Jan 19, 2005

Our State Department Overseas

I am an American that has spent now over 17 years living and working overseas here in Southeast Asia. I originally got sent over to Singapore many years ago when I was working in Houston. At that time a lot of oil field business was going on in Indonesia and there were several Texans over here and a few Coonasses as well. Times were good then. For the most part, everyone knew each other, we all helped each other and we all watched each other's back. Whenever someone was headed back stateside they would ask everyone what they needed from back home. No one would dare come back without bringing a few bottles of Pace Picante sauce and perhaps a bottle or two of duty-free Cuervo Gold.

It was not only your fellow countrymen who knew you back then, but everyone down at the embassy did as well. Everyone worked together. It was not uncommon to get a call from someone down at the embassy asking how imports were doing, up or down, and how business was. I vividly remember putting some figures together for one of John Malott's staff several years ago with regards to both import and export statistics. There was nothing in town that could happen without someone knowing it and we all shared information (something important that we never do anymore).

It was time when every American living in town was invited to the 4th of July and Thanksgiving get togethers at the embassy. That all stopped years ago. I heard at one time it was because of costs or something. Things got a less personal and to make it worse, they got a lot less American. If you did manage to get invited to a 4th of July function down at the embassy, you might find that the locals invited now outnumber the American citizens. Instead of being a time for Americans to celebrate their independence day together it has now become a time for the local embassy staff and their families to get together. I suppose inviting the Americans in town, for the sole reason that they are Americans might be considered a little too 'exclusive' rather than inclusive and not politically correct now days and so the embassy prefers to invite Abdul and his four wives down to celebrate the 4th of July and Thanksgiving.

There are times when I sit back and reflect on it all, I realize it has been a very long time and how very much things have changed. I don't know anyone down at the embassy now. I don't know them and they don't know me and neither one of us could care less anymore. What was once the American embassy has now become the "Global embassy" and the attitude the embassy and their staff have towards many Americans citizens overseas has changed from from friendship to indifference and now finally to contempt. About a year ago when I went down to the embassy here to get some paperwork so that I can register my child, I was told by one of the local staff how busy they were with a backlog of foreign students who need visas and was asked if I could kindly come back next week. I got the message.

I have watched the diplomats and foreign service officers from around the globe all come and go and am sad to say that our country is perhaps the only one I know of who treats their own citizens in such a way. In such a way that the relationship has become distant and disconnected.

Just how disconnected are they? Allow me to give you an example.

"The Embassy also operates a "warden message" network that informs the public via e-mail and fax about changing security conditions in Malaysia and worldwide, and about matters of general interest to Americans overseas, such as absentee voting. The warden system is available to anyone with an e-mail address, including businesses or other organizations that may want to share this information with their employees or members."

In all the years that I have been here, I have never received an email from the United States embassy. Strange wouldn't you say? However when you read fully the quote above, you can start to understand. It's a bit of a contradiction, while it is supposedly meant for American citizens overseas, it is in reality open to anyone and everyone with an email address. It's nice to know that in the event of an emergency here in Malaysia that my fellow compatriots down at the United States embassy will be sending an email to Abdul over in Oman to keep him advised.

Forget the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, that might be considered too exclusive, the State Department is much more concerned with hosting an international 'orgy of political correctness' that would make even Mr. Kofi Annan proud.

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