Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I called a family meeting. She started by announcing that we were adopting a child – a joke to lighten the mood. She hadn’t clued me in on it, so I had a minor flash panic and assured them, “That is not true.” I’m not always brought into these types of “family” decisions in the early stages, so I had a moment of doubt.
We laid out our proposal: we intend to construct a long-term contingency plan to move to another country if Trump is reelected in 2020, possibly even if he is not reelected. We want all of them – our daughter and her husband (post-college), our older son and his girlfriend (college), and our younger son (high school) to come with us, or at least live near us, outside of the U.S.
There was no resistance. Within minutes, with no prodding, we got an “all in” from everyone. They were excited about the prospect. The hopeful look in their eyes signified recognition of impending rescue, as if a lifeboat had appeared on the horizon.
It surprised me. I expected some opposition to such a radical change, one that will alter our lives forever, if we follow through. You would expect fear of change, or at least attachment to routine, to prompt some resistance. But then, there are other fears at play. As my wife said, “I’m more afraid to live somewhere that doesn’t think all people are equal than I am to pack up and start over. The U.S. isn’t that amazing anymore, and maybe hasn’t been for a really long time. I’m willing to give up a few minor freedoms in exchange for healthcare, accessible schooling, and happiness! I’m not sure I can come up with any direction the U.S. is headed that I think is beneficial to the majority of the people. Or beneficial at all.”
“If things don’t go south,” my older son said, “Are you guys going to be fine with staying here?”
“It’s already south,” my wife answered. “It’s going to take a long time to turn it around.”
I explained that it isn’t just Donald Trump that worries me – it’s the people who support him, with whom we share the country. How can 38% of the American people approve of a President who won’t do the right thing even 38% of the time? Who, in fact, seems hell-bent on doing the wrong thing almost all of the time. It’s madness. Some of those people are in our extended family. Some live in our community, work with us, do business with us. Is it not madness to associate with the mad? The Midterms were a step in the right direction, but not nearly long, strong, nor quick enough.
In the days immediately following, I pressed my kids on an objection of my own: don’t we have a duty, an obligation, to stay and fight? Aren’t we abandoning our fellow defenders of democracy? My daughter pointed out that distance, and borders, are not the obstacles they once were. “There are plenty of things we can do to continue to fight the good fight from outside the country,” she wrote. “I think it could be particularly impactful if we were writing letters to key politicians and brought up the fact that we literally moved our family abroad because the country is in the shitter. Kind of a testament to how bad things are if people are actually migrating out of the U.S. I don’t think we’ll be the only ones doing this either.”
My older son texted, “It’s easy to feel hopeless and say that I probably won’t be able to make a difference in a country of 300m+ people where 50%ish have deep values that just don’t belong. I feel like I could be doing more.”
My daughter also pointed out what long-term means for someone who is 24. For my wife and I, moving abroad might be considered a retirement move, something we might do even if Obama were still President. “A lot of systemic issues started before Trump was in office,” she wrote, “So even if the Democrats take back the office in 2020, it’s still going to be a long time before anything gets fixed. I think about how much Obama was able to accomplish, and at the same time he barely made a dent in the country’s problems (and now we’ve been set back 100 years, in some ways). So, for me, I have to think about my family and my future children and what kind of life I want them to have. I don’t think of it as leaving everyone behind to fend for themselves, but more as doing the right thing for my family. There are also many other problems globally that we can help tackle.”
It’s also instructive and slightly comical that the only “cons” my daughter came up with were logistical hurdles: language, citizenship issues, currency, which side of the road to drive on, and the metric system.
It turns out I’m the one with the hang-up, with the pre-survivor guilt. My family comes first, but I’m also terrified for all. However, this move might turn out to be a prudent decision. I don’t believe that Trump’s election was legitimate, and I do believe his ongoing behavior is criminal, yet he remains in office. Living in the U.S. is dangerous. The canary is coughing.
This “project” has already led me to critically analyze agreements we’ve all made. Why do we agree to the U.S. Citizen narrative? Why do we cling to separatist, nationalist, even patriotic ideals?
I’ve always suspected that this is not the country I want to live in. I learned about protests against the Vietnam War at a very young age. I learned about civil rights and racial injustice while still in elementary school. My family heritage includes Native American ancestry – we lamented what happened to those cultures. I remember Nixon resigning. I’ve never been comfortable living in a country that practiced genocide, built its economy on slavery, blatantly oppressed women’s rights, used its power to take advantage of the powerless, and had the audacity to present a global image of purity and “democracy.” Those are not values with which I identify. I’ve tolerated the festering undercurrent of racism and misogyny and wealth criminality. No more.
So we’re onto the next step, and I daresay it will take a lot more than Trump’s defeat or abdication to derail this train.
Read Part 1 of “A Different Kind of Choice for a Voter here.
Nick Kemper manages a Supply Division at a Tiedown Manufacturer in Oregon. He writes for a variety of trade publications and industry websites, and he is the author of two novels, Sweavin’ and Three Sides, both available on Amazon.
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