Because of this blog, a number of people now know that my wife and I are leaving Switzerland for the U.S. So many so that, alongside the well-wishers (thank you!), I am getting a certain number of people who express some alarm. "America? Do you really know what you're getting into? And why would you ever leave Switzerland anyway?"
And recently, one friend who asked me "Are you going to the U.S. to help fix the raging dumpster fire that America seems to be rapidly becoming?" Well, those weren't his exact words, but I got the drift. And it got me thinking.
My wife and I are trying really hard not to sabotage our move back to the U.S. by making any assumptions about what it's going to be like. Although born in the U.S. and proudly American, I've lived in lots of countries from a young age onwards. One thing I learned is to be careful with your expectations: it will be worse than you think in some ways, it will be better in other ways, and for sure it will be different than you were expecting in almost every way. So just leave your expectations aside and come with an open mind. Be prepared to be amazed, and make sure to look for the bright side of every situation.
As hard as we try, I admit that it is nigh on impossible to avoid hearing news about the United States. And that news is not good. I fully anticipate that the picture we are getting from various news and media sources is grossly inaccurate. Large swaths of the media seems to have given up any pretense of objectivity, and have given in to stoking the outrage machine. So no, I neither believe black Americans are being widely hunted by police, nor that Antifa protestors have burned down Portland, Seattle, and Chicago. I further do not expect that angry insurrectionists are biding their time until they can take over the government, this time armed with more than a Viking helmet and zip ties.
And yet. Is it really true that Congress has let itself get to the point of playing fire with the debt limit and national default again and managed to kick the can only a few months down the road? That despite widespread bipartisan support, Congress simply cannot pass a much-needed infrastructure bill? That after spending trillions in direct COVID relief in the last two years, Bernie Sanders actually said another $6 trillion might not be enough going forward, and that $3.5 trillion is already a compromise?
Has John Durham's Special Counsel investigation really started to expose that the Russia collusion hoax was a fairly naked attempt by the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign to (a) win the election by dirty means, and (b) failing that derail Trump's Presidency by any means possible? And that our Federal intelligence agencies not only turned a flatly partisan blind eye but also played along? I have to think this news is all a giant conspiracy theory as well, but I'm starting to wonder.
Anyway, before I get off on a rant (too late!), even if my wife and I keep an open mind, that ship has apparently sailed for a lot of other people. For much of my time abroad in the past four decades, the U.S. was admired as a land of limitless opportunity. The American dream, remember? You can come with nothing, and by dint of your hard work and some luck, become a great success.
Yes, depending on who was then occupying the White House, an American abroad had to field a host of questions from bemused foreigners:
- Clinton: "You Americans are such Puritans. Why are you so obsessed with sex?"
- Bush Jr.: "Can a President of the USA really be that dumb?"
- Obama: "OK, maybe we were a bit hasty with that Nobel Peace Prize, but have you noticed, he's not Bush?!"
- Trump: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (too many to list, and also I want to keep this civil)
- Biden: "Aren't you so relieved now that Biden is in office? And have you noticed, he's not Trump?!"
But for most of this time, people never questioned the fundamental greatness of the U.S., or the idea that while our methods might sometimes be questionable, our morals were not. No more. An American abroad is now among people who feel none of the pride we do at being citizens but see only the increasingly demented image that America projects abroad, even if that projection is inaccurate. No wonder that one might start to question what's real.
We are still in Switzerland for a short time, but we have have in hand our one-way tickets to the U.S. As an aside, we'll know the COVID pandemic is entering a new phase when you can book a flight and not have the schedule immediately changed, flights cancelled, flights rebooked, only to have it all changed and cancelled again. As our current President might say, "Come on, man!" We're not trying to get someplace exotic off the well-traveled path.
We're on our fourth reservation now, but I assume we'll get to the United States one way or another. Whether we'll be happy we got there is another question altogether.
In the meantime, I'm trying hard to keep an open mind.