I haven't said anything till now about the Katrina disaster because a part of me is in shock over the pictures I see and the stories I read and the things I hear on the U.S. radio stations I'm listening to online. As I was getting ready to go to school the other day, I was listening to NPR describe the damage and lives lost in the Gulf area, and was so dumbfounded that I stood in front of the mirror with my tie half-tied for a few minutes, not really sure how to react. And the news that the already in trouble American economy would probably slide into a recession because of this, that my country is beginning to look the same as the Cold War Russia that it had been so eager to bust up in the seventies and eighties, well, these are all things I've known were coming, but when they come and you hear other people saying them for the first time on public channels, it still shocks and hurts you. You never wanted these things to happen, even when you were telling people "if this goes on" for over a year or two.
I left America a little over a year ago now, but my decision to leave was made about a year and a half ago. And one of the things that factored into that decision was how difficult it was to live in America, at least in the part that I was living in, and hold the views on the country that I held. I couldn't speak out my own thoughts and opinions without someone telling me I was un-American and that if I didn't like it here, I should go live in some other country. And then the opportunity came for me to live in another country, so I did. I made the decision to leave. And it's been the best decision for me that I've ever made in my life so far.
Why? Because I no longer had to be surrounded by a community of people who had forgotten that it was their duty to criticize the government, that the government works for them, not the other way around. I was no longer surrounded by a media that lied to its people, or created bite-sized info-meals that said nothing important and talked about only the most sensational aspects of life in America, who were controlled by relatives of government officials. I was no longer in a class of people whose skills and talents were devalued by a government who has no interest in education and knowledge or the arts, that instead placed value on war and warfare materials and took federal money from nearly every avenue of American life in order to fund a war in the Middle East that they promised would be over within months, that they failed to justify in the first place, and that has done nothing but serve as the murdering vehicle for American soldiers and the people of Iraq. I no longer had to be surrounded by an America that had cut off its ears and blinded itself to the world around it, an America that is ignorant of the world outside its borders, that has no understanding of the countries and languages and politics and customs of anywhere else in the world because of its own inbred arrogance.
But as each day passes, that arrogance is becoming the downfall of America, and it will continue to do so until Americans remember who they are, and what their duty is at times like this. When your government fails you, you must respond to that failure. The country was more than happy to attempt to impeach President Clinton for having an affair, yet cowers in so much fear that it can't speak even a syllabe against the Bush administration's unforgivable conduct as America's leaders.
I'm far away, but I still feel the sadness that I tried to outrun for a while. And I love my country, more than I even realized before coming here. It wasn't until I came to Japan that I realized how American I was, and how much I love America. But when will all of this end? Do we really have to wait through the rest of Mr. Bush's term to see what other catastrophes his administration will bungle or what other disasters they will fail to respond to in those remaining years? Why can we organize against a president who's had an affair, but not one who has ruined our economy, created a war in a country out of an incident for which that country had no evidence of being connected to, a president who has still failed to bring aid to his own people when a section of the country seems to have, overnight, become a Third World nation?
Jeff Ford says all this better than me at his blog. I suggest you go read him instead, as I never really say what I feel about these things in a way that's right. All I can say is, I want to come home to America, but to what America will I be coming home to? I fear it won't be home at all, really. It wasn't when I left, and I feel as if it will be even further removed from the concept of "home" when I come back. I'd hoped something would make a turn for the better while I was gone, but I'm afraid it will only get worse.