Since my public school days, I’d seen a president assassinated, the murder of his assassin, and the capture of his assassin’s assassin … all reported by the media, often “live” on our black and white TVs.
Later, I saw that same president’s brother assassinated as he, too, campaigned to become our country’s number one man.
I’d seen a Democrat – from Texas yet! – inherit the presidency, but decide not to seek another term because we had become so deeply entrenched in a war triggering marches on Washington and uprisings at campuses across the country (where students were shot dead by “first responders”).
I’d seen a president and his vice-president, both disgraced by scandals, resign from the two highest offices in the land.
I’d seen our first “unelected” president, when a guy-next-door congressman – but not the Speaker of the House – succeeded his predecessors.
I’d seen a well-meaning peanut farmer from Georgia elected president, a decent and truly Christian man, relegated to the back burners of history … remembered more for his brother’s beer than his own accomplishments (which finally are being realized and accredited).
I’d seen a beloved, second-rate actor become president and be shot (along with others) in front of our televised eyes … and, yet, despite the outcry, no real gun controls were effected.
I’d seen a father and son each elected president—the first for a single term, the second for two;
I’d seen a president selected by a partisan Supreme Court when the votes were so close and the election errors so many that day after day, week after week, a “winner” still couldn’t be called.
I’d seen a likable boomer – one of my own generation – impeached while in office because of alleged improprieties dealing with questionable real estate transactions and this president’s penchant for women, including consensual sex with a young intern whose stained, blue dress immortalized the evidence of his infidelities.
I’d seen the first black man elected President of the United States, yet denied his rightful responsibilities during eight years of impasse with a do-nothing Congress.
And I’d seen the first woman nominated to be our country’s commander-in-chief … only to be trumped by a lying, cheating, tax-evading, bankrupt, conflicted con man who abused and took advantage of people, denouncing them daily with tweets, and promoting a helter-skelter agenda of favoritism to idle rich capitalists–he and his family first in line.
Authoritarian leaders had long come and gone, but the populist braggadocio of Trumpism spread far and wide … cultivating extremist attitudes off the far right growing in Portugal and Spain.
Flabbergasted, flustered, and furious, I began asking everyone who’d listen a series of “since when” questions.
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• Did the executive branch of our government become so authoritarian that the legislature cowers instead of confronting the mess (or rushes off to retire with its ill-begotten gains and lifetime pensions)?
• Did members of Congress become “leaders” of this country, rather than representatives of the people who elected them … as if we were mere pawns in some preconceived, haphazard game of high stakes chess or roller skating championships?
• Did it become all right for nepotism to be an acceptable way of governing this country, where non-credentialed family members wheel and deal with emissaries from foreign countries for personal gain right there on site in the White House?
• Did it become legitimate for subordinate staff and aides to claim “executive privilege” and refuse to testify before Congress and/or its designated special investigators?
• Did we become a people who cheer – whose religious leaders bless – malicious, slanderous, hateful, and divisive words of a toxic, laughing stock president and his henchmen?
• Did our country stand alone, apart from the rest of the world (especially our allies and trading partners), in such critical matters as climate change, first-strike warfare, trade wars and economic tariffs … all based on the nonsensical ramblings of one man whose ignorance is only surpassed by his ego and arrogance?
• Did we have such a revolving door of executive and administrative staff – ambassadors, advisers, agency heads, justice officials – coming and going … due, in large measure, to firings or their fear of being associated with criminals and/or criminal offenses?
• Did responsible statesmen so deliberately ignore and refuse to investigate multiple alleged crimes and charges of injustice against a lifetime judicial nominee, so as to effectively rush through the confirmation of a new justice with dubious standards and questionable morality? Especially when that judge will serve as jurist in a potential trial of high crimes and misdemeanors (including treason) committed by the man who nominated him?
• Did our principal international nemesis (Russia) become a country whose leaders and politics are coddled and colluded … or where independent “back channels” between the Kremlin and White House are surreptitiously planned by players from both regimes?
• Did our government cater exclusively to the richest 1% of the country, while denying the other 99% even scraps from the banquet table?
