President Obama was on a 5 day tour of several European Cities. I spoke to a friend of mine whose office is located in Amsterdam, on the Museumplein. This was where the President landed in his helicopter right opposite the Rijksmuseum, one of the world's most famous art museums. From what I heard, the President was dwarfed by several Apache helicopters and a squadron of marine corps gunships that were constantly flying overhead for a good part of the day in such gung-ho fashion, as if perhaps this small city of cyclists, and down to earth peace loving citizens had woken up to a dossage of the war in Afghanistan on their very own doorstep. My friend was not allowed onto his balcony to see him. Infact no one was. There were 200 armed secret service agents all over the place in civilian clothes with one right outside his office. They could be spotted a mile off mainly through their small ear piece, hidden guns, dark glasses and constantly suspicious of others. Some were found blind drunk before the President arrived. As he described, ‘it was straight out of the movies!’
President Obama was also in Belgium where it all started again. The main route in the centre of Brussels was cordoned off from cars and civilians so he could drive through in his tanked up, amour protected black vehicle (known as the beast) with a line of dark vehicles following in pursuit. Flanked again by endless security and extra police which had even got the Belgian media ruffled.
Earlier that day he was visiting a World War One US cemetery somewhere in the battle fields of Flanders south west of the country not far from where my great-great uncle fought, died and is buried. The quiet town was described in a Belgian newspaper as a, ‘ghost town welcoming Obama.’ No one was allowed anywhere near him. Villagers were not allowed to give him flowers, Belgian chocolates, nor greet him which would certainly not be the case if other dignitaries were to visit.
We know we live in difficult times of economic hardship and there are some people out there in our world that can terrorise and can cause harm. Forgive me for asking but who (or what) are we at war with or trying to protect? We all know that security is important but is this not somewhat exaggerated? As a European, by withholding judgement, this comes across as a little aggressive, hostile and almost comical in which there has to be a fine line. This is not our style Mr. President and the opposite to what I call liberty, a word you often like to use. I can not help but wonder who the bad guys are, the US or the rest of us. What could be causing this fear, is it their policies or is it the President himself who is afraid? Or might the US be in a perpetual state of vulnerability, paranoia or at war with itself?
I was taught in US politics that a President is elected by the people to serve the people. When he is not allowed anywhere near the people then this has to be a reflection of very bizarre and bewildering times leaving many of us disillusioned by politics. Clearly something is not quite right. The President together with his security and trappings has made himself a prisoner in his own right. Not to mention all that extra burden of expense and upheaval on the civilian tax payer, then one can understand that it makes little sense to make too many foreign trips. Who would want to go through all that? One is almost better off just staying locked up inside the White House leading the so called free world by pressing buttons and pulling levers. Oh how it must feel so lonely to be at the top.
Our greatest fear of course is fear itself. Mistrust so often reaps mistrust which can become a vicious circle by which we will never solve anything and move forward in a peaceful manner. How far and for how long are we prepared to stay this way? Somehow the solution has to be that we overcome our greatest obstacle, by courageously mirroring ourselves with our policies as nations and as humans to break through this deadlock, find solutions and change the course, in so as we do not exasperate this phenomenon, in particular, in and amongst our leadership. Courage and true character surely is drawn from the confidence that comes from within.
In brief, this is Europe. We are often a gentle, talented, fun loving continent which is suffering a prolonged economic crisis in which change is crying out to us or rumbling beneath our feet. We also often like the occasional pomp. Belgium is supposed to be an Ally as you pointed out just now Mr. President, ‘un de nos partenaire les plus proche dans le monde.’ If you would like to come and visit us then with all due respect act as such. Try and be a little more trusting to us as civilians through example and treat us with more compassion and heart which is really what is needed in our culture and desperate world. Honestly, we are not at war with each other and neither is this North Korea. Lest not forget that World War One in the battlefields of Flanders where many of our ancestors fought, if anything portrayed the circle of mistrust born out of egos and simple abnormalities in our leadership that led to so much unnecessary destruction, resentment and suffering. Have we not learnt anything from this?
Compassion is the ability to reach out