There is a great blurb over on Slate of two Overseas delegates at the Democratic National Convention talking about what it was like pre January 2009, and how things have changed internationally in the last 4 years for them. Now before I go any further, a few things to clear up.
– The census doesn’t count us, but by estimation there are anywhere from 6 to 7 million expats worldwide (not counting service men and women).
– We are not all millionaires who ran to Cancun or Switzerland to escape taxes. The uber rich just leave their money overseas, not their lives (see Romney). I was an arts educator for seven years before I met my future husband, not an oil tycoon.
– We still pay taxes! Yes, America is the only developed nation in the world that forces expats who no longer live there to pay into a system that they get nothing out of. You’re welcome. The super rich find a way to weasel out (again, see Romney), the rest of us pay up. Yes, that does mean that we are forced to pay taxes twice on the same bit of money earned, thanks for noticing.
– My son, who is an American citizen by my bloodline, must pay taxes into a system he has never and will never use, as well as register for Selective Service when he turns 18 by law, but can finally (in 17 years) vote as of this year (Ohio passed the resolution late 2011). HOWEVER: 27 states still will refuse the right of foreign born American citizens to vote because they cannot provide residency. Literally, taxation without representation.
– Most of us move out of country for family, then job or studies. The rogue criminal who runs overseas is generally the uber rich one who can afford to be well hidden – 99.999% of us don’t have that luxury (or need to run!).
Now that that is out of the way…
I met my husband in 2008, and by the time I moved here, the ROW (rest of world) was turning around in their views of the US. We were no longer the murderous school yard bullies, we now had a more intellectual, pragmatic side. The Queen fell for Mrs. Obama, and the United Kingdom started to forget the sting of the Bush-Blair alliance. Sure, the ROW still had major issues with America, but it wasn’t such an outright outrage. Things were pretty good…
…then Romney arrived for the Olympics. Oy. And whether it was him slagging off not only the preparation but the enthusiasm of the UK for the events, or linguistic faffs (back garden /= backside), or the great “Anglo-Saxon” heritage bullshit, when your trip is so bad that a man who would later in the week get stuck on a zip line can punk you in front of 50 thousand people, it was obvious this was going to be a problem. For some of us, it was a new feeling, seeing our nation be lampooned in the media for the leadership rather than policies, and for others, it was a sad reminder of how they had lived under Bush II. Either way, we didn’t like it.
Because here’s the thing, folks: the ROW doesn’t care if Obama maybe-sorta-but-didn’t bow to a Saudi prince. They care when a Senate candidate thinks women can stop rape-induced pregnancies with special secretions. They care when the VP candidate considers rape to be just ‘another form of conception’. They care that the US is supposedly a world leader, but cannot manage to provide comprehensive healthcare to its own citizens. That’s what my friends* ask me about when we talk about politics.
*It’s worth mentioning that I have an equal mix of conservative and liberal friends here in the UK, due in no small part to the fact that most Cons really don’t flip out about the same things that US cons do – they don’t think a lack of prayer in school is what’s ruining the country, they don’t mind Muslims who live next door, even though the 7/7 attacks were the result of Islamic extremists, and they are far too busy finding a good au pair to care if two gay people get married. As my friend, who’s husband’s family member sits as a conservative in the House of Lords, puts it, “Your Democrats would be our Daily Mail readers” (Daily Mail is a conservative paper here). The Right in the US would be the Far Far Far Right in the UK.
I don’t want to go back to being ashamed to say I am American. I don’t want to call myself a Southern Canadian. I want people to at least sort of respect the US, versus seeing them as a major part of the problem from 2000-2008 (and prior as well!). I don’t want the good will that the Obama years have created to be swept aside by Romney and Co. ( And for people like Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer, stop. Just. Stop. Your myopic, logic-challenged jingoism is helping no one. America’s unfounded insistence that it was #1 in the world is part of what has gotten us into this mess, we sure as hell don’t need further blind flag waving to get us out.)
Yesterday at the testing center, fellow testees (*snerk*) asked me why I wasn’t going for British citizenship. Honest to God, I look at how much it has taken to undo Bush and Co bullshit, and how far we have to come, and wonder why I didn’t tick that box instead of the ILR. I guess because I figure we’re the comeback kid. We’re scrappers. We just have to keep fighting for what’s right over what’s easy, for logic and reason over mis-infomation and blind fear, and we may have a chance yet. At least, I hope so.