• Did the administration in power benefit and take so much in personal pursuits and paranoid pleasures … a country whose president spends one-third of his time playing golf, a third tweeting or watching TV, and another third grand-standing before his base?
• Did it become legal to ambush trillions of dollars in new debt a year for tax cuts to appease the already privileged and patrons … only to warn that Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs we were required to pay into must be minimized?
• Did our chief executive dedicate himself with such glee to so swiftly and unilaterally dismantling myriad social welfare and infrastructure programs that guided and protected our people, basically to strike his predecessor president?
• Did it become acceptable to acknowledge – without corrective measures – that more than two-thirds of what a president says are proven lies?
• Did money so effectively dictate the rules of the realm, rather than the voices and votes of the people?
• Did the legitimate, mainstream press – always considered the fourth pillar of government – degenerate into an “enemy of the people” … while hurried and bizarre social media platforms became the pedestals for fake news and alternative realities?
• Did we end becoming a melting pot of diversity, benefiting from the talents and hard work of immigrants seeking to contribute to a better life?
• Did democracy despair and break down in the USA?
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Since when did all these heinous things happen in a country birthed by liberty, freedom, and justice for all?
Since November 2016, when Donald Trump was (s)elected president and commander-in-chief of this hitherto generous, gallant, compassionate country … although some will maintain that planning for much of this usurping had been long in the making—by a complicit Congress, curtailed court system, and conspiring officials, whose patrons pull their (purse) strings … to divert attention from their back room back-stabbing. And by too many people who should know better, but prefer to gloat in their deplorable despair and disdain.
We lived in a place and time where – by and large – our elected representatives are beholden to their patrons, rather than to their constituents. They answer to no one (except themselves and their keepers) and exempt themselves from the rules that they make.
We lived in a place and time where the disparity between the income of corporations and their executives is radically beyond the grasp of working people. And, yet, despite all the loot the rich have accumulated and stashed, it’s not enough.
So, our Congress was intent on denying the safety nets ordinary people depend on, while giving even more money to those hoarding what they already have.
We lived in a place and time where our legitimate mainstream media, hitherto the bastion of freedom and justice, had been summarily dismissed and replaced with alternative facts, truths, and realities. Yellow journalism and slanted nonsense were held above our responsible press.
We lived in a place and time where political gerrymandering had corrupted our Electoral College such that twice – twice! – within a generation, the people’s choices for president were overruled and citizens denied their right to vote.
We lived in a place and time where we were isolated from the rest of the world, often the brunt of its jokes. We were the only nation in the world not to sign on to global environmental protection agreements and accords. We vacated our promises to trade with, protect, and support other countries (which now question whether we can be trusted anymore).
We lived in a place and time where moneyed people against public education, investment people who caused our near financial collapse, opportunistic people who inflated the prices of critical medicines, energy executives who knew naught about diplomacy, hunting advocates, and people whose memories failed them on imperative legal matters, were now running the very government offices they had hijacked … but scientists and otherwise knowledgeable people were forbidden — ostrasized — for speaking truth to power.
We lived in a place and time where a destructive, conflicted, ignorant, narcissistic, self-serving, delusional, degenerate man believed that his own, private empire should benefit from the country’s public business. Because, he believed, he was above the law.
We lived in a place and time where some of us signed petitions, wrote letters to editors and our representatives, made calls, knocked on doors, used every technological advantage to speak our hearts and minds, march on occasion, gather for community and committee meetings … but our representatives declined to address us.
Indeed, we lived in a desperate place and time.
What kind of desperate measures, if any, should we personally be taking?
Each must do what we believe best, according to our own particular situations, strategies, and peculiar circumstances.
For us, the decision was to leave.
We will always consider ourselves American citizens, register and cast our votes in USA elections, care about the land where we were borne.
But to intake and inhale this poisonous venom, a contagious cancer that has spread across the United States and, through it, the world?
Internalizing the strife, we were grief-stricken, mentally exhausted, spiritually drained, and physically disabled.
The time had come for us to move on …
We would emigrate from the USA and become immigrants in Europe.
Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.