By Richard Rolandson
I asked the editors of CuencaHighLife if I could respond to a recent article criticizing U.S. government policies toward its citizens living abroad. They kindly obliged.
As I thought about it, I realized that what I really wanted to say concerned much more than just one or two more articles about how expats are getting hosed over by the U.S. government. The issue that strikes closer to home for me is the disdain and outright hatred that many expats seem to feel toward their country.
I can ignore the more imbecilic complaints, like the one that Barack Obama, George Bush and the European Union are about to launch a one-world government, or that the U.S. is about to impose a lock-down on all its citizens, or that the U.S. sprays its citizens with sedatives, antibiotics, and pesticides from airplanes.
What bothers me more are the less dramatic comments from reasonable seeming gringos for their reasons for leaving the U.S. and moving to Ecuador. Some common ones are: The U.S. is becoming a police state. Taxes are transferring our money to illegal immigrants. The government is allowing poisons into the food supply. Obama care has turned the U.S. into a communist state. The CIA is tracking U.S. expats to the end of the earth. The IRS has turned the U.S. into a fascist dictatorship. I could go on.
When I hear this, I want to ask the complainers: Do you really have any idea of what it was like to live in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany? Or China or Venezuela today? Or have you experienced a famine and watched your children die in North Africa?
The U.S. citizens living in Cuenca are here because of the fabulous advantages we received as a birthright. Most of us had good educations and good careers that allowed us the financial wherewithal to leave home and move to another country. All we have to do it look around the world at the poverty, hunger and political conflict to realize our amazing fortune. None of us are refugees. We left by our own free will and most of us can go back to the U.S. by our own free will.
It doesn’t matter what we think about Barack Obama or George Bush. These guys come and go and years of observation has taught me that not much changes when they do. What I am talking about is appreciating what our homeland has given us, and appreciating the vision, dedication and hard work of the people who created it. And yes, also appreciating those who have given their lives for it.
I’m no drum-beating patriot and I have serious beefs with my country. When I was wounded in Vietnam in 1971, I was already questioning my country’s mission there and, after I was sent home, I became an opponent of the war. And I haven’t supported any of my country’s wars since them. However, the fact that my country has made mistakes, some of them pretty bad ones, does not change my mind that I come from a great country that has been forged by remarkable people.
Which brings me, kind of by the back door, to the article posted last week on this website that I objected to. It suggested that the U.S. government, with new overseas financial reporting requirements is treating its expats like criminals. Actually, I didn’t disagree with the main point that these requirements have gone too far and are unfair. What bothered me, just like what bothers me about the mindless complaints some of my fellow expats make about their government, was the conspiratorial hysteria that the U.S. government is out to get us and put poor grandmas in prison for not filing an IRS form. Nonsense!
I suggest that U.S. expats reflect on the good fortune that allows them to live in Cuenca, and that allows them to complain openly about their government.
And like my grandfather used to say, “Don’t complain about the food with your mouth full.”