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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

Enough with the aggressive nationalism already

I just saw a post on my Facebook wall that made me ponder something yet again: Why should one have to love America to live in it, and why if one doesn't should that person be invited to leave and never come back?

A bit aggressive, isn't it? I never loved America in the flag-waving, in-your-face, my-country-right-or-wrong way, but I lived there for more than 62 years, paid my taxes, made the best life I could.

When I got the chance--or actually, created the chance--I was happy to leave. As it happens, I'm also happy to stay gone. Why? Precisely (among other things) because of the sentiment above: America, love it or leave it. Brits don't spout that hateful crap, nor the French, nor Italians....I figure the Germans might, but I don't know. I haven't visited there yet, and am unlikely to as long as they continue to torture the Greeks. (I am MUCH more likely to visit Greece, and have already visited Greek Cyprus. Totally lovely.)

Transnationalization Some people are born into a gender that doesn't fit their mentality. Some people are born into a religion that doesn't fit their spirituality. Some people are born in a country that doesn't fit the way they want to live.

The first two are actually easier to change than the last one. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to be eligible for Irish citizenship so I knew I could leave the US with or without marrying a "foreigner" although I also did that. If I hadn't married a Brit, I'd have been living in Paris right now.

Do I love England? I'm very fond of it, find great parts of it admirable, know some lovely people. But I don't LOVE it the way I love Paris. I don't even love Ireland that way, and Ireland is close to every part of me. Fortunately, no one in the UK has had the poor taste to issue a "Love it or Leave It" ultimatum on my Facebook wall, another reason I am very, very fond of this country. Civility.

Love is many different things....

However, there's this: I totally love living where we do, in a beautiful part of Cornwall very close to both the ocean and tons of historic sites from every age, and with sufficient music, theatre and art in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro. (We could use a bit more dance.)

Just yesterday, we took the dog for a short "adventure" at Cotehele Quay, an historic site a mile from our house. It was sunny and warm, and we sat on a bench near the Edgcumbe Arms restaurant--all this National Trust, and available to anyone whether a Trust member or not--and watched the river and the boats and the visitors and the green-clad hill beyond the river. On the way home, we stopped at a farm stand and bought two bunches of flowers, a dozen free-range eggs, a punnet of huge strawberries and one of vine-ripened tomatoes. We put the money in an "honesty box." I wonder how well that would work on a winding country road in the nation across the western sea? Not very well for the farmer, I should think. I'm very happy in Cornwall right now. Later, I might move to France. Or I might move to Spain. Or I might move to Ireland. I have the choice because I have an EU passport, so I can live in any EU nation at will.

The one place I can't live is the United States. Not because I hate it, but because I renounced my US citizenship. The US is one of two nations on the globe that taxes its nationals living elsewhere, instead of letting them pay where they live. (The other is Eritrea, I believe.) There is an exemption amount, but one still has to do the forms...lots and lots of forms, some with draconian penalties for a single day of lateness (WITHOUT a grace period for mail being delayed). Yes, one year of that was enough for me, since I never intended to return anyway. The US is also the only nation so unsure of itself that it bans from ever living there again those who renounce its citizenship, even if that person was born there. Draconian enough for you?

But that's not why I renounced.

Following the soul's path

I renounced because it hurt my soul to identify as a citizen of a country where almost every other person is willing to get in your face and yell, "America, love it or leave it." The chauvinistic aggression, the hubris, the uncivility of it all was simply too much for my spirit to abide.

I love many people in America. I love some places: Manhattan and Key West, notably.

But do I LOVE the country, whatever that abstract concept might be? No. Not enough to lay down my life for it, although I applaud and support those so inclined, and wish the leaders would not send them so often and so frutilessly into harm's way. Not enough to put up with the vacuous uncivility that lets Americans think yelling "Love it or leave it" is in any way a sensible thing to do. Not enough to do battle with the State Department and Treasury year after year over a dumb form called the FBAR, which has single-handedly bankrupted ex-pats who missed a deadline and had to fork over virtually all their assets, and caused foreign banks to refuse to serve customers with US citizenship because the IRS/Treasury wants to get into their pants, too, and has imposed international means to do it.

Nope. I left in good time, and always planned to stay gone. Frankly, the no-return aspect of renouncing US citizenship was not the difficult part. The difficult part was....

Oh, right. There WAS no difficult part.

Copyright 2015 by Laura Harrison McBride

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