Unfortunately, it will be anywhere from 2-3 more years before I am 100% Australian and I live in fear that something about this new administration in the U.S. is going to keep that from happening. I can just imagine the things a unified Republican “army” can do behind a man like Trump.
Stark assures me that there are far too many hurdles to allow these things to happen. I’m not so optimistic.
I put myself in Trump’s shoes and after getting over the deeply disturbing fright of imagining such idiocracy, I can follow his “logic.” An egotistical maniac backed by the KKK and a supposed new and promising voice of God to the manufacturing industry that has suffered loss of their entire lives over the last decade due to shutting down large industry names like General Motors – this man wants to parade bringing jobs “back” from overseas and shutting out immigrants from their borders.
He began by saying Mexicans and swiftly led into shutting out and even removing Muslims. Neither of those cases are even remotely right or correct, but let’s stay in his shoes for a moment and realize that the supposed sane people that are somehow backing him are going to say, “No Trump my boy, you can’t shut out just one or two because that would cause a war, so you have to shut out all and do whatever it takes to make it look like you’re not screening people based on their culture or race.” Hence, all immigrants.
Stark and I have already said the words out loud and are slowly accepting the reality that our trip to the US in January, may be the last time we’re allowed in the US. I honestly don’t know how true that statement may or may not become. What I do know is pushing people out or at least keeping them out won’t be that swift. It won’t be that easy for Trump to put all these actions into play, but I can see exactly what he would do to skirt around his less than ideal promises to create a system that can be agreed upon and then tweaked in a way that ultimately gets him and his “good ole boys” what they want.
On top of immigration issues, we know he wants to keep as much money in the United States as possible. He wants to keep Mexican families from sending money back to their families across the border. He wants to keep businesses from going elsewhere to create cheaper product. So why wouldn’t he also, as part of his immigration policies, decide that expats need to be fully taxed because all we do is take money out and give just a little bit back in taxes. We aren’t there spending. We aren’t there growing business within the United States. So let’s just increase taxes right on up to full pay if not more. Let’s reduce or even get rid of that rule that says, “If you’re an American citizen that spends less than 32 days in the States during any 365 year period, you only have to pay your basic taxes and your taxes paid elsewhere essentially calculate as a write off.” Let’s change that to, “Umm, ya nevermind. Give us all your money and if you don’t like it, come home or stay gone.”
But nevermind my worries about how he’s going to keep me from returning and how he’ll go up against websites that allow International contractor agreements to easily take place. Because the truth is, he can do his worst as far as how it might affect me or us, and we will be ok.
What I didn’t expect was the instant alienation and uproar of cultural racism caused by this election.
If you are one of my American friends, you may be pissed off. You might even be happy. I know of at least four of you that are very seriously looking to get out and that’s just in the last 12 hours of text messages I have received about living as an expat. But all in all, you’re in the middle of it.
You might get into a raging argument with a Trump lover or want to kick the shit out of the KKK as they fly their Confederate flag freely down the streets of Southern America as if they’ve suddenly taken back the Revolution. You may be mad about this entire reversal on humanity, or you may know nothing about it.
For me, I thought I was safely outside of that circle of hate and I could look on with a great sense of peace that at last I made it out on time; that I’m already well through the first step of naturalization here in Australia until I realize now, as an Australian, to America I’m just “one of them.” I’m different. I’m an immigrant. I’m sure as hell a liberal because most expats are. We don’t get this far out of the States without that kind of thinking. So I feel instantaneously unwelcome in my own home and deeply ashamed that every State I am from went blazing full-on red state in this election. It makes me feel like, “Where the hell did I come from?” I feel deeply embarrassed, and a heavy sense of responsibility for what happens next in the world.
What I didn’t expect was to be so instantaneously alienated as “one of them” outside of America. As long as I have this hodgepodge of accents, I’m obviously not “from here.”
While most Americans can get away with convincing an Australian there from almost any other country than America, I have more of what Australians identify as a true American accent. I have enough of a Southern drawl and slow cadence in my vocal patterns that no one has ever questioned me, “Are you Canadian? or American?” Stark is usually the well-spoken Canadian out of the two of us when all things are assumed. Me? I’m always true-blue all the way through American.
