I'd had enough of the political horse race which seemed to consume every intelligent – and not so intelligent – conversation for months. So I left the country, hoping a week in France would rescue me from the unending palaver about the Democratic presidential campaign.
It didn't work. Seems the folks over there are just as consumed with and confused by American politics as the folks back here. Maybe, even more so.
Our hard fought primary campaign seemed to be on the tip of everyone's tongues. Or, as they say in Paris, 'tout le monde en parle.' So much for tuning out.
Walking along a Parisian boulevard, I spied a corner newsstand with screaming headlines about the U.S. elections. In particular, the Courrier International caught my attention: Obama contre tous: Rififi chez les democrates.
Though I don't read (or speak) French very well, it wasn't hard to decipher the story's meaning. The cartoon illustration showed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as caricatured jockeys, astride donkeys and at each other's throats while John McCain plodded by on a turtle.
On the strength of this single piece of evidence, the French understand that the Democrats are wasting valuable time in an internecine battle while the GOP seems stuck in place. Very astute analysis from the supposedly haughty and self-absorbed French who aren't supposed to give a hoot about anything that didn't begin and end on their soil.
Nearly every time a French citizen heard my voice and pegged me as an American, the question soon followed: "Who will be your next president, Clinton or Obama?"
Huh? Was that the only choice? What about the Republican candidate, Monsieur McCain?
"Yes, yes," one man explained dismissively, "we know he's running, but we don't think much of President Bush or his party over here."
Maybe it's the company I attract, but Democrats seem to be in abundance around me, whether back in Ohio or in Paris. For the most part, I discovered the informed and English-speaking French of my acquaintance were certain that the surviving Democrat will be the next president. But they were just as confused about who would survive to Election Day.
They did not understand why Democrats couldn't settle on a candidate as quickly as the Republicans did. So they peppered me with questions.
"Why they fight?" one earnest barista asked me before I could order an espresso from his street-corner cafe. His English was marginally better than my French. "Do Democrats understand . . . Bush retain power?"
We talked for 15 minutes about the state-by-state primaries before I finally asked and received: "Une cafe, si'l vous plait?"
Then, of course, there was the race question. My obvious blackness prompted another, oft-repeated line of inquiry.
"Is your country ready to elect a black man president?"
Gabriel Attiasi, a college professor from Strasbourg, was the last of an uncounted many to ask that question. He was last because I talked to him at the airport as I was leaving the country. But unlike most, he didn't wait for me to argue how America has changed and how Obama represents a fresh and welcome change in our politics of race.
No, Attiasi wanted to give me his opinion. "Let me tell you," Attiasi said. "No, I think America is filled with racists and Obama can't win."
Attiasi said he had visited the United States on several occasions, but not recently. His most current information comes from watching CNN International, reading a half dozen newspapers a day and surfing the Internet.
"You see," Attiasi continued, "Mrs. Clinton knows the black man can't win and that's why she's staying in the race, even though she doesn't have as many, how do you say, primary votes. Believe me, she will convince those superdelegates to fall in line behind her and . . . . "
I walked away from him mid-sentence. I didn't want to hear his conclusion. For all I know, this guy may be right. And I most definitely didn't come to Paris to hear a stranger tell me what I can hear in my barber shop back home.
Sam Fulwood III is a regular contributor to The Root.