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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Beam me... DOWN, Scotty...

I have not been in a nihilistic funk for the past few days, but, shall we say, I'm not exactly the life of the party right now ?

The expat's life is not a piece of cake.
Empire has this little presupposition, wherever you are, and for however long you are out of the country, that you are just on a little jaunt. A little leave of absence.
Just waiting to come back to the mother country and pick up where you left off.
Episode ended. Hey countryman ! Welcome.. HOME !!!!!!!!!!

Empire engages in heavy duty denial even of the... ABSENCE of its citizens.
For example... when you vote, you must request an absentee ballot from your last place of residence. That means that you get a ballot, from, say, California, for instance when you haven't seen a palm tree for 30 years. Of course, with all the local elections on it too, and the local issues, and ONLY YOU know that you are not allowed to vote on those issues. No, just for federal elections. And of course, when you get that ballot, it is immediately assumed that you are part of the armed forces, or you have taken advantage of your company's liberal policy of sending its employees around the globe for two to four year stints (good deal, because in France, say, said American employees pick up hefty advantages for employment, like French social security that their American companies don't even have to pay for, and they get part of their salaries in the foreign currencies, etc etc. Don't worry... the ACCOUNTANTS have got it all figured out to screw the government(s) just right... Hey, that's CAPITALISM for you, right ? Oops, I meant to say, the kind of PREDATORY CAPITALISM that we've stuck on a pedestal until just recently.) And to add insult to injury, since the policy of almost all of those 50 states on absentee voting is different, you MAY have to take a little trip to the embassy (400 miles away in some cases...) in order to get your ballot witnessed in order to be valid. Cute, huh ?)
Just a word about the embassies. You might think that the embassies are there to help American citizens abroad, right ? Think again. The embassies are little clubs where the cronyism that has taken over our political system has full sway. The head honcho appointees waltz in and out of their positions without knowing diddly shit about the countries they are in, and most of the time without caring either. They are there to... REPRESENT empire. (As though... empire needed representing, right ? Since when did empire need representing ?)

Back to the expat gig.
It's funny but these days I feel as though I ? the mother country ? (or is it father ? who knows ?), at any rate that ocean between us seems to be widening all the time. (No techtonic plates spreading in the Atlantic ?)
It's getting harder and harder to determine whether I am STILL an American expat, or if that label (!) is getting covered up by the one of "French immigrant".
(When I first arrived here, I remember a scene where a couple of my husband's older, well settled friends had invited us for dinner, and we were talking, and the conversation turned to immigration.
They griped about the current immigration problem.
And when I said I was an immigrant, their faces took on that shocked look.
"But no, you're not an immigrant" (understand, you don't.. LOOK like an immigrant. You look like a nice WASP girl, you don't look like an immigrant...)
But I adamantly told them that AS FAR AS THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT WAS CONCERNED, I was in exactly the same boat as those other immigrants. Exactly. (Yeah, I know, I can be a pill. It started early. My FATHER discovered this when I was an adolescent...))
Whoops... I just took a wrong turn in my rant. ;-) Back on topic.

In the LONG LONG TIME that I have taken out for that leave of absence, I have very rarely met an expat like me. (Is that bragging ? Maybe yes, maybe not, have to wait to decide.)
Because I speak the language fluently. With just a teeny weeny, itsy bitsy infinitesimal hair on my speech that would get me arrested and shot for being a spy in wartime, probably (but then.. I would be arrested for being a spy and shot in the mother country too in wartime).
I sweated blood to be able to speak the language this way. It was dearly bought, this privilege.
And 99% of my compatriots do not speak the language this way.
And it makes a big, big difference in what is called "integration". (Alongside with other things, definitely. Like having children who go to school.)
So, these days, the mother country keeps receding...
And I deal with this in the knowledge that it is not because the mother country keeps receding that the country I live in is getting any closer.
It can be a lonely place, my friends, this place I have chosen to set up camp in.
Very lonely.

1 comment:

Thai said...

Well, at least you needn't worry that you are uniformed when it comes to your state's local elections. I am quite convinced that at least in this regard, you exactly like those of us who stayed home.

Indeed, I am wondering whether the next time I vote in local elections, all of my votes will come from my Magic 8 Ball. ;-)

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