I’m leaving the country for a while. This will probably be my last blog entry for some time, I don’t know how long.
No matter how much you love America, you have to face the facts. There is a growing debt, a huge trade deficit, and every day billions are spent on a military occupation of a country bogged down in sectarian violence. The war is beset by ill-defined objectives and virtually no strategy to achieve them. China’s population, wealth, and infrastructure are growing, and they are now a major player in the oil game (they also own a large share of our government bonds to help pay for the war in Iraq). In fact, it’s because of restricted access to oil in the past, during and after the Cold War, that they’re not growing faster. And the threat of al Qaeda, well… we all know about that.
For past empires, these types of conditions led to ruin. Given the individualism and ultra-hedonism in American mainstream culture, in tandem with reactionary, cultish religious fundamentalism, it’s hard not to conclude that the US is going the way of Rome. American dominance won’t last forever. I can only hope that the dwindling power and influence of America will not lead to international anarchy, and that America will be able to shape up internally as a result.
Whether America will crumble in my lifetime or not has little, if anything, to do with my going abroad. My decision is based upon personal circumstances and motivations (though my financial situation is certainly related to what’s going on in the macrocosm).
For over a century the US has been the land of opportunity. The right amount of space, capital, and resources make it very attractive to immigrants. As the debate over the swarm of illegal immigration from Mexico makes clear, we are still a primo destination for many. Irrespective of our social freedom, a wonderful constitution and bill of rights (which unscrupulous politicians never stop trying to shred), coming to America for many is simply a business decision. Sometimes our decision to let in political refugees has been a mixed blessing (we’ve harbored terrorists from Cuba because they were anti-Castro). We can be proud, however, that innocents who needed asylum from torture or persecution (religious, political, ethnic, etc.) have found safe haven in the US. Still, that doesn’t change the reality that America excels in economic power, and therefore attracts the bulk of its population for that purpose. As long as you’re willing to work, you can make money here. Sending a day’s worth of earnings back an immigrant’s home country, due to the conversion rate alone, can feed a family for a week in some countries.
The US has an immigration problem while some places have an emigration problem. This is proof to some that America is number 1. I have spoken to immigrants who love America, because things are so much better here than in their home countries, and I have also spoken to those who are miserable here, but aren’t able to leave. Commentators who assume that western-style finance capitalism is the absolute best system to live under do not even consider the possibility that some people, through no fault of their own, do not prosper under it, and that, perhaps in the future, if not now, there will be better alternatives.
Love it or leave it
I’ve often been irked by that statement. Are those two sentiments diametrically opposed? I can’t mention our problems and express dismay over the direction our country is going without being an ex-patriot? There are certain things I hate, and certain things I love. There are things I can appreciate anywhere, or hate anywhere.
I have expressed my patriotism by trying to make a positive contribution to American society. And if I live elsewhere, I can contribute, as best I can, to that society as I see fit. I’m not leaving America because I hate it. I can’t say that I’m brave, either. I’m not renouncing my American citizenship. As much as we’re hated, being an American citizen still comes with benefits and respect (or fear) in the world.
But I'm not frightened of going outside of the US either, even in the area I'll be in (South Central Asia). I'm excited, really. Some people never leave the US, or won't even consider it, because of their mental isolationism, the "golden cage" as the Peruvians say. But several Americans have admitted to me how they wish they could do what I'm doing, if they had the chance. I have that chance now and I'm taking advantage of it. How more American could I be?