A Place for Cafe Refugees and Others Like Them

And it came to pass…

Here is a sobering assessment of the state of our country, from a young person who responded to Frank Riches latest Times column,

Freedom’s Just Another Word.

Aside from recommending that you not miss Andrew Bacevich’s article in the New Republic (recommended by Rich), don’t miss Joe’s comment below (recommended by over 2500 readers!):

I am a 35 year old man who had an interesting set of perspective shifts from 2001-2002. I started 2001 a Republican; I ended 2002 a vocal anti- Bush anti-war Democrat. And now I’m not sure I even want to be an American anymore. I speak for many of my friends.

What changed from 2001-2002? A number of things: The blatant dishonesty and warmongering of the Bush administration over spy planes in China, the creepy giddiness of the administration over 9-11 and the rush to war, and the horribly wrong coverage of all of the above by our “liberal” media. One more fact: I lived in London from late September 2001 through the end of 2002. From there, I read reports about the IAEA and Scott Ritter, Hans Blix et al. over and over again saying there were no WMD in Iraq. When I got back to the US, it was like a fascist nightmare. Flags festooned everywhere, people literally calling you a traitor for opposing the war, etc.

Through all of this time — from all of the disgusting crimes of the Bush years now through the Dems’ despicable capitulation to corporations (Andrew Jackson’s nightmare) — I’ve wondered what I’m still doing in this country. I’m finishing an advanced degree at the University of Michigan and honestly I feel like leaving and never coming back. I’d like to live in a humane place where democracy still means something. I would miss the comfort of the familiar, friends and family, my sports teams…but little else. Our country is no longer a place I’m proud of. I could fight to make this place better, but that’s a life’s work, and honestly I’m not sure if this place isn’t beyond repair. Regardless of my education, I think I speak for many my age and younger.

How bitterly ironic that so many people — including our absolutely execrable media elite, save for a few of you at the Times and here and there — actually thought we were such champions of democracy, beating the drums of invasion.

We no longer live in a functioning democracy. That is not the grim pronouncement of a dour hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That is a sober account of the state of America today, spelled out by a skilled guy with a future and a solid moral foundation, someone that should be encouraged by some credible accountable leadership to stay and help make this country better. Rahm Emanuel dropping F-bombs to liberals and the UAW, Larry Summers running economic policy and Harry Reid grabbing his ankles for the GOP: not change I can believe in. And no more dear to me is a country where multitudes descend on DC to listen to a Weimar Republic beer hall speech at the Lincoln Memorial, listen to a fork-tongued Jabba the Hut seething chaos over public airwaves on a daily basis, or vote for a lobotmized governor in Arizona or openly racist senator in Kentucky. Where a “liberal” president convenes secret meetings to dismantle the last shred of fairness in American society, Social Security.

Do I stay and do my tiny part to make it work? If I were an entrepreneur capitalist I might be tempted, but you know I’m actually like most people in this country: I just want meaningful work as part of a team that gives me a decent standard of living, something I’m far more likely to get in northern Europe, Australia, Singapore, Germany, or Canada than here. Utopia means “no place” — but there are places are far more congruent with my secular moral values, with highly regulated free markets, robust public services, democratic freedoms and a sense of shared sacrifice.

What does motivate me to work for change here, whatever small part, is the danger of an even more arrant and errant USA in the world than what we have now.

But regardless, the fact that I’m a skilled young person very seriously questioning whether to give up my citizenship should concern some principled leader. Our misbegotten tragedy in Iraq is where it all started, but it’s been all downhill from there.

My sad commentary is that I wish I were in a position to do the same.  Indeed, our son, born with 3 nationalities but living in the states, has recently activated his citizenship papers for the two other countries.  I also read that the brain drain is reversing itself – with people returning to places like India and Pakistan.  I worry that corporations are, in effect, controlling the levers of power throughout the world.  Corporations lack souls.  Something the young man above has in great abundance.  And a world with its soul sucked out is not a place where humanity flourishes.  Maybe that’s why I’m more focused on the “soul” these days. It’s like keeping a flame alive.

Comments on: "And it came to pass…" (13)

  1. another trope said:

    The letter writer is a great example I think of the “ambivalence” discussed in LisB’s blog.

