Imagine you were a foreigner not in one country, but in two countries, and maybe then you can begin to understand the peculiar predicament of presidential aspirant Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
One of the chief criticisms of Ilves is that he is a foreigner. He is not 'really' Estonian - ie. he did not spend his entire life there. That much is true. He was born in Sweden to Estonian refugees. There are thousands of these *Estonians around the world, from Australia to Canada. Most of them left, raised families in their adopted homes, and never looked back except for a vacation. In this way they are no different than any immigrant community.
But on the other side of the equation, many, like Ilves have returned. And those on the outside did work extremely hard to maintain Estonian visibility during the Soviet period. And when the wall came down, they came back. He came back. And he now lives in Viljandimaa. He renounced his American citizenship in the early 90s, and went onto serve the Estonian state.
Yet when he speaks English he speaks as an American. And his mannerisms and demeanor seem out of whack compared to the less-animated posture of the young person that is a product of the Estonian school system. He is Estonian, yes, this much is true. But when he looks into the camera, he smiles. When was the last time you saw Edgar Savisaar muster a big grin? Even Rüütel is incapable of the full-figured expression of joy. Rüütel is capable of looking happy or bemused, but that big dopey smile Ilves let slip every now and then? That's pure America.
But as American as Ilves is, he really isn't an American. Could Ilves pass as an American with his eurocratic style in any town in the USA? How many real Americans are fluent in a tongue other than English? How many of them would be willing to give up their citizenship to return to the lands of their ancestors? How many have served as the foreign ministers of a small European country thousands of miles across the ocean? How many of them have a foreign wife and foreign child and sit in Brussels and worry about Estonia all the time? Not many. There may be some in Washington, DC or Boston or elsewhere. But are these people genuinely American, or are they of that strange international breed of humanity which knows no true nationality? My money is on the latter.
And so Ilves sit on the way station of nationalities. His parents were Estonians. His wife is an Estonian and his child is an Estonian. But he, he in the eyes of *some*, is not an Estonian. He is not American. He is something else.