So, rumor has it that Matt Damon is moving to Australia to escape the dangerous insanity that is the United States, and as will happen, some folks on the interwebs are not so gently pointing out that this is the face of white privilege. From the perspective of one who freaked out and fled, I whole heartedly agree.
See, about nine months ago my wife and I moved out of the United States to find what we believe is a significantly better life in The Netherlands. Being of white skin, moderate financial means and advanced education, we literally put our money where our mouths are when we threatened to leave the U.S. if Donald Trump became president. We are now living a dream inside a dream as expats (not immigrants, because again, we’re white) flourishing in a democratic-socialist nation.
As I sit in a panoramic window overlooking a blustery Amsterdam scribbling these words, I find I no longer know where to begin to untangle the perplexing knot of privilege and marginalization that got me where I am today. Am I fortunate or privileged. Am I a refugee or a deserter? Am I an expat or immigrant?
I am a white, educated, queer, middle-age, female U.S. citizen of sufficient financial resources to escape the country of my birth in search of a more perfect nation . We now work, live, love and pay taxes in a country that puts people before profit and happily invest in the social network that protects not us but also our neighbors.
Unable to look away from the train-wreck that is the U.S., I still watch from afar as family and friends vehemently lock horns over a nation spiraling out of control. All I can seem to offer is the somewhere between “I’m so sorry” and “thank God we left!” Neither one being very helpful, to say the least.
Perhaps the least helpful is when I hear myself say things like “my country is no longer recognizable to me.” I realize that only a white woman with more than two nickels in her pocket could say such a ridiculous thing. It’s not like things have suddenly changed, it’s just that from my vantage point, I didn’t personally experience the America that many (if not all) people of color and the desperately poor have always known to be a system of carefully calculated oppressions. As election night 2016 came to a close, the U.S. was visible to our sheltered eyes in ways that we should have seen all along – that America was engineered from the start to take from the masses (Native Americans, enslaved Africans, poor immigrants, women of every color and class) in order to line the feather beds of rich white men. I guess what pushed us over the edge that night was the pain of watching our neighbors and kinfolk happily giving themselves to the system meant to keep us all ignorant and enslaved.
I am privileged to be so late to awaken and beyond privileged to be able to pack up and leave. But, privilege is only half of my story. I am also a product of the systematic misogyny of America that abuses women and uses LGBT people as political pawns by manipulating otherwise good, religious people for a vote. I spent the last decade of my life in a daily battle, begging for scraps of grace and justice from the table of the conjoined American religious and political systems. Incredibly, in 2018, that struggle thrives in the land that I once loved. Though I am living into a new home and life where that is no longer my struggle, the privilege of my freedom weighs heavily on my heart.
Ugh, where I am going with this semi self-aware, rambling confessional?
As a person of faith, I still long to help bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice in my small way – primarily with my words. I ache for those still on lock-down in the U.S. while terrorists of the oligarchy keep it’s citizens armed to the hilt with fear and loathing. I left to live a better life, and am in fact the beneficiary of superior healthcare, true social freedom, a wider perspective of the world and let’s be honest, significantly better beer and cheese.
But, all the rich dark beer, musty old cheese and personal freedom in the world doesn’t quite stop the pangs of hunger that gnaw at my soul. It is good to live into the life I have been given to live. It is also right to be aware of where we stand in the spectrum of haves and have nots. But I cannot get stuck in either of these places because if long for everyone to live into a paradigm of abundance, I have to move into action. It is from the middle ground of dual awareness that perhaps we can find a path to reconcile with self, others and a God that wants us all live free and full. Maybe that path begins when everyone listens to the still small voice inviting us to live into our interdependence. A place where we can claim our abundance, offer our gifts and share our burdens, so that together we can create a more perfect world. Maybe even on Earth as we believe it to be in heaven.