Thursday, January 20, 2005

Higher Ground 

I keep thinking of this guy I saw in one of the tsunami videos. He's standing a few dozen yards away at the water's edge, staring out to sea. He's obviously seeing something. An advance wave hits the beach and nearly knocks him over, but after recovering his balance he just resumes gazing at the horizon. Then another, larger wave hits a few feet away from the videographer, and the camera, amid rising cries, stops rolling. The last image is of him just standing there as others turn to run.

I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking. Was he in denial? Was he trying to think of something to do? Was he looking for something that would tell him it's all a bad dream? Was he praying? What more did he think he'd learn by continuing to stare? Why didn't he just get the hell out of there?

The first time my wife and seriously discussed leaving the United States was nearly two years ago. We were already suffocating from the incompetence, greed, sanctimony, lying, and jingoism that permeated, largely unopposed, our airwaves, our newspapers, and the Internet. By that time the hallmarks of Bushism were already obvious: the intent to cripple government's ability to help the helpless; the hostility to political custom and principles of comity between institutions; the contempt for accountability; the punitive response to all criticism; the mind-boggling fiscal recklessness; the militant stupidity; the cronyism.

The pivotal moment may have been the Canadian woman in Vancouver, where we'd fled for respite during the Iraq invasion. On hearing our lament for a country gone frankly insane, she simply suggested, "Well, dears, why don't you move here? We'd love to have you!" After a year of being labeled traitors by our own countrymen, that was almost enough to make us cancel our return tickets then and there. But we still hoped that sanity and basic decency would prevail. So we filed for a permanent residence visa, and then threw ourselves into the campaign with everything we had. The visa would be approved by the time of the election, but we hoped we wouldn't need it. Call it pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

In a fine meditation on the tsunami, Digby writes, "This disaster has made my tidal wave dreams more turbulent than they've ever been and it's not because of the frightening images of the tsunami surge and the people running for their lives. It's because we are ruled by people with no empathy, no competence and no limits. It's because, more than ever, I feel engulfed by powerful forces over which I have no control."

It's indeed a testament to the derangement of our society and the cynicism of those running it, that 49% of the population can feel so alone and powerless. It's also not a coincidence. Bush is an effect, not a cause of the crisis we are facing, one that would not have disappeared with John Kerry in office. We are living in a country whose custodians--corporations, public officials, courts, and the press--have been looting our patrimony for years. To carry this out has required the undermining of the belief in the very idea of a patrimony worth preserving and growing, a project that show no sign of abating and that is now nearly complete. If and when it is complete, the American Dream will be a lifeboat, and our motto, no longer "e pluribus unum," but "sauve qui peut."

In the final analysis, Bush is no tsunami. For one thing, he lacks a tsunami's terrifying magnificence. He's more like the La Conchita mudslide, an ugly wall of sludge, triggered by an underlying structural collapse, that slowly fouls and smothers everything in its path. And maybe that's why relatively few people are getting out (or taking to the streets): They think their house is safe, that their children will be spared, that a miracle will intervene. Perhaps Social Security will be the Bushies' Stalingrad. Perhaps this waking nightmare will finally end short of ruination, though the wreckage will still take years to clean up. Nothing would make us happier, but until then, the facts in front of us tell us that the prudent action is to seek higher ground.

We know we can't entirely escape Bush from our little redoubt up North, but at least we can shelter our children from much of his ugliness and give them a shot at a more hopeful future. We are also looking forward to finally paying our taxes without shame. Canada is a beautiful country that still amazes us after many visits with its decency, wit, and above all, commitment to a better life for all its citizens.

From our new home we will continue the same fight as before, and invite others to join us. (We learn daily of more who are.) To those who can't or won't, don't misunderstand: They also subvert, who merely get up and leave.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
~ current ~

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]


copyright 2003-2010

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?