Tag: France

Is America Worth Fighting For?

Over the last month, the most popular activities for liberals have included the following:

  • Writing impassioned (and futile) emails to Electoral College voters
  • Muttering insults about the white working class
  • Staring off into space in abject horror and dread

You know what is no longer popular? That would be researching a move to Canada.

Yes, when push came to shove — and then kept on pushing right off a Trumpian cliff — most progressives dropped the fiction that they were packing up for Toronto or Costa Rica or Switzerland or some other place where unstable, genital-grabbing billionaires aren’t heads of state.

Instead, we progressives started talking about how we weren’t going anywhere, and how we had to keep fighting, and stand up for our principles, and never give up, and on and on until the Rocky theme was pretty much blaring over our heads as we spoke.

But I have a nagging question.

Is any of this battling for the heart and soul of America worth the cost?

Now regardless of your political affiliation, you most likely find that question insulting.

After all, conservatives view it as treasonous to even question if America is worth fighting for. And liberals view it as gutless to just acquire and let the right-wingers reshape the country.

But look past the knee-jerking, and you run into some disturbing facts about just how much Americans are awash in contradictions and issues about their country. For starters, both liberals and conservatives constantly bemoan our nation’s status.

Barely half of U.S. adults say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans, which is a new low in Gallup’s polling. Most Americans say the country is on the wrong track. And a large segment of our fellow citizens assume “that life will get worse for them over the next generation” (interestingly, a full two-thirds of Trump supporters believe this).

And if we’re not getting all depressed about America’s decline, we’re busy hating on our fellow U.S. residents. Polls find that “majorities in both political parties view their rivals not only unfavorably, but very unfavorably.” And almost 80% (a record high in Gallup polling) believe Americans are fundamentally “divided on the most important values.”

So if our relationship with America were a marriage, you would have to wonder if it’s time to call the divorce lawyers.

Now, I know it is un-American to just cut and run… well, except for all those times when we have done exactly that. So that’s not much of argument.

I will just point out that — with the exception of Native Americans — none of us would even be here if our ancestors hadn’t ditched their homelands. My maternal family thought El Salvador sucked, so they came here. My paternal family got sick of Ireland and Italy, so they got on a boat for a better life.

And your ancestors did the exact same thing. We come from a long line of people who actively avoided standing up and fighting for their homelands. They all said, “See ya, I got a better deal waiting for me in America,” and today we applaud their courage and fortitude.

So why is it so horrific or treacherous to follow their example, and leave for a better life?

Indeed, if you are a progressive like me, you no doubt are aware that the Scandinavian countries align more with our principles. And they are kicking America’s ass in just about every category, by the way. Why wouldn’t you be happier there? If we’re truly being honest, as progressives, there are lots of countries where we would fit in better and possibly even have a better life.

“Ha,” I can hear conservatives out there saying. “I knew you liberals didn’t love America enough to fight for her.”

Well, I must point out that when Obama won re-election, plenty of you conservatives were mouthing off about leaving the country and/or seceding from the United States. So I would rein in that smugness.

The truth is that whether you lean left or right, you have most likely thought, at some point, that the nation was going to hell. And at those times, it crossed your mind to just get out while the getting was good.

For liberals, such a time is now. In essence, do we have some kind of moral obligation to spend our lives vainly trying to convince our fellow citizens how absurdly idiotic they’re being? Maybe we should take the hint and say, “If that’s the way you want it, the place is all yours.” Maybe it’s smarter to just go live someplace where we will be less stressed.

And then we realize… plenty of people are not in a position to leave. They are tied here, by economics or familial commitments or some other anchor that makes talk of starting over in another country as probable as Trump grabbing a beer with Noam Chomsky.

For those people who do not have the luxury of packing up and flying to France, we would basically be saying, “Hope you’re not Latino, or Muslim, or gay, or anything else other than a rich, straight, white guy. Because you are on your own.”

And at those times, it seems like sticking around and fighting may be the only real option we have.