    There are indeed it seems better places to run to with as he puts it “highly regulated free markets, robust public services, democratic freedoms and a sense of shared sacrifice,” but sometimes it feels that it is only a matter of time before they too are left in a similar situation as here.

    I don’t know whether this country is broken beyond repair. Sometime I feel that way. Other days, the hope returns. Either way, there is a lot of healing that needs to happen, both on personal and interpersonal levels.

    In the end, I have to believe in six degrees of separation. And if we are able to focus on the soul, compassionately, just in our little spheres, then eventually it does ripple out to everyone. Of course it works the same for fear and hatred, which these days seems to be being stoked faster than ever.

    Would I leave if I had the chance to go to one these better places? Or would I make the sacrifice and stay, to do life work of righting this sinking ship? Don’t know, and I don’t know if would be wrong to run. Ah ambivalence.

    Yet I am stuck here, so I shall try to find the strength to do my part, try to cultivate that sense of shared sacrifice. I do like this perspective: What does motivate me to work for change here, whatever small part, is the danger of an even more arrant and errant USA in the world than what we have now.

    • Yes… what you quoted… that is always the question.

      And re “ambivalence” – I think of it more as “tolerance of uncertainty” and how that is a mark of wisdom, of having grown beyond narrow views of the world, having come to a point of paradox. Where we go on contributing regardless of what’s going on around us. The paramount example being people who went on doing good even as concentration camp inmates, people like Victor Frankel and many,many others – known and unknown.

      • another trope said:

        There is a quote from Vaclav Havel about hope that I really like:

        Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Either we have hope or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons …Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

        • Oh, I love that. Thank you.

        • Oh, that is beautiful! Thank you for that!

          Reminds me of a quote of Solzhenitzen that I copied from Cancer Ward long ago – must have been the winter of ’68-’69:

          “It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. Both attitudes are within our power so that a man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy, and no one can stop him.”

          That was certainly written while he was still an exile, after his many years as a prisoner in Siberia.

          There is a man of hope!

  2. Here’s a comment from an email friend about this very topic:

    Incidentally, it was probably the three years I spent in Germany that changed me; after three years, I didn’t want to return to the States … at least “not yet.” I had to return to get a divorce and it was always my intention to go back to Europe for “a few more years before I die.”

    People, the lesson is clear: if you want your kids to believe that America is absolutely, irrefutably, the BEST place on the planet; do NOT let them spend any significant time abroad. My suggestion is to limit their foreign travel to two weeks per year. No more. Got it?

    I’m telling you … kids today are smarter than you think. They’ll figure it out for themselves. 🙂

    What depresses me most of all is that I thought Americans were on track to take the best ideas from the rest of the world; work them into the fabric of a society that still has tremendous potential, and emerge with something better than the aggregate of those threads. America completely failed to turn a series of national tragedies (including the financial collapse) into an opportunity; to perceive it as a challenge to emerge better, strong, wiser, and to lead again.

    That failure, I believe, is an indication of what the American character is today. America’s hollow core was exposed. 9/11 didn’t “change America forever.” It exposed truths about America to the world that were going to be revealed, sooner or later. That rock would have been turned over eventually, and what lay beneath exposed to the light.

    • I don’t think it’s too late for America, but then I’m a hopeless optimist. I’ve never been to Europe – heck, I haven’t even been to Canada yet. I suppose one day they’ll call to me and I’ll go visit, and see what I have to see. But until then, this country is my home and I won’t give up hope for it. Not until a Republican is back in the White House, anyway. 😉

      • The individual who wrote the above was a Republican till around the time of the Dean campaign. And not long after bush was re-elected, he immigrated to Canada – from the deep south! Now he is applying for Canadian citizenship.

        We have a friend in Canada!

        No one should give up hope though! So I’m glad you haven’t lis, my dear. (I see you iz a busy bee these days too…)

  3. I find myself following Canadian politics more closely these days, though the prerogue or prorouge ir whatever it was the Governor General did a year or so ago made me wonder whether I might have to widen my search.

    It is, though, virtually impossible for me to go anywhere, so I will just sit and look sullen.

    In the meantime, I have a friend who is going to reluctantly become a U.S. citizen after a lifetime living here but continuing to hold onto the citizenship with which he was born. One of his reasons for becoming a citizen is so that he can vote and try to stop what is taking over this beautiful land.

    Believe me: we can use the vote.

    Thanks for this.

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