Apocalypse Now…

Okay, maybe “Apocalypse Now” is overstating the situation a bit, but not by much. And also – FUCK!

The thoughts have been swirling around my head at the speed of light since Tuesday night and breaking them down into cohesive, cogent sentences is proving illusive. But “FUCK!” pretty much covers it, I think.

I was going to do a long, detailed post about everything that is wrong about what happened on Tuesday, but I realize, with most of my readers at least, I am preaching to the choir and those facts don’t need to be reiterated here when others have written far more eloquently about them.

But I do still have a few things to say, however incoherently…

First off, I am so effing lucky to be an expat. Later today, I get to fly back to Ireland – a country that has its own problems, sure (repeal the 8th!) but at least they didn’t elect a Cheetoh as leader of the free world.

I also realize that I am witnessing these events from a place of privilege. I’m a straight, highly educated, white, upper middle class woman. Okay, that last one is a tick against me but still, if I am scared what must other, more marginalized folks, be feeling right now? I want to give them all a hug. I want to tell them that it’s all going to be okay – even if I have serious doubts about that.

To quote my BFF-in-my-own-mind Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” So…

Muslims – I love you.

LGBTQ people– I love you.

Immigrants – I love you.

Women – I love you.

People of color – I love you.

Hispanic people – I love you.

Poor people – I love you.

And I will do whatever I can to fight for you during what I fear is going to be a very dark time.

You (we) are the ones who can make America great again.

Not Donald Trump.

Expat or Immigrant?

A couple days ago I read an article about the difference between an expat and an immigrant and it really got me thinking. I wrote a post three years ago about the immigrant experience versus the expat experience, inspired by my visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast but that was more about the immigrant experience in the time of my grandparents – before the advent of the the internet and all its connectivity.

As mentioned in my previous post and in the online article, an expatriate is defined as “a person who lives outside their native country” while an immigrant is defined as “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.” Not much of a difference. But even historically, expats have had positive qualities attributed to them while immigrants were labeled as uneducated, undesirable and worse.

And now today, in the age of Brexit and that human cantaloupe running for President of the United States, it feels like more than ever, “immigrant” is a four-letter word. I, as an expat, have been told I am brave, that I should be commended for pursuing my dreams, that any country would be lucky to have me. While immigrants from places like Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Poland are accused of being criminals and terrorists, and assumed to be uneducated, lazy and looking for a handout.

Why am I considered different? I guess because I’m a white, highly educated, professional who comes from an upper middle class family in a country not considered “undesirable”.

Let’s break that down, shall we?

  • I’m white – so the eff what? Skin color is not an indicator of character. I know lots of caucasians who are disgusting excuses for human beings, hiding behind the privilege that their skin pigment affords them.
  • Highly educated – yes, I am. I’m very lucky. And you know what? A large percentage of these immigrants everyone is so scared of are more educated than I am. Doctors, engineers, professors and the like are among those fleeing the war in Syria. And those from countries like Afghanistan, where education is harder to come by? Something tells me they that the education they get in their new country is not going to be wasted, but appreciated.
  • Professional – yeah, whatever. I make cartoons, big deal.
  • Upper Middle Class – here I am, lucky again that I wasn’t born into poverty. Which means that my parents could afford to get me a good education, which made me the professional I am today. Domino effect, anyone?
  • My Country – ugh. That sorry excuse for an Oompa Loompa is making it really hard to be proud of where I come from. America is losing its stance in the world, and honestly, I’m not entirely sure this is still a positive.

I’m not quite certain what my point is with all of this and I apologize if this post is less coherent than usual. I guess I’m just so troubled by the images I see of the suffering of these immigrants, not to mention the words and actions of those filled with nothing but hate and racism toward fellow human beings, that I needed to say something.

I feel the need to acknowledge that I am living the expat experience, not the immigrant experience and I am aware of the privilege, deserved or otherwise, that it gives me.

The World Turned Upside Down…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard that the UK has voted to leave the EU. To say I am gutted is an understatement. I am also so angry that I can barely form coherent thoughts.  I therefore want to apologize ahead of time for what will most likely be an inarticulate, curse-laden post. You have been warned.