But if things get much worse… well, I hear Barcelona is nice.


Perception or Reality?

In the wake of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, many U.S. presidential candidates are lining up to say how uber-tough, how mega-manly they are and how they would wipe out Isis in a weekend (three days tops) if given the role of commander in chief. It’s quite a display of fortitude.

Close up of man's arm showing biceps

Forgive me if I’m a bit incredulous.

But let’s leave questions about homicidal religious nuts and complex military strategies aside for now.

Instead, let me bring up a related topic, which is the GOP’s continuing image problem. And I’m not just talking about the Republicans’ struggles to connect with Latino voters.

You see, many Republicans come across as hostile to the poor, fearful of immigrants, and paranoid about the world. In addition, many conservatives are hypocrites about their ardent pro-life stance, in that they seem obsessed with fetuses but indifferent to children once they are actually born.

Fortunately, GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie has the solution to the Republican Party’s branding crisis. Christie doesn’t buy that he and his fellow conservatives are irrational, cold-hearted xenophobes who hate kids.

And that’s why he wants to prevent five-year-old Syrian war orphans from getting into this country and blowing us all up.

Hey, thanks for the perspective, Governor Christie.


Expats vs. Immigrants

The waiter approached our table and recited the specials in a flowery French accent. Because I live in Los Angeles, I assume that every waiter is an actor, especially ones who are speaking with outrageous inflections.

But as it turned out, he was the real deal. Over the course of the dinner, he informed us that former Parisians constituted most of the restaurant’s staff. Evidently, the owner was from France, and he liked to help his fellow countrymen get started in this country.

“So you’re an expatriate,” I said.

“Oui,” he answered.

Now, I’m certainly not going to claim that the French are wildly popular with Americans. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that people in this country were ordering freedom fries.

Strangely enough, I don’t recall anybody asking for a freedom kiss. But I digress.

The point is we can all agree that Europeans, in general, receive kinder greetings here than do people from Latin America. In fact, it’s in the very terms we use.

The French waiter was an expat. It’s a word that evokes a daring and exotic nature, an upscale sensibility. It’s a positive term.

In contrast, we refer to Guatemalans and Colombians and Ecuadorians as immigrants. That word conjures up a lot of connotations, but most of them, alas, are not positive.

What is the reason for this dichotomy?

Certainly, legality has something to do with it. I presume that the French waiter has a work visa. The Mexican busboy, in contrast, may not. But as I’ve written before, the self-righteous screeching over the “illegal” part of the phrase “illegal immigrant” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s a point, yes, but a minor one.

The differentiation, according to one unimpeachable source, “comes down to socioeconomic factors… skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual laborer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labeled an ‘immigrant.’ ”

It’s an arbitrary, even unfair, definition. But it’s accurate.

Still, that doesn’t explain the difference fully. For example, we would never call someone a Mexican expatriate, even if she were a successful businessperson like the owner of the French restaurant. She is forever an immigrant.

At its most basic level, the reason that we view Frenchman and German women and British people as expats, rather than as immigrants, is because we like them better. We respect them more.

It’s right there in the language.

It works the other way too. Any American adult who chooses to live abroad is an expatriate (with the possible exception of Peace Corps volunteers). It really doesn’t matter if you bum around Europe for years or head up the international office in Hong Kong. If you’re an American living in a foreign land, you’re an expat. You won’t be called an immigrant unless a native resents your presence, and even then, you’re more likely to be called “gringo,” “yanqui,” or “member of the invading imperialist army.”

There is, of course, a long history of Americans moving abroad to have their art better appreciated, or at least to sleep with people who have more interesting accents. It’s the Lost Generation of Hemingway, and the Beat Generation of Kerouac, and the Brooding Generation of Johnny Depp (he lives in France, you know).

So perhaps I will do my part and live out that dream I have about moving to London. It might be amusing to see the British try to figure out if I’m an American expatriate or a Latino immigrant.

Perhaps I would be both.


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