Didnâ€™t have time to post this as I rushed for the train to Leipzig. More conversations at the conference itself, and Iâ€™ll be writing about them as time (and sufficient sleep) allows. From Thursday:
Iâ€™m not a chatty traveler, but when people do start conversations with me I seize the opportunity to ask about whatever subject is on my mind, and if they come from countries I donâ€™t know well Iâ€™m especially keen to find out what they think of the United States. And, more broadly, what their friends and countryâ€™s people are talking about.
Frankfurt, Germany, is my present location, and I am waiting for a train to Leipzig, where Iâ€™ll be attending the first European Conference on World and Global History. Thankfully, thereâ€™s wireless in Frankfurtâ€”as there was at Heathrow, in London, but was not at the international terminal at JFK in New York.
The man who shared my table at the airport restaurant was a headmaster from Sweden, and he broached the topic of New Orleans delicately, â€œYou are having some problems in your country.â€
As we talked, he brought up several of the subjects that seem most pertinent when we look at global perspectives on the United States: pollution, money, and guns. We donâ€™t care enough about the environmentâ€”or we pay it lip service, and let financial concerns override our claims to care about the world we leave for our children. And we let people buy automatic guns. I found it especially interesting that my Swedish companion was a hunter, and he had just bought a little backpack for his new grandson with family hunting trips in mind. So the issue isnâ€™t guns in general–as it was for my Green feminist colleagues in London, who were horrified by Tomâ€™s passionate display of the Lego gun he had made, at age 3â€”but guns inappropriate.
And itâ€™s a good thing our president does not read newspapers. The things the conservative British press has to say about him amaze me a little. ‘Mad and bad’ was the gist of what I saw in the papers I scooped up as I passed through Heathrow.