It was a “Fourth of July” party on the “Sixteenth of June”. The huge tent was full of people; the food was excellent; and anyone who was anyone was there. Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia made an appearance. The prime minister came in and looked around. Arnold Rüütel, the former president, sat down at a table and waited for people to come talk to him. It was network heaven.
I had received an invitation to the Fourth of July bash through a fellow expatriate, and I figured it would be fun to see what kind of a party the ambassador from the United States would throw.
Not knowing anyone important at the party, I talked to the Marines. The corporal admitted that this was a cushy job. All he had to do was to carry the flag around now and then and spend the rest of the evening chatting up pretty girls.
As it was, he bungled his one and only duty that evening. At the appointed time, the Marine color guard got all ready to march to the podium, but the Estonian band struck up a march that was much too fast for them to march to, so they tried unsuccessfully to stay in step to their own tempo. The crowd parted in front of them as they marched to the podium, and there they stood, with their backs to the audience, as the band struck up the Star Spangled Banner. Then, for good measure, I guess, they played the Estonian national anthem as the Marines stayed on the podium with their backsides to the audience. I looked around, and there was not a single Estonian flag in sight in the entire huge tent.
With the conclusion of this song, the Marines did an about face and blundered back down the podium, continuing through the crowd as the band struck up the same march in quick time. That was it. Afterwards I asked the corporal if he got paid for this. He laughed as he filled his beer glass and headed for a bevy of very good looking women.
Then it was time for the ambassador to give his talk. He said that he was immensely proud. Of what it was not clear. He gave no specifics, and no substance. I guess he figured that it was enough to be proud.
And then he told us why the Fourth of July celebration was on the 16th of June. It turned out that it was his wife’s birthday (everyone, for some reason, applauded at this news). What his wife’s birthday had to do with the Fourth of July is unclear, except that maybe the ambassador could throw a big birthday bash for his wife and get the people of the United States to pay for it.
I came away from the event thinking that we Americans certainly could have found a better person to do this job. Being a big contributor to George Bush’s campaign should not have been sufficient qualification for representing the United States of America to the Republic of Estonia. It was an evening when to be an American was an embarrassment.