The American Ideal

I don’t mean to beat this idea into the ground, but I can’t get over how Barack Obama’s election has brought out such tremendous fervency of devotion to American ideals — or, perhaps I should say, to an ideal America — in the Arab world.

I just went to the doctor for a routine checkup here in Casablanca, Morocco. My appointment was with an evidently devout Muslim physician, who, judging by his name, is from a prominent Arab family. I’d never seen him before. After our consultation, he leaned toward me across his desk and asked, “So, how did you feel about the election in the United States?” I confessed that I had been deeply moved by it.

“We are, too,” he replied. “America has always been where we’ve put all of our hopes. Every time it appears that America is no longer doing what is good, it breaks our hearts.”

Now, a skeptic would want to put this against the backdrop of several years of incessant anti-Bush media coverage. Nevertheless, there remains a deep need in this part of the world to believe that there is a country where people desire what is good and govern themselves accordingly.

The United States will never be able to deliver what’s being expected of it, regardless of who our leaders are, because we’re a nation of sinners like any other and because we have economic, political and military interests that will often conflict with other countries’ aspirations. But it’s heartening to see that the American ideal hasn’t been discarded in this decade of strife.