I did not know or expect that being sniffed out as an obvious American would encourage people I don’t know to do everything short of blatant verbal abuse about what I have done to the world. In the streets, behind the seat of every Uber driver, at a new restaurant, inside the walls of my brand new workspace – suddenly people treat me with this sort of long-fingered Grimm Reaper sense of “Yooooooooou!”
Days before this election, I was joking about how my new bigger, blue contacts were gaining me more instant friends with higher levels of trust. People tend to like and be drawn to big eyes. And I came home from Japan with the perfect Japanime pair that I’m still running out because my mother would be furious with me for wasting the money if I didn’t wear them to the point of ruin.
All in all, I was happy with all the recent choices in my life and my new friends. I was making more friends in one afternoon than I had made in the last two years as an Aussie stuck working strange hours from a corner of the hallway in our makeshift townhome. To a degree, I am deeply grateful that I made the leap and found a community that was just right for me with enough time to make some connections and some friendships that might just make it through these wild assumptions on my character. But those that don’t know me? Those that exist on the street just a few short blocks between here and my home? They aren’t so understanding and I’ve had to learn in just 24 short hours to keep my mouth shut and my head down. Don’t let anyone hear you.
I feel anything but welcome in my own skin right now. Cultural racism against Americans has always been pretty high, but every country I have visited we’ve been made fun of more for sounding stupid and having incredibly boring speech patterns than made responsible for actually being stupid.
Today, I have a Rage Against The Machine mentality and with total awareness, I walked into my office looking very obviously like a modern character storming out of WestWorld, guns holstered. I’m not like this because I’m owning my American “look.” Looking American is something I have not been cursed with, thankfully. I don’t look like I’m straight out of a Western Vogue photoshoot because I want to claim any sense of National pride. It is simply that I want to kick some shit, and in ‘Merica you’ll learn that Cowboy boots are often also referred to as “shit kickers.” The only thing that even makes my shoes look semi-cowboyish is the flare that surrounds them. They aren’t cowboy boots. They just so happen to be the only heel I own in Australia and today, I needed to feel tall. Extremely tall. Like an animal, I needed to make myself bigger. I needed to be intimidating in every sense I knew how to be because I can’t suffer through one more stranger walking up to me for no reason other than to place blame on “my people.” And if I happen to look more American than ever in doing so, then let that be a sense of great irony. I’m drawing you out. Come and play. See what happens!
All of this angers me, but only one thing makes me cry.
There are two cultures I identify with most from my upbringing: I am German. And, I am Southern.
If you can imagine the fiery parts of German criticism and the uh-uh-uh, finger snap, palm-to-the-face of a modern day Southern Belle – you’ve summarized most of me. You just have to fill in the cracks with various musical influences and you’re there.
Despite growing up in the South, where the “good ole boys” of America sit on their front porches preaching about ‘Merica; despite being the daughter of a first generation American immigrant, I have never held any sense of American pride. I’ve never thought anything of Veteran’s Day or 4th of July. While I’m not disrespectful, I have not one ounce of me that would be the person to stand up and shake someone’s hand to thank them for their service. I don’t care if you’ve served in the Army, Navy, Airforce, or Marines. I’ve known you all. I love my friends deeply who have served for our nation, but my feelings toward any of it has never had anything to do with what they’ve done for me, or a nation. I feel nothing toward that.
That infuriated my mom. Like some may feel by simply reading this, she felt it was deeply disrespectful and egotistical of me to have no respect for my freedoms. She always talked about how she knew better and how she fought to “get to here.” I know she did, yet at the same time she never once shared a personal story of her need for freedom with me. I had to learn everything about her and her life from others over a decade after her death.
What brings me to tears is how the irony is not lost on me that my mother left everything she ever knew to move to the United States for a chance at life, a higher education, and freedoms she didn’t experience after the second World War. She had no idea if she would ever see her family again just as she had no idea that her disrespectful daughter would one day run from the America she helped build.
When I moved to Australia, I packed most of what I had and loved into the same old-timey trunk that my mother used to move to the United States in the 60’s. With her original U.S. address still lightly printed on the side, it now sits in my living room here in Sydney, Australia.
A young girl, born and raised in Eastern Germany near an American Army base at the end of World War II, she had plenty to escape from, and most of her escape can be summarized by the ghosts of Post Traumatic Stress sparking through older, male family members forced to serve in the German army and the rest I would summarize as an attempt to escape the cultural guilt that Germany places on themselves even to this day for having voted in and supported someone they too thought would bring about great change for their country, work for the middle class, and be a voice very much needed at the time. They too thought the checks and balances of the government would keep him in place; that the people would keep him in place.
