Monday, November 06, 2006
Leaving America Redux
I originally posted this after the last presidential election. I think I'll re-post it here again as I am sure similar discussions are going to spring up in a couple of days.Leaving America
Let me start out by saying that I am an ex-American. While still a citizen of the US I have not lived in the US for years. I live in Hong Kong and in China. I do not plan to ever live in the US again. My wife is Chinese and her family is here. My child was not born here but grew up here and is not really comfortable in the rural US settings that I remember. Thus, I am caught between the love of my native culture with the rhythm and pace of the small Texas town and the frenetic crowdedness of Hong Kong. I have thought long and hard about renouncing my US citizenship. But, changing your citizenship is, in many ways, like getting married. You are in the new country for "better or worse until death do you part." Indeed, it strikes me that it is easier too change your spouse than to change your nationality the difference being that to renounce your citizenship you don't need a lawyer.
That is why when I read article after article in paper after paper about people in the US who want leave the US because George Bush is the president for four more years I simply have to smirk. I don't know who will read this blog. But if you are one of the people who are considering this then let me as an American ex-patriot give you some advice.
Stay where you are. It isn't better somewhere else. I know. I've been there; I've done that. While my reasons to consider renouncing my US citizenship were, I think better thought out and based upon sounder logic than simply being frustrated that my party had lost an election it was still a mistake and it is a mistake that if you make it; you cannot call it back. It probably won't be better somewhere else.
I've read that one of the main reasons liberal democrats want to leave the US is because they are tired of dealing with all the *$#%@ Christians in the US who seem to have an inordinate amount of influence upon elections. I'm not going to challenge their assumption. Not because I necessarily believe they are right but because I can say that unless they go someplace like Northern Europe, if there, it doesn't get any better. I am also assuming that if they think Christians are bad they will also think that the Buddhist here in Hong Kong who burn phony money to the gods of the underworld so that they can have a good life the next time around are also rather depraved.
Indeed, the Good-Land Buddhism as practiced here with it's evil spirits and thousands of gods to bribe so that your stay in purgatory between incarnations is shorter makes the Southern Baptist look good. The whole idea of Chinese Buddhism as it is practiced by the locals, not necessarily as it is presented in English language guides to religion, is that you suffer less in Hell after you die and gain a better life after being Re-incarnated if you BRIBE the gods of the underworld in this life. Far from being a religion that discourages a materialistic lifestyle Chinese Buddhism glorifies it.
Hong Kong is the most devoutly and overtly religious place I think I have ever seen not only the Buddhist but the Christians here are quite bold and try hard to evangelize. There are also thousands of devout Muslim women who work as domestic helpers and walk around veiled.
Christianity is growing at a rapid pace and Buddhism is doing a good job of holding on to its own. So if you don't want to be evangelized don't come here!
Where else could the disaffected American liberal go? South America? Get real they are 98% Roman Catholic and Catholic dogma is an official part of the state. Furthermore, they are not the nearly lapsed Catholics that are politically liberal that you find in the US. They take their faith SERIOUSLY. So these people in the paper want to run from a place where only about one third of the population attends a religious service once a week to a place where 90% plus of the population does? I am sorry. That is idiotic.
Other articles I read have mentioned people wanting to go to nations like Canada or New Zealand that they, the distraught voter feel would be more suitable with their politics. Really? What happens to the Canadian economy if three-million people or a million or 1/2 a million suddenly show up looking to live there? Prices go up and wages go down that's what. It is just that simple. The governments know this and they will not allow so many people to immigrate that they wreck their economy and overload their social systems. The dirty ugly fact is that it is easier to take less skilled workers and then assimilate them as they gain prosperity than it is to take in lots of skilled workers who drive down the price of white-collar wages.
That means all the disgruntled liberal voters are going to have to spread themselves around. That means they need to think harder about where to go. That means you need to think non-English speaking.
When you think of non-English speaking countries you need to think about your children. If you were to go to a non-English speaking place are you willing to home school them like a fundamentalist Christian? I doubt very seriously that there will be a bilingual English track in the local schools. Even if they do, (some schools in Hong Kong have such a program) you are not going to like the schools. Would you think proper for your child to do five hours of memorization homework every night? I didn't think so. How about classes that require them memorize Bible, Koran or Buddhist scripture verses? Corporal punishment anyone? Do you want your children to be taught why they should be patriotic Singaporians?
