid the bombing, she said her mother did not allow her or her siblings to go outside.
“Our government was okay with US troops being over there at our border because we wanted Saddam Hussein,” she said. “He’s like Hitler number two. Yeah we share a border with Iraq, but he’s a threat to the world.”
Human biology freshman Elizabeth Berdanier, who lived on an American airbase in Yorkshire, England with her family, experienced a different response to decisions made by the president. She said people gathered frequently to protest the war clutching signs and holding American flags upside-down.
“There was a misconception about why the base was there,” said Berdanier, daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel working in computer science. “They just assumed the worst. I think they thought that terrorists were going to target them.”
Experiencing uneasiness as an American in a foreign country, Berdanier said her friends were scared to wear American Eagle outfitters to show they were American, and the Fourth of July was celebrated on a different day to divert attention from celebrations.
“Sometimes people who gave me grief just for being American came about because they just had pride for their own country,” she said. “I don’t think it came about with just Bush. It’s just that people who are against him have always been really loud about it.”
Global Presence
International ties to America continued to mold opinions and shape beliefs about the country as the war in Iraq persists. Through national controversy concerning how effective Bush has been during his presidency over the past four years, global interest has also remained constant. Ogundimu said part of the passion the election has generated has to do with the fact that people felt vulnerable.[chap]
“Apathy is pretty much gone today,” the Nigerian native said. “We may go back to a stage of apathy, but today none of us can ignore the fact that terror exists.” While the belief has continued that the United States shouldn’t have been so involved in foreign affairs, others felt the country remained a driving force with inevitable authority.
“Much of the world acknowledges that the United States is a global super power with global interests,” Ogundimu said. “The minimal viewpoint is by people who say the United States has no business with the rest of the world.What they don’t like is the United States simply jumping in. That is much of the resentment you see.”
General management sophomore Thomas Chapchap lived in Brazil most of his life before coming to the United States at age 13. Chapchap said he thinks people in his country don’t like Bush because he lacks intelligence and hasn’t done what is best for the country.
“America has a very imposing government,” Chapchap said. “Even though sometimes I think that, after Bush came into power, we lost so much freedom, I wouldn’t criticize Bush because they could kick me out of the country just for saying I don’t like him.”
“There has always been more uneasiness in Latin America,” Ogundimu said describing the skeptical nature of Brazilians. “There’s a historical suspicion of United States designs and policies. There tends to be resistance when you have a government like the one you see in Brazil today. You’re bound to see much more cooperation in Mexico.”
While suspicion toward the United States developed in Latin America, business freshman Asim Ahmed, a Pakistani student, said illiteracy and a lack of communication prevented people in his country from fully understanding what has happened throughout the United States and the world.
“In Pakistan, there’s so much poverty, people are so poor,” Ahmed said. “They aren’t educated enough so how are they to know what’s going on?”
Alsarraf, whose country shares a border with Iraq, said Kuwaiti opinion has shifted since the start of the war. “Now it’s crazy in Iraq,” she said. “My mom and I used to sit and watch TV watching Bush send 17-year-old guys to the border of Iraq. We know what Iraq is; we share a border with them. These people are sort of crazy, nobody would want to be there.”
[lammers] Although Lammers also expressed disapproval of President Bush by equating him with war and insisting that war is wrong, she said she couldn’t help but admire the generosity of America.
“When there is a problem, people say, ‘America should do this, America should do that,’” she said. “The reality is that America has a lot of burdens, and it’s because they have the means…No one wants to have war near home,” she said. “Iraq is much closer to Europe than it is here. The war has made us less safe, and more people have become disgruntled. I hate war. When I see those 19 and 20-year-old faces, those wounds, people dying-it’s not superficial, it’s horrifying…it’s really life-changing.”
With the election underway, and the future of the country and world in the deciding hands of Americans, Ogundimu stressed how divided foreign countries have been in their decision between President Bush and Sen. Kerry. He also expressed discontent over how forceful certain countries have been referring to Kerry supporters at The Guardian, a British newspaper that gained international attention for sending letters to swing-state Ohio’s Clark County in an attempt to sway citizens from voting for Bush.
“What The Guardian has done is an act of a different kind,” he said. “They’ve gone overboard this time. That’s not journalism anymore, you’ve got to call it something else.”
As anti-Bush actions continued and election disputes permeated, Alsarraf said the current president has lost respect because he has been more concerned with fighting a war than he should have been. “Bush is so into Iraq that I don’t think he cares about America or people who are losing family members in the war,” she said. “He just forgot about everything.”
Ogundimu agreed saying that today, American power has been exercised with a great deal of ignorance. “To the rest of the world it says, ‘We don’t care, we don’t need you,’” he said. “There’s almost a snicker behind the back of the United States. A great deal of polarization has occurred, and part of the reason has to do with American politics and the way they have been executed.”
Widespread Anticipation
The current global situation has led to intense interest in the upcoming presidential election and American citizens have been subconsciously pulled back and forth in their decision between John Kerry and George Bush, and international prediction on the outcome of the election has also varied.
Ahmed said that while statements made by Kerry have insinuated that, if elected, he would put pressure on Pakistan to surrender nuclear weapons, people in his country hope for Bush to be reelected. If the president were reelected, he said the country would have “a few more years before they would be attacked by the United States.”
“Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world to hope Bush gets reelected,” he said. “If Kerry comes in, that would be a total disaster for us. We’ve admitted to having nuclear weapons. Everyone has nuclear weapons: India, China, Israel, Russia, America, why can’t we? It’s because we’re a Muslim state, and America only targets Muslim countries. America will do whatever they want. Everyone in Pakistan knows that it’s only a matter of time before America attacks them- everyone knows.”
While Ahmed suggested Pakistan’s support for Bush, Lammers expressed negative concerns toward Bush’s reelection and said she thinks Kerry would be a better choice for president.
“It’s not that I am very pessimistic,” she said. “If Bush wins, I just hope that not too many more people have to die. Kerry seems to be a more thoughtful person who I hope would bring a new leaf. Maybe change is a good thing. We may save some lives.”
“If Kerry wins, I think there is going to be some slight pause and relief throughout the rest of the world,” Ogundimu said, agreeing with Lammers. “At least there will be a sense that there could be a fresh start.”
Although Lammers and Ogundimu felt Kerry would bring a new beginning, Alsarraf described uncertainty when it came to deciding between the two candidates.
“When it comes to voting, you think that if Kerry becomes president, what if we were all wrong?” she said. “This is the scary part. Some people can be so convincing, but you never know.”
Alsarraf related current Kuwaiti opinion and reasons behind hopes for reelection to the president’s family ties.
“I think they like Bush because he is his father’s son,” she said. “When people say Bush, they remember the invasion. So because of the past, a lot of Kuwaitis want Bush to be elected again.
People in my country probably think that there are problems now, but they think that sooner or later things will work out because it’s America. They’ll be able to stand on their feet no matter what.”
Acknowledging the strength of the United States, Ogundimu commended American government for its democratic system.
“Democracy is giving a bunch of idiots the opportunity to decide who the next idiot is that’s going to lead them,” he said. “At least here nobody’s going to hijack your opinion with the barrel of a gun. That’s the beauty of democracy.”
Because of the global society we live in, America’s decisions affect everyone. The journalism professor said many people throughout the world think the rest of the world should be given a share of the vote during the presidential election.
“It’s comical, and Americans will laugh about it,” he said. “But they have a point, don’t they? We’ve got our forces all over the world. So what’s wrong with saying, ‘Ok, you’ve got this many Electoral College votes. Well, maybe they should break 50 of those votes up throughout the world and find a way for the world to cast their votes.”
Berdanier said the aftermath of the election would inevitably affect not only the United States but other parts of the world as well.
“I think people in the United States are going to be the ones most affected and in turn, it will affect England and other countries,” she said. “You just won’t see it immediately because the cause and effect are so far apart that people don’t associate them.”
Ahmed said he also thought most of the world would be affected by the outcome as he expressed frustrations with the country’s dominating actions.
“This is what Americans do, they always fight a war,” he said. “They do whatever they want. If it had not been Americans, it would be the Germans or French or the British. There will always be someone who will push people around. I guess it’s just a matter of waiting your turn.”
As the election draws near and Americans are smothered by political pressure, foreigners are also suffocated by anticipation as they continue to await the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election.
“I think the rest of the world is holding its breath right now,” Ogundimu said. “One way or the other, we’re all going to accept the outcome.”

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