Sonntag, 29. Januar 2017

Abroad and Abstracted

There's an election here in Switzerland next month. There's an important election in neighboring France. There's Roger Federer playing on the television in my living room and my husband and our neighbors are brunching and jumping and screaming at breaks and what-nots. On my social media, friends and family are making signs, joining protests, marching, screaming and I'm here.

The feeling of watching my homeland post-election 2016 reminds me of that boyfriend I broke up with, who started dating strippers, doing drugs and generally declining. How could that be the same guy? How could this be the same country? I chose a different life that didn't involve that boyfriend. I chose a life in another country, but there's a difference - I'm still an American.

I'm in the process of becoming a citizen of Switzerland and I should be focusing on the country that I chose and hoping that it chooses me. But nobody can look away from the US. Not just the US, but the leader, whose policies will effect us all. I'm grateful that the protests and demonstrations are gaining such attention. Because the distraction of the hateful leader and his isolationist policies is too profound as it is.

I remember back in 2004, when Switzerland voted to increase the difficulty in becoming a citizen. My swiss boyfriend was disturbed by it and I didn't understand. He obsessed over the xenophobic implications and was ashamed that the vote had a majority. Comparing it to American citizenship rules didn't make it seem that extreme. I wish that I had been kinder and listened better and given him empathy. Because only now do I understand how it feels to be away from your country of origin and have things happen in it that do not fit the picture that you had of it, or the story that you tell yourself about the place you were raised and molded.

I appreciate that I'm looking back as a white woman and that my life there and here are largely easier because of that fact. I remind myself of my privilege when strangers express their distaste for America when they realize that I am American. I try to do my part for the US and the under-represented while I'm far away. I marched, I write and call my representatives in the region where I'm registered in the US. I'm a candidate for a role in the Democrats Abroad organization. But when I renew my first passport with my married name next month, I will again enter the American consulate with the photo of a president who does not represent me hanging on the wall. The 10 years since I got the passport after I got married will expire and I will feel as alien in the consulate as I did then. But back then, we were on the verge of getting a new, bridge-building presidency, which made me proud to be an American abroad. Now we're back to the wall-building presidency, and I'm on the other side, with only my blue passport to connect me. 

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