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Irreconcilable Differences

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One of the things that has surprised me most since leaving America in 2005 is the reaction of some of my fellow countrymen to the idea of emigrating for political reasons.

For years, U. S. citizens have been moving out of the country when they retired. Some have gone to Mexico for the lower cost of living and warm climate, and others have headed to Europe for the culture, but those who moved to Cabo or Tuscany were more likely to be the targets of their friends' envy than disapproval. Many of those still in the States would admit, "There but for my lack of funds go I."

Contrast with that the attitude toward those who admit that part of the motivation for their leaving the United States has to do with the deteriorating political and economic situation in the country. Some of those left behind--especially those who are just as pessimistic about America's future--are often angry with those who depart. Emigrees are called "defeatists," "cowards," even "traitors" to the cause.

Why is it OK to leave the United States to seek a better climate or value for your dollar but anathema to depart to find a place where your phones aren't tapped or detention camps aren't being readied for troublemakers like you?

The best I can come up with is that the answer lies in the emotional connection nearly everyone has to their "homeland."

No other explanation seems to make sense. It can't be that someone's emigrating will doom the forces fighting against fascism to failure. Americans living abroad can vote and donate money to political campaigns just as if they had never left. I suppose they can no longer canvass voters or march in a demonstration in the U. S., but how many are doing that anyway? And to what effect?

I've considered that it's an instance of "denial." Maybe some people are so tied in to their current lives that they can't imagine making a big change--unless their boss transfers them, then it's "Pack the bags, honey, we're headed to Cleveland"--so they put their concerns about where America is headed out of their minds and snap at anyone who suggests that things are headed south. But that doesn't really fit what I've observed. On occasion, nearly everyone who isn't drinking the Bush Kool-Aid gets pessimistic about where things are headed in the country. Heck, the polls show more than 60% think things are headed downhill. Some people even seem to enjoy discussing how hopeless things are and how awful the future is going to be. Then those same people will turn around and attack someone who suggests they get proactive about the situation and at least make some plans for emigrating.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a person in an abusive relationship to take steps to leave will recognize the pattern. The abusee may try to tell herself that he meant it when he said he'd never do it again, but the real expectations show as her adrenaline rises the next time he raises his voice in anger. She welcomes your sympathy, but rebukes you if you tell her it's time to get out of the house, get a lawyer and start divorce proceedings.
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That's the best analogy I can come up with. Most people have very strong feelings for their nation of birth. They may dislike or even hate its leaders, but the emotional connection to the "fatherland" or "motherland" is still there. And it isn't so much that they love their country as that they need for their country to love them. Who wants to feel rejected or abused by the culture in which they were raised? It's a very hard thing to accept that the place where you live is going to give you nothing but pain because you're black or gay or Muslim. It's terrifying when you're offered the impossible choice between being an outcast or even outlaw and changing the very way you think and feel about society or religion or war.

Those people are not the enemy who choose the leave the U. S. or Britain or Australia because those nations have less and less respect for civil liberties even as they claim to be spreading freedom around the world. The real, paralyzing threat comes from those deep but irrational feelings that can keep you from doing what any sensible person would do: make contingency plans in the face of a real threat.

Divorce is one of the most devastating of life's experiences. Some people will endure alcoholism, infidelity, beatings and even death threats to avoid severing a relationship that they hoped would last a lifetime.

Coming to the realization that you do not fit in to the place where you were born is traumatic as well. People try to hold on to the smallest positive sign--an antiwar candidate's primary victory in a liberal state; rumors that a grand jury will indict a key figure, bad poll numbers for Bush--not as a reason to keep trying to change things but as an excuse to do nothing to prepare for the possibility that things won't turn around.

Consider that things may have reached the point where there are irreconcilable differences between you and the United States of America in its 21st century manifestation. Like the bruised spouse of a wife-beater, it may be time for you to at least get your own bank account, talk to friends about moving in with them, and meet with a lawyer about filing for a restraining order.
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Unless you're sure that things will be better from now on.

 

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Yes, I know, so many American are fleeing to other... by pratliff94 on Thursday, Aug 17, 2006 at 9:56:23 PM