**Please return next week for your regularly scheduled installment of Travel Tip Tuesday.**
Today is election day and Americans are hopefully heading to the polls in unprecedented droves to cast their votes for America’s Next Top President.
And good for them, I say.
With the drama and scandal of recent years, it would be easy to understand why some Americans might lose faith in the system. They might not think their voice will be heard. They may not think their vote will count.
But what about us Americans who live overseas?
Where do we fit in?
In a recent conversation with a group of highly opinionated Italian citizens, they said they don’t think Italians living abroad should be able to affect the outcome of an Italian election.
Normally not one to stir up controversy or get into an in depth political debate, over what I must say was the best pizza I’ve ever had in Italy, I had to join in this discussion.
“You don’t think people who live abroad should be able to vote?” I asked (mostly to verify I had understand his increasingly rapid Italian over the roar of the crowd watching Roma get defeated.)
“No.” He told me. “They don’t live in Italy. They don’t know what it is like for us who live here and they elect people like (some obviously discriminatory remark regarding Silvio Berlu that I didn’t quite grasp) into office”
Working hard to control the flush of color I felt rushing to my cheeks, I asked, “So, you don’t think I should be able to vote in the American elections?”
I caught him off guard, I noticed that, but he was quick to reply with, “No, you shouldn’t. You don’t live in America. It doesn’t matter to you what happens in America.”
After collecting my dropped jaw from the mass of mozzarella bufala in which it had landed, I replied with an incredulous, “You don’t think I care what happens in America? I am American! I love America. Of course, I care!”
He tried to interrupt me, but my cool, collected frame of mind had flown out the window.
“My family is in America. Americans are judged throughout the world by the actions of our president. How could you think I don’t care?”
“It may be important for your family and they should vote. But you shouldn’t.” Stubborn thing, this guy …
His cousin who was sitting beside him began nodding her head in agreement.
“Maria!” I said. “If you move to France tomorrow you won’t care what happens in Italy?”
I saw the transition of opinion float across her face.
“Of course, I’d care. You are right.”
But he had me thinking.
Is it fair for those of us who choose to live in another country to directly affect the lives of those we leave behind? Is it right, for example, for us to vote against a president who wants to offer health care to the poorest citizens when we have the right to public health programs? Should we be able to vote for a man who wants to leave American troops in Iraq when our adopted countries have made their decisions months or years ago?
I imagine many expats will have the same initial knee-jerk reaction as I did, but unfortunately for me, I have the often undesired and uncanny ability to see both sides of an argument.
So, what do you think and more importantly … why?