Thursday, January 7, 2021

#7 Holding an American passport

 With the events of the last day I have been thinking about my country and what it has come to mean to me. My dad always told me growing up that America is the greatest country on Earth. I didn't believe him, especially in high school and college when I was full of resentment and unhappiness. Honestly I resented everything, but I for sure resented being brought up in an upper middle-class high school in the suburbs where it seemed to me nobody went anywhere or did anything and we all just lived our lives according to what our parents did and that was that. I felt sheltered and disconnected from the rest of the world, which I imagined was very different from my life.

But then I moved overseas. And not to a country that was just a little different from America but to a Muslim country in the Middle East. It was the scariest and most difficult thing I have every done and the details of which I will not bore you with here (see Superficial Joy for sporadic reports) but it was one of the top 2 best decisions I have ever made. 

Let me be clear: I absolutely LOVE living abroad. In a global pandemic, for example, there is no place I'd rather be than in a small, wealthy country ruled by a benevolent sheikh. I have been exposed to people and ideas that have made me grow and change in ways I never could have imagined!

But because I moved overseas I also became super grