Reflections on why I emigrated from the USA and retired overseas
The population of the planet has doubled in the last 40 years and is predicted to top 7 billion people by October 31, 2011. We are running out of food, water, and other important resources in many locations on this big blue marble. Many people are very worried about tectonic changes in the world’s power dynamics. However, that is not the reason I left the formerly greatest nation on earth. My leaving it all behind has more to do with what has happened, is happening, and what will happen on a different level.
The United States reminds me more and more of a self-destructive individual, you know, the ones that cut themselves, consume all types of drugs such as crack cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, alcohol, and tobacco (and there are many more). This is more than a metaphor, and it is transpiring in spite of the fact that the marginal educational system in the nation has spent huge sums of money and resources to educate the young and most impressionable to the dangers of consuming toxic substances. Perhaps we should make drain cleaner and gasoline illegal as well?
My disillusionment started in about 1980, when Ronald Reagan, a B actor, defeated Jimmy Carter for the presidency of the USA. Americans completely ignored Reagan’s non-accomplishments in the Golden State, where he, with the help of some early anti-government and anti-tax enthusiasts, notably Howard Jarvis and Proposition 13, dismantled that which had, until that time, been the shining example of what the United States of America was capable of doing with its fine young minds. The California University system was an institution that was not run as a for-profit enterprise, but was a great experiment in paying it forward. Between the end of WWII and the Reagan War on Education in California, hundreds of thousands of young minds had been educated and shaped to innovate, creating what was to become the eight largest economy in the world. Now, look at the state today: terminally indebted, the tax base eroded by self-serving citizens who apparently forgot that they all received a free education, paid for by their parents and grandparents via property taxes.
Subconsciously, I was already looking for an “escape from America” when, in 1974, I moved my family to Costa Rica and bonded with that lovely but corrupt little country; however it was not what I was seeking. After our return to the USA after a couple of years, we moved to Maui, where we were reasonably isolated from the realities of the mainland and world events in general. We had a big garden, two cows (named Chuck and Roast), five cars, a nice boat, a giant house, and I even managed to score one of the first Apple computers (a big disappointment from which I would not recover until I finally broke down and purchased my next computer, a Dell, in 1999).
So things were really going well, but while I was far away, the stench of corruption started to permeate our capital, with the help of lobbyists and corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Eventually the Evangelicals started to wield their mighty sword of guilt across the nation, starting with the so-called silent majority. The problem with that moniker of course is that they were neither silent nor a majority. But in a nation first settled by the Puritans, where the men subjugated the woman as badly as they are being subjugated by Islam and today’s remnants of the buggy riding Mennonites, wearing your religion on your sleeve as a politician became as important as getting corporate political donations.
Then came 9/11! My wife and I were involved in a lucrative business venture that allowed us to travel in a very comfortable tour bus with our dogs all around the nation, from music festival to music festival to music festival. We were south of Denver, visiting my wife’s family and taking care of business on that fateful day. At about 8 am, the phone rang in our rig, parked at Cherry Creek Reservoir. It was my friend Barry calling me from West Virginia, urging me to turn on the TV. While I did that he stated to me, “We live in a different world now!” As the picture on my set became focused, I realized with growing horror what a huge event this was. The towers had already collapsed, and all the networks just kept playing the various footages of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers with their subsequent collapse into piles of dust and rubble.
What I saw rising out of that cloud of dust and rubble was the loss of freedoms and liberty, along with a strengthening of the US police state, which had already surpassed the percentage of incarcerated citizens of any other nation in the world, the privatization of prisons, and the harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines that robbed the judiciary of its ability to apply moderation in certain cases that got caught up in throwing the book at deserving defendants. What exists in this paradox is a clear violation of the separation of powers, that of the legislative and judicial branches. But it has become a major source of income for the US prison industry, which in turn kicks back millions of dollars to the lobbyists, who distribute those funds to elected officials in return for the favor of allowing them to be the authors of policies that are very favorable to them. And out the window goes justice!
And how did I feel about the actual event? I was horrified of course, and mourned the loss of life in that terrible episode that will forever be etched into the nation’s psyche. But was I surprised? Not at all! My surprise is at how the United States of America, and particularly the brain-dead president and national security advisor (Bush and Rice) completely ignored the Presidential Daily Briefing of one month before, where the intelligence community warned the President of the United States of America, a legacy low C student at Yale, that Bin-Laden was determined to commit a terrorist attack in the United States, possibly preparing for “hijackings or other types of attacks.” And this report was ignored.
Almost half of the US voted for this dunce, but worse, they overwhelmingly reelected the formerly AWOL Texas National Guard member. In his own words, he warned the electorate, and they did not listen to him. They thought it was funny. I wonder if they still think its funny, with the country and the world’s economies in shambles.
“I graduated from Yale University with a low C average.”