There is nothing more defining than these times to let us know that we are not “one” as a people. What you think you think, will change. What you think your friends and family want, will alter.
I hardly ever feel that my Mom and I have anything in common. At times, I grow angry at the obvious spurts of personality learned from more recent relationships in my life rather than adopted early-on by the mother that raised me. I have lived thinking that somehow she died too soon, too fast for me to actually have any part of what made her so great and so unique.
Today, I am not proud to say that I can place myself in my Mother’s shoes. Ten years older than she was when she arrived in the United States, I suddenly have a very deep understanding of what she did speak of. Such as, the way that older generations (mostly my own grandparents) despised that she was German. Those Ogdenites and “Left Bench” Salt Lake City slickers all knew they were better than her and treated her like she owed the world something for being “given” a chance. No one ever looked at her as a person who had to take what she wanted, work for what she wanted, and fight for what she wanted. No one ever realized that fight was never over, and likely the only thing that made the surprise attack of Americans feel better on her was meeting and falling in love with my Dad. Still, as a nation, we will never let Germany “live it down.” They will be portrayed in every movie – modern or past – as an angered, evil society with secret and destructive motives.
What I know about my mom now simply by knowing myself is that feeling that you can no longer go back because where you are from isn’t recognizable as home. The price is literally and figuratively too high to return to anything you used to know. Everything has changed. Yet, you have no real sense of moving forward when it seems those around you either want you to stay exactly the same or want to point out how you are so, very different from them.
My entire life, my mom had a deep, looming sense of depression that surrounded her and a negativity she constantly fought. She had secrets. The older she became, the less she was willing to hide it. The house was empty of children, despite me. Like me, behind closed doors her emotional pendulum always swung somewhere between the hyper and the completely distraught. I knew her very differently from my siblings.
My mother was my friend. She checked her criticisms at the door with me and I worked hard, every day, to make her happy. That’s why together, we’d dance. We’d listen to music louder than speakers were ever meant to be played. We’d cry. I’d tinker around on the piano, learning her favorite songs. We’d babysit neighborhood children together.
I was a dreamer and she was always in full support of every club, every business venture, and every great new idea I had right down to the time I took boxes of 150 plates and bowls out of our storage closet and decided I would make 150 homemade gumball machines for sad children in the hospital. Upon discovery, she was anything but infuriated. She let me finish my great project and then she drove me to the hospital where, I imagine, she left me in the car for a short while as she delivered the bags of taped up, homemade orange and white creatures into the closest dumpster. But even in hindsight, that’s not what matters. What matters was how she dealt with me. She always knew I was surrounded by enough hell at school and even at home that she never added to that.
As we moved from culture to culture within the United States, she observed me. She was always silently nearby, and I’d like to think I made her proud the way that I flourished in such a mixed society. I was not phased by economical status or skin color. I was not distraught when a new friend would tell me she couldn’t be friends with a Mormon; she couldn’t be friends with a white girl, or she couldn’t come to my house to play because I lived on an old slave plantation. I was left to explore half a dozen religions with my friends and question everything because she knew my curious mind would always find its way home, and she knew it was the only way I could be accepted into anyone’s life. I learned to walk between worlds and exist between cultures, always earning my place to simply smile at someone without a fight.
So now I know, in hindsight, why she was always there. Why she would visit my new classrooms on pins and needles after my high school began an inner-city busing program. She knew what it was like to be different, and I learned how to take pride in being different.
I flourished throughout my life by being an enigmatic combination of experiences that created an impossible kind of person. For the rest of my life, it didn’t matter where you came from or what your pedigree said about you, I simply knew good people and I kept good people close.
That’s what makes me cry – starring at the big, green trunk with worn down edges.
I don’t know your story or where you’re deriving a sense of hope right now, but my sense of hope comes from knowing that box has carried my history from German to all over the United States to Australia. That box is always moving forward, and while it may never go back to some places, it may actually come full circle some day. And if that box can make it, if my Mom could make it, and if I have flourished so strongly through every sense of opposition then, bring it on. Come at me! Tell me what “[I] have done to the world as an American” and see what my 6 foot 2 tiny stature will bring at you today. Thank you boots. Thank you inner Southern Belle. Thank you Germany.
Now, let’s Rage…