I love my country.
I was so excited to leave the Foreign Service and come home in 2017. Five years later, I still derive a lot of joy from being on my home turf, in my own house, listening to the birds on my own screen porch. I love being in control of my life. (I also love NOT bidding, NOT moving, NOT having to rely on GSO to fix my dishwasher, and NOT hearing State Department excuses all the time.)
Like most people at our age and stage, we are now thinking about “real” retirement. Where we’d like to be in a few years, and maybe for the rest of our lives. Five years ago, I would have said there is no doubt that we will stay in our state, if not in our current city. I was quite certain that we would stay in this country. But lately, I have started to wonder.
What is it that makes America great? Since we have lived so many places, I have a broad perspective. It’s a beautiful country, but there are lots of other countries with great scenery. I love the variety of food where I live, but on the whole, there are many countries with better food. Just about every country at this level of wealth has better infrastructure, especially when it comes to transportation. As for healthcare, well, I get the best because I can afford it, but many people cannot. And I know from experience that this is not the only country with good doctors and hospitals. Our childcare situation is terrible, our eldercare situation is worse. When it comes to a social safety net, America isn’t even in the game compared to other wealthy countries.
In short, as far as quality of life goes, America has a lot of competition. However, there are still many reasons to love this country. They have to do with our national character. Our openness. Our tradition of welcoming immigrants. Our melting pot society. Our democratic tradition. The fact that we could overcome our own history and elect a black president. Separation of church and state. The fact that women are, by comparison to many places on earth, free and equal under the law.
Much has changed since 2016. We no longer welcome immigrants. We openly suppress the black vote. Guns are everywhere, despite multiple instances of kids being mowed down in schools. We believe crazy conspiracy theories, scream at school board meetings, elect blithering idiots and criminals to national office, get together in mobs to trash the Capitol and threaten public officials, and are still “debating” the 2020 presidential election.
To top it off, this morning I woke up no longer a full citizen of this country. How can I be a full citizen when I can’t control my own body? The wall between church and state has a huge hole in it, and religious patriarchy is gushing through. There is every reason to expect that contraception, gay marriage, and other non-issues that are no one else’s business will be on the agenda very soon. Don’t these people have anything better to do? (Rhetorical question: they never have.)
I know that Trump was just the instrument of a Republican party that had been working on this project for decades. Looking at the shambling hulk that Trump is now, I can see he won’t be around forever, however, it’s also clear that there are plenty of doppelgangers ready to step up and take his place (DeSantis, anyone?) And this country might just be stupid enough to elect them, especially given that our electoral system greatly favors Republicans.
We, the sane majority who just want to mind our own business and maybe not get shot at in the grocery store, are getting steamrolled by an angry, reactionary minority and their plutocratic handlers. And voting alone may not be enough to stop them.
Five years ago–even two years ago–I was hopeful. I voted, I volunteered, I marched, for all the good it did. Today, I just don’t know. I am asking myself, is this honestly where I want to live the rest of my life? We know what it means to expatriate. We already know that we are capable of living in other countries. We also know that every country has its own brand of crazy. But it might be nice to live somewhere that the crazies aren’t waving guns around while driving the bus.
Not making any decisions yet. But that is what is on this ex-expats’ mind today.
Glad to see your great blog alive again, especially for this crucial question. Thank you for putting words on the situation better than I would.
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Thank you, I appreciate that.
I hate to say it, but I have already decided that I will spend the remaining years of my life in exile. There is, obviously, no country that is perfect. But there are many countries that better align with my priorities and values. I no longer recognize the United States of America.
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I don’t actually think my values are that out of line with most Americans, and they definitely aren’t out of line with my local community. But the problem is, that only matters so much when most Americans aren’t running the country! Also, even a minority of crazies in a country this size is an awful lot of well-armed crazy.
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