If you don't like the options above that means private schools. Can you afford that? Doesn't that mean your kids will go to school with the children of the international corporation managers who are in that nation raping the resources and destroying the environment for the benefit of the capitalist pig developed world at the behest of Dick Cheney and Halliburton? Does that bother you? It would would me if I were an American liberal. Especially since you'd probably have to work for one of those companies before you could come here.
But, private schools don't really solve the religion problem. Arguably the best private school in Hong Kong is one that was founded by Lutherans missionaries. I know some of the teachers there. Indeed, I know the director of personnel. Nice lady. She attends a church with a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate Pastor. Yeah, fundamentalist in Hong Kong. Indeed, ECC it is quite probably the largest Protestant church in Hong Kong.
If the religion in the schools doesn't scare you the cost of tuition should. The Private schools here that use English fall into three categories: expensive, very expensive and cost more than Harvard. Can you afford to pay USD $20,000 a year per child for a private school in Hong Kong? That is about the minimum tuition charge here.
If you go with the less expensive international schools you get names like International Christian School, United Christian College, Christian Alliance International School and St. Paul's Convent School. Do you as a liberal see anything you don't like in those names? If I were leaving the US because there were too many Christians I would.
Are you a proponent of Gun control? May I suggest you don't go to any place in Asia. Yes, Hong Kong has a very strict gun control law but the triads (local gangsters) still have some. I know first hand from shopping in Southern Thailand that you can purchase a used AK-47 for about USD $25.00 in the street markets. (I was only willing to pay USD $20.00 and the guy wouldn't go below USD $25.00) Try doing that in L.A.
What about crime? Hong Kong and Japan are very safe (though very expensive) but most places in Asia are not. Central and South America are worse. How would you feel about having to hire an armed body guard to take your kids to school? What about limiting your shopping trips to daylight hours? If you are concerned about your safety don't go to the third world.
Racial prejudices are a world wide problem. Generally, it is worse anywhere else but the US. I mean that. If you have never lived outside the US you haven't seen prejudice. If you want your kids to learn how to be a bigot let them live South Korea! If you want to be discriminated against because of the color of skin then try being a Caucasian living in China! If you want them to become passive snobby bigots then move to the UK.
You want to see women oppressed try the middle East and Asia or Africa though any Muslim nation will do.
Pedophilia anyone? Go to Bangkok Yeah, 12 year-old girls and boys as prostitutes are everywhere there. Does that bother you? It should unless you're one of the people abusing those children.
A last reason not to go overseas is quite simply you will get trapped here. It happens all the time, and it happens in two ways. First, if you get that good job, and make a lot of money will you want to go back in four years to a job that makes 1/3 as much? Even if you have to live in a small apartment, in fear for your life and in an intolerant and abusive society? Lots of people can't bare the loss of money.
Conversely, You may find that you have nice life but can't afford to return. I know of a man in Wuhan which is a city in China. He went there 10 years ago to teach English on a two year contract because he wanted to help the poor and thought it was noble thing to do. He has four children. He does not make enough money to fly back for vacations in the US. He can't really save that much because he doesn't make much. He can feed his kids and actually has a pretty good life in China on the USD $800.00 a month (Twice the local teacher salary) but he can't leave because his standard of living would fall dramatically if he went back to Canada. He and his family are trapped in China. Does that sound appealing? He cannot even afford to send his kids back to Calgary for summer visits to Grandma.
A last reason to not go over seas is that your standard of living will probably fall. What if an apartment that was 500 to 600 square feet cost you USD $4-10000.00 a month and each of your kid's school tuition was USD $1800.00 a month. What if for USD $110,000.00 a year you couldn't afford an automobile? On top of all that, you would still have to fill out US tax forms every year. Doesn't sound so great anymore does it.
What about air pollution. How may days did the pollution index where you live hit 85? In most Asian cities and many South American cities that is an everyday event.
Remember the grass always looks greener but is because you are looking through your gestalt glasses. Your lenses are tinted green by politic, envy or both.
Now all of this not meant to make it sound like places other than the US are certified Hell Holes. They aren't. I greatly enjoy living in Hong Kong. It has been a wonderful experience to live here. It is a good place to raise a family. But, it isn't necessarily better than the US if you are an American Liberal.
Until Next TimeFai Mao
The Blogger Who Would Find It hard to Return to The USA