“I was a cheerleader. Yes, really.”
“We’re going to have the best educated American people in the world.” – Verbatim quote, George W. Bush
“Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.” – Verbatim quote, Governor George W. Bush
Right after the attacks on the country, Congress convened and rammed through a series of laws, packaged as the misnamed “USA Patriot Act,” giving the authorities unprecedented new powers to spy on their own citizens anywhere in the world. No doubt there are bad people out there who wish to do harm to the United States, but the United States has harmed itself much more that all the criminals who perpetrated the actions of 9/11 ever did. We have lost more US citizens in Iraq, fighting a war based on lies, than we lost in the attacks on 9/11. The USA killed untold numbers of innocent Iraqi civilians to fight that unjustifiable war, creating much hatred toward the nation in that region.
The USA justifiably attacked and invaded a rogue country, Afghanistan, to take out its twisted leaders. And now forces have been there almost ten years, at great cost, not to mention that the two unwinnable and misguided wars, combined with irresponsible tax cuts and rebates, have destroyed the nation’s fiscal health for years to come. Did the terrorists succeed? Beyond a doubt, if, as G.W. Bush so wisely observed, “They hate us for our freedom!”
That hastily passed USA Patriot Act marked the decline of the ideals that the United States and its constitution stand for. But then came the imminent domain case of New London before the US Supreme court, which ruled with an astonishing anti-liberty and anti-constitutional 5:4 majority, this time by the more liberal members of the court, that government could seize private property and turn it over to a for-profit private development company. This decision was rendered over six years ago, and the forces that be wasted no time carrying out the evictions. Let the record reflect that, as of September 11, 2011, nothing has been built there, and the area is an overgrown eyesore.
There was a similar but equally disgusting case of the serial bankruptee, Donald Trump, forcing an old lady out of the home she was born in, in Atlantic City, so he could build a parking structure for his soon to be opened and subsequently closed casino.
Day by day, I lost more and more faith in the establishment known as United States Democracy, and soon found myself looking longingly at Mexico, but quickly acknowledging the disaster that loomed around the corner for the Aztec nation in the form of narco-terrorism.
We soon learned about dozens of lobbyists funding congresspersons, writing their own laws, and having the ever-corrupt public servants introduce the same said bills and fighting for them, making all kinds of backroom deals to pay back for that golf outing to Scotland on private corporate jets. Were enough citizens sufficiently outraged to march in the streets to bring about change? No! They went about their business like sheep, most of them being completely unaware of the cancer that had been eating at the republic, at the concept of “one man, one vote.” Most people in the United States today have no idea who Jack Abramoff was, and I am afraid that they just don’t give enough of a damn to get up from their living room furniture to ever raise the kind of ruckus that is necessary to re-establish Democracy. Even if they did, the paramilitary police forces will be ready for them with machine guns, armored personnel carriers, toxic gases, microwave weapons and hundreds of thousands of jack booted, armored storm troopers, ready to oppress popular dissent. But not to worry, I really don’t think they have it in them to rise up. They are too concerned with their credit ratings and making sure they have the latest and greatest made in China consumer goods.
Now of course comes your obvious question: Why and how can I live in Argentina, a country that is even more corrupt? The very short answer is: It’s not my country! I have no history with any other nation except Switzerland. I only served in the Armed Forces of the USA because I was compelled to do so, and to some extent, I fell for our leader’s proclamation that we had to defend freedom in Vietnam. It was somewhat suspicious to me at the time that we were getting involved in a nation engulfed in a full-fledged civil war, in the end killing over one million “Gooks.” The reality was that they were human beings with mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, and friends, and the USA killed and maimed an astonishing number of innocents there and in the illegal incursions into neighboring countries.
Would I ever consider returning? I seriously doubt it. Every day while scanning the news around the world – financial and otherwise – I lose a little more hope, and at my age, 64, I have absolutely no illusions about the USA ever returning to the days of “The Andy Griffith Show” or to anything close to its former glory. On the contrary, I see a future for the United States that is very bleak indeed. I have serious doubts that President Obama will be reelected. The tragedy of that is not lost on me, even though I am no fan of his. This will allow the next Republican administration to select one to three new Federalist Society judges to the Supreme Court, cementing their majority. It will happen sooner or later, to the further detriment of the educational system, the ideal of Democracy, and the rights to true freedom, liberty, and justice for all.
Every day I wake up, and thank my parents and grandparents for having been Swiss and bestowing that privilege upon me at birth in Zürich, that lovely but expensive city on the lake.
About the author: Jamie Douglas is an Adventurer, Writer and Photographer with an amazing array of Nikon equipment, and a lifetime of experience traveling and documenting. He currently enjoys the great weather and fine wines of Mendoza, Argentina, and edits Expat Daily News and Expat Daily News Latin America.