Last night, after a full day banging away at the keyboard, I collapsed, exhausted, on the couch, ready for some entertainment from the 19-inch TV we keep for those purposes.
As my husband and I enjoyed a bottle of wine and a plate of crackers, hummus and cheese, we were treated to scenes of rioters in Serbia attacking our embassy. Even though the rioters were hundreds of miles away, the violence felt a little too close, a little too real.
Living in a foreign country brings a measure of vulnerability, even in a perfectly civilized country like Britain. My American-ness sticks out every time I open my mouth, and consequently I'm careful of what I say. I'm also aware that there are plenty of people here who really don't like Americans, and for this reason I'm very careful of what I write here. I don't want to give anyone a big clue of where to find me, or where my daughter went to school, or where I'm going on Friday. I'm also the web manager for an organization of American women, and I'm even more careful there about posting any identifying info—no names, photos, or locations on the public part of the site.
You just never know.
So, watching those scenes of our embassy in Belgrade on fire brought a measure of discomfort. No, it won't happen here—the MOD would never allow it—but for those embassy employees in Belgrade, it's all too close.
I happen to agree with America's recognition of Kosovo, so it's not like I'm once again condemning my own country. It's just that there's one more group added to the "hates America with a red hot passion" list. That can't be good.
Before I signed off yesterday, I read a lot of commentary about the Democrats Abroad overwhelming vote for Barack Obama, and how those of us on the front lines of the war for America's reputation voted for the candidate they thought best able to repair that reputation.
Perhaps. No one is more acutely aware of our reputation abroad than Americans whose safety depends on a foreign country's police force.
As I watched the American Embassy plaque fall from its position on that building in Belgrade, I found myself thinking January 21 can't come too soon.