So, the Brexit. Let me try to summarize how I am feeling:

  • First of all, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m mean seriously – fuck.
  • A majority of people over the age of 65 voted to leave. To which I say, fuck you old people. You’ve just royally screwed the younger generations because you want to return to the good old days. Today’s youth are the ones who are going to have to actually live with the decision you made. The prospects for those grandkids you dote over just got decidedly more dismal. Well done.
  • However, turn-out in areas with a higher percentage of young people was lower than in other areas. So, to those 18-24 year olds who didn’t feel the need to vote – this is what you get. If you didn’t vote, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • We are now seeing all over the TV and internet news people with “bregret” (can we seriously stop with the cutesy names?) – those who didn’t actually realize what a leave vote would mean for them and their country but voted to leave anyway. For fuck’s sake, do your homework people.
  • And then there are the protest voters. Those who voted to leave as a protest because they didn’t think that enough people would vote leave for it to actually win. Seriously?! YOUR VOTE COUNTS! To all those “Bernie or Bust” people out there, please learn from this. A protest vote from you could very well be the reason President Trump gets sworn in next January.
  • The British Pound, not surprisingly, has tanked. I am currently paid in sterling and in the past two days have suffered a €10,000 cut in my salary. Same job, same responsibilities, same hours, A LOT less money. Fuck you very much.
  • The amount of racism and bigotry that I have seen displayed since Thursday is truly astonishing, and scary. This vote was about xenophobia more than anything and that makes me want to weep.
  • I am an immigrant. And to those who say to me “Well, we don’t mean you when we say we want to keep the foreigners out”, I say “Fuck you.”  I am an immigrant. I am a foreigner. If you don’t want “them”, you don’t want me.
  • I once thought I would like to give living in the UK a try. Not anymore. Why would I want to live in a place that is going backwards? Sorry, London – we could have had a beautiful thing, but it’s not going to happen now. I’m holding out hope for Edinburgh though, as the one good thing to come of this debacle could be Scottish independence.
  • Donald Trump and Sarah Palin both rejoiced that the leave vote won. Need I say more?
  • We are now living in a post-factual world. The actual truth doesn’t appear to matter to many people any more. They hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. Seriously, when did FACT become a four letter word.
  • If this can happen in the UK, then Trump can win in the US. Come on, America – now is your chance to show the UK that, despite their fancy accents, you really are the smarter of the two. Don’t blow it.
  • Fuck.

Brave Old World…

I haven’t posted anything in a couple weeks but for very good reasons – houseguests and weekend get-aways to Belfast and Copenhagen. The highlight of my visit to Belfast was seeing the new Titanic Experience – a world class museum that alone made the trip worth it.

As I walked through the various exhibits, I started thinking about the people of that time and before it who made the choice to leave their homeland and try to make a life elsewhere, often an ocean away. Those people would be defined as immigrants (a person who leaves one country in order to settle permanently in another) but technically, they were also expats (one who takes up residency in a foreign country).

Unfortunately, the word “immigrant” has taken on an almost negative connotation in the conversations of today, while the term “expat” seems to have a bit more romance and even glamour attached to it.  But the basic difference, by virtue of their definitions, is just permanence. An immigrant relocates with permanent intent, while expats… well, I can attest to the fact that a lot of us don’t like to look too far into the future and think about where we might end up.

It’s the permanence of the immigrant experience that really got me thinking.  Even later than the time of the Titanic, when a person or a family made the decision to move from somewhere like Europe to somewhere like America, they made it knowing they were leaving behind everything and everyone they knew.  There was a very good chance they would never see their homeland or the people they were leaving behind again.  And yes, the decision to leave was often in pursuit of a better life, of opportunities that would be impossible where they were, but still, the gravity of such a permanent decision is not lost on me and perhaps that is because, as an expat, I have the slightest of slight ideas of what that might have felt like.

But, not really.

Not really because I chose to move to Europe not because my life in America was so bad, but because I simply wanted to experience living here.  Not really because I had an amazing job I was fairly certain I would love waiting for me in Dublin.  Not really because I have wonderful inventions like email and Skype that make it easy to talk to friends and family back home, everyday if I want.  And not really because air travel makes it possible for me to visit my “homeland” at least twice a year.

On many, many occasions when I have told people how I moved to Dublin without ever having visited before and without knowing anybody, they call me brave.  I know they don’t mean brave like a soldier or a firefighter, but still, brave.  And I get it.  Not everyone could do what I did – it took a certain amount of guts.

But when I was newly in Dublin and freaking out to my sister (on a daily basis) that maybe I’d made a mistake and what the hell was I going to do, she broke it down for me: “Shannon, worse case scenario, you come home.”  She was right.  And the day she said that to me was the day I really started to open myself up to this new life I’d chosen – because I knew I had a home to return to if this ended up not being the right choice for me.

So, gutsy, ballsy, maybe even a bit crazy – yes, I was definitely those things.  But brave? Most definitely not.  Especially not compared to those who did it before me and who’s worse case scenario was decidedly less reassuring.