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Privilege and Purpose in Pursuit of a More Perfect World

Privilege and Purpose in Pursuit of a More Perfect World

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.

A day in the life of a broad abroad

A day in the life of a broad abroad

At 5 a.m. the alarm interrupted my midwinter dreams and awaken me to the practically perfect day ahead. After tiptoeing through the morning to get ready while not waking my wife, I hopped on my bike to pedal through a still sleeping Leiden. Once my bike was parked in the jumbled stacks at Central station, I found my way to platform 4 to take the 6:28 train to Schipol where I would find the 7:35 Thalys train to Paris. With a warm kaasbroodje and a cold Coca Cola in hand, I jumped on the train and settled in for the three-hour ride across Holland, Belgium and France. Somewhere between Antwerp and Brussels a deep pink sunrise emerged across the frosty fields on our left. After a brief train-car change in Brussels, and little more than an hour later, I stepped off the train in rainy but ever beautiful Paris. A quick Uber ride to Notre Dame brought me to the cobbled Rue de la Bûcherie where a warm vegetarian restaurant had set a table for the surprise déjeuner with my daughter.
Absolutely priceless was look on her face as she realized that the woman standing in the doorway who looked like her mom was in fact her mom! We dined with delight surrounded by hugs and tears and laughter and champagne and friends and falafel. When we could linger no longer around the sumptuously set table, we made our way to the rented flat where Z was staying with the family who loves and looks out for her back home in the States. After a bit of truffle cheese generosity smeared on a baguette, a crisp glass of white wine and off again we went to enjoy a walking history lesson that revealed and reveled in both the opulence and downfall of French nobility.
Soaked to the bone with cold rain, we made one last pub stop, sipped a beer or two more, shared sweet hugs and kisses and said our goodbyes. Off again I went to catch the 17:35 train back to Amsterdam. Because parting was practically impossible, the rather late return Uber ride was a mad blur through the rain drenched, rush hour streets to Gare du Nord. With a slippery dash along platform six, lungs near to collapsing, I plopped down in carriage 15 for the ride back home surrounded by delicate French children ranging in ages from eight to fourteen, all possessing the sweet understanding of the etiquette and electricity of whispering among adults sipping wine and pouring over maps of Amsterdam.
Three hours later I was extracting my bike from the tangle of handlebars and spokes that is a Dutch parking lot. A city that was sleeping when I left was now wide awake and sparkling with the remaining nights of the holidays. The fragrance of sweet and savory food trucks wrapped around me as I coasted along the bustling streets of little Leiden. And what to my wandering eyes did appear as home drew near? The most beautiful, drafty 100-year-old home, warmly lit with candlelight and Christmas tree, my partner puttering in the kitchen, presently plating her homemade chicken paprikash.
With stories shared, dishes done, pups cuddled and a heart overflowing with the unmerited blessings that are mine, dreams of my practically perfect day welcomed me to sleep once more on a cold winter’s night in The Netherlands.