I lived a lot of places, but I never truly “blend.” I don’t even try.
In countries that dress to impress, I wear the same clothes I’d wear to shop at Target or Home Depot. With the exception of Spanish (with a gringo accent) I’ve never made it past courtesy level in any language. My apartment is an English-language media bubble. I like it that way.
Some people become confused about their identities when they move around a lot. But for others, it can be clarifying. I understand that I am at least partly defined by what I am not. I am not Polish, Austrian, Czech, Guatemalan, or whatever. An American is bits and pieces of all those things—and wears yoga pants to the grocery store.
I want to go home. I want to unpack my stuff and leave it there indefinitely. I want to putter in my yard. I want to sit on my porch and watch the world go by. I’ve wanted all this for a long time.
And I still want all those things. But my joy at returning is now muted. “Home” doesn’t mean what it once did to me. The U.S. was, even a year or so ago when I last visited, a place that I mostly understood. Not perfect! But I knew how it worked. And I thought that, on balance, it was still the place I belonged and where I wanted to live for the rest of my life.
Now I hardly recognize my own country. Well-armed racist ugliness is coming out from under rocks, encouraged by our sloppy caricature of a president. The current administration largely consists of the worst people you could possibly find for each position. No sane person really expected much from Trump, but it just gets worse every day. Checks and balances aren’t working. Republicans who should know better have either sold their souls or been intimidated into silence.
We seem to be headed toward some kind of patriarchal kleptocracy. Really basic principles of our society are coming undone. We no longer welcome immigrants. Voting is a privilege rather than a right. Men legislate women’s healthcare. Outright lying by government officials has become normal. Science no longer has a place at the table. An unholy alliance has formed between the religious nuts and the just plain nuts. And hey, aren’t we supposed to be very, very wary of Russia?
It’s an increasingly scary time for many Americans.
About the only thing worse than living with this administration is having to actually represent them to the world. So, no regrets on the retirement decision. If anything, we are more sure every single day that getting as far away from this mess as possible was the right decision. For both of us.
But, I have to admit, if I had dual citizenship, or an opportunity to acquire it through an Irish or German granny, I’d be looking closely at that option right now. Probably not permanently. Hopefully not. But I’d feel better knowing it was there. Just in case.
For the first time in nearly thirty years of transience, I really do feel somewhat homeless.
I am still an American. But is my country still America?