In 2002 I spent a semester studying abroad at the Bauhaus; 6 months after the 9/11 attacks. Weimar was/is a small university town nestled in the rolling countryside of middle Germany. The cobblestoned streets are populated by architectural historians, older German tourists (Goethe, Schiller lived there), and university students who are looking for a fine arts/technical design education. I felt like I was in a very open-minded, worldly place with some of the best and brightest European minds (boy, did I ever not fit in!)
One evening at one of the 3 bars in town, I got a chair thrown at me. My assailant was an Iranian student and he was so angry at me for being an American, for the wars in his country, for our president…that he couldn’t look at me without being enraged. He was quickly restrained and I was whisked to safety behind a locked door. The police had to come and take him away. In the midst of the confusion and activity I was surprised that I never actually felt threatened. I could see the anger and hurt in his eyes, and hear him yelling. He wasn’t angry at me; he was angry at the situation. He was angry at our president. That was not the first time or the last that I would be told that semester how much someone hated our president. Not a single foreign person I talked to told me that they liked our then-president. No matter where my political thoughts were, it really opened my eyes to see how much passion our actions as a county invoke, and how the whole world is watching us. I could see it one boy’s eyes in a bar in Weimar.
Fast forward 8 years to Egypt this summer. We have a new president, but the same war. This time I was in an Arab country; the people who are supposedly our “enemies.” However, I have never heard such unwavering support and respect for our current president. They love him and told me so at every opportunity. Again, no matter what my political thoughts are, it is a good and settled feeling to know that some of the rest of the world approves, and we aren’t out pissing everyone off. I consider myself very lucky be an American, and I am grateful for the opportunity to step outside of the bubble and learn about how the rest of the world views us.