Friday, October 08, 2004

What??? Are you saying America isn't the only country in the world???

Europeans Lament a 'Changed' America

By MORT ROSENBLUM, AP Special Correspondent

PARIS - In Paris, a hairdresser says with a laugh that if he can't vote on Nov. 2, at least he is splashing Heinz ketchup on his steak-frites as his contribution to the momentum against President Bush (news - web sites).

In Oslo, a young Norwegian expresses his thoughts on a Web site that takes advantage of Norway's two-letter Internet code:

Even in Warsaw, where many support Bush, Poles question the president's Iraq (news - web sites) policy. "He banged his fist on the table," said Ewa Wojcik, a 44-year-journalist. "Whether it was the right table remains a question."

Opinion surveys concur that Europe heavily favors Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites). But, beyond the numbers, conversations reveal a broad belief that the Atlantic Ocean is wider than at any time in modern memory.

From Britain to the Baltics, many sense a sea change in sentiment toward an America they once admired — largely linked to what they call an arrogant contempt of others after 9-11.

Cedric Judicis, 51, the ketchup-eating coiffeur, normally pays scant attention to U.S. presidential contenders, but this year he knows all about aspiring first lady Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the H.J. Heinz Co. fortune. Heinz Kerry gained much of her $500 million portfolio through her Heinz inheritance, but she does not serve on the board and is not involved with the management of the company.

Like many Europeans who see the American chief executive as reshaping their world, Judicis wishes he could vote.

"To us, America was always the gold standard," he said. "It made mistakes, but it always meant well. We were like pupils who admired the master."

Judicis has made six trips to the United States and, unlike some others, he is eager to go back.

"But America is different now," he said. "It rules by force, not by the weight of respect. There's a sense of 'do what I say and not what I do.' It was always so open. Now it seems to us totalitarian."

Jillie Faraday, a British filmmaker based in Paris, still loves to visit American friends. She knows the society well, avoiding generalities that often lead its critics astray.

Still, she excoriates the Bush administration because of Iraq. "Can't they see that they're just making more terrorists, more bitterness, more frustration?" she asked.

And she thinks a Republican cabal is conning an apathetic, foolish mainstream. She is outraged, for instance, at the new electronic voting system in Florida which leaves no paper record.

"If they tried to do that in anywhere in Europe, people would riot in the streets," she said. "Americans are fed propaganda, and they say it's democracy."

Most Europeans questioned said they were more opposed to Bush than in favor of Kerry. Few have firm opinions yet on the Democratic candidate. Many question his ability to rally Europe on Iraq, should that be his intention.

In Poland, the mood is mixed. Three of four Poles questioned by The Associated Press said they would not vote even if they could.

"Kerry seems weak, unconvincing," said Piotr Sakowicz, 44, an avionics engineer. "And Bush seems incapable of continuing his task."

Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes, 29, on leave from Norway's Socialist Left party to run his "" Web site, posted a letter to Bush, saying Norwegians respect America's "strength, generosity and creativity."

But, he added, four out of five Norwegians oppose the war because Bush's policy "only fosters resistance."

In Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) supports Bush, polls suggest a two-to-one preference for Kerry. By telephone, a sampling of Britons explained why.

At 32, Chris Hoe, a British treasury employee, said he grew up with America as an example of an open-minded and free-spirited nation. "Now," he said, "I'm afraid that's been pushed aside by an ugly isolationism."

For Amanda Farrant, 36, a King's College expert on Middle Eastern borders, Bush's America is downright dangerous. By removing Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), she said, coalition forces gave the Middle East its first chance at regional cooperation in decades.

"But the way American and British troops went in, disbanding the border guards, you really have to wonder what brain cells are working up there," Farrant said.

She was disgusted when U.S. authorities recently turned back singer Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, as a terrorist risk.

"I'm afraid all sorts of things are turning people off about America," she concluded.

Arab leaders tried to warn Bush to gain more support and plan for a postwar transition, she said, but instead Washington is confronted by a region full of angry, frustrated people.

Views are poignant in Germany, where fresh generations are rejecting the old postwar attachment to an American ideal.

Vending machine executive Paul Bruehl worries about what he calls Bush's Christian fundamentalism. "In world dealings, you need intercultural dialogue, with Muslims, with Buddhists, with everyone," he said by phone from Cologne.

With a bitter laugh, Bruehl described a T-shirt he had seen that made the point: "And God spoke through the Bush."

But the strongest feelings are in France, which dates its trans-Atlantic friendship to the Marquis de Lafayette's help against the British in the American Revolution.

French Foreign Ministry officials say privately they laugh off anti-French slurs. But they describe a deep-seated unease with Washington, pushing them closer to European partners.

Among ordinary Frenchmen, the feeling is clear.

"We no longer feel much sentiment for America," remarked Laurence Torno. Her husband, a softspoken dentist, agreed. "It is too aggressive, too full of itself."

Their son, Pierre-Charles, 17, saved for years for a post-high school grand tour, starting in Florida and ending in New York. This summer he graduated and went to Australia.

"Before the Iraq war, my friends and I all felt a strong sympathy with America," Pierre-Charles explained. "Now we see no respect for people's human rights or international agreements."

One friend who went to America told him he was pushed around by kids wearing buttons that said, "After Baghdad, Paris."

Now he has revised his dream of studying medicine in the United States.

"I loved Australia," Pierre-Charles concluded. "It was very open, friendly, a great place. I'd had it with America."


Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska, Doug Mellgren, Barry Hatton and Mar Roman contributed to this report.


Post a Comment

<< Home