How to Be a Good American Citizen...from Mexico
"For any particular thing, ask What is it in itself? What is its nature?" -- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Man by nature is a political animal.” - Aristole
Marcus Aurelius asked the question. Aristotle answered it.
Incidentally, Hannibal Lector asked the same question in the movie Silence of the Lambs. Given the horror show of American politics, maybe we should reference Hannibal Lector instead of Marcus Aurelius, one of the so-called last “Five Good Emperors” of Rome.
Before the last election, plenty of people threatened to leave the country if the this-or-that president got elected. When they didn’t do it, a lot of them said they didn’t leave because America "needed them.”
America does need you. Fortunately, it doesn’t necessarily need you to live there the whole time. You can still be a good citizen, an activist even, while you are in Mexico. You can still participate in politics without the news and media eating your insides out every day.
Technology once again comes to the rescue of expats
You can be an “activist abroad” whether you’re conservative or liberal, all from your telephone and laptop.
Progressive causes have websites, blogs, and forums, like the Daily Kos and Credo Action.
The Daily Kos is a group blog and internet forum focused on liberal American politics. The site is a good example of "netroots" activism that took hold in the last election, meaning that its political activism is organized through blogs and other online media. Credo Action has five million activists and is equally active with online petitions and call campaigns.
Other progressive sites that came into being after the election are Indivisible.com, Swingleft, Operation 45 and theAction Network
Conservative.org appears to be an informative website and takes donations. The Conservative Action Project and the American Conservative Union are other conservative sites with blogs. I assume they have similar ways to participate (The only conservative website I found for petitions was Red Petitions, currently very outdated).
Conservative causes drum up support through political action groups (PACS) devoted to specific planks in their platform. In general, fundraising isn’t as shrill on conservative websites. They are more heavily funded by the wealthy and corporations and aren’t as dependent on lots and lots of small donations like the Democratic party is.
If you’d like to confirm where you fall on the political spectrum, take this brief, interesting test, the World's Smallest Political Quiz.
Maybe the only positive thing about Congress is that members have to be responsive to their constituents. Every member of Congress wakes up thinking about re-election. You can make your voice heard no matter where you are.
Participating virtually in politics via these websites is incredibly easy.
In the case of making calls to your home state congressmen. The Daily Kos and Credo Action provide the script. You only dial one number to begin your calls. Each time you finish the script (or your paraphrasing of the script), the site automatically dials the next representative on the list. You can make 20 calls in an hour...so easy.
Signing petitions online takes less than a minute. Petition forms auto-fill much of your contact information. You hit the checkbox as a signature and they send you an online thanks.
You will find yourself receiving requests to sign petitions for and against certain candidates, even candidates from outside your home state.
Discussing a perfect union
We all still have a vested interest in what happens at home. Informed discussions are considered as part of being a good citizen. In bigger expat areas, expats sometimes have social clubs and Facebook groups where they can discuss how our country should move forward to “form a perfect union.” You can stay as informed and engaged as you want to.
As an expat, you can participate on the websites that reflect your values without the sacrifice of listening non-stop to polarizing media coverage that at home threatens to suck every last atom of joy out of your life.
If you just want to get away from politics totally, think about how you present your decision.
If you’re going to live in another country because you’re sick of the political climate and want to get away from it entirely, you may want to think about how you announce your decision.
I was surprised to discover that it’s not enough for some to stay in the United States themselves as an act of patriotism. Many feel you should too - quite strongly in fact.
Last year I ran across a blog dedicated to saving money, a personal finance blog. The blog was very popular with thousands of followers. The blogger gave advice on living on social security and fun ways to earn a little extra money on the side.
When the blogger decided to move to another country, strangely, he cited politics as the reason rather than moving to save money, the whole reason d ‘etre of his website.
The internet trolls went nuts. Heretofore supporters and followers of the site attacked him viciously, telling him in not to let the door hit him in the nalgas on his way out.
What had been a personal finance blog instantly became political. It wasn’t clear if the trolls fell to the right or left of the political divide as much as their opinion that the blogger was abandoning ship (their tenets of good citizenship apparently didn't include respecting the rights of others).
1. Living in America doesn't make a person a citizen- hero (although sometimes it feels that way)
2. Living in another country doesn’t make a person a traitor.
You can vote from abroad. You have all the tools necessary to educate yourself on the issues from wherever you live to make informed choices on how you vote. Being informed is what our democracy asks of us.
You can always take a few of the dollars you save living in Mexico and make a contribution. From my years as a professional fundraiser, I can tell you without hesitation that non-profits forgive your absence from the big rally if you write them a nice check (And they always take credit cards.)
Just like Aristotle said, people are political by nature. Many expats probably know what's going on in the United States as well or better than you and me do. Some listen to CNN or Fox all day (between walks on the beach, dancing salsa and skyping with grandkids). I’ve met some real news junkies.
On the other hand, if you have Mexican friends, entire months will go by refreshingly without a single comment about an American president, past or present. Perhaps given their own problems with corruption, they’ve become too cynical to talk about politics.
Or maybe Mexicans are more aware of what they are doing at the present moment, in the space that they share with others right now.
That’s how it appears to me. Over only a few days, the cook in the cafe downstairs from my condo worried over me about a sore throat. A Mexican friend brought me a rather strange red spray for a pulled tendon. A stranger on the beach offered to lift me up to scale the 8-foot high breakfront wall around my building when the surf that had come in during my walk.
In Mexico, you can still find time to be an American citizen, but moments like these take up more of your days.
Related: "Five Ways Turn a Liberal into a Conservative (At Least Until the Hang-Over Sets In) by Discovery.
Most Recent: The perfect antidote for overly-perky post-fifty job hunt websites.
About the Author: Kerry Baker is the author of two books, The Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online is a curation of the best Spanish teaching online tools from throughout the web, curated into lesson plans.
These are free tools you'll never find in a Google search, site that are buried under advertising and "Free" hooks. Use the guide with a laptop or e-reader like I do to create a different lesson plan every day. Don't wait. Start your Spanish journey now. Your brain will thank you.
The second book, "If Only I Had a Place," is your guide to renting luxuriously for less year after year, including the cultural ins and out of a country with little regulation yet many advantages for the part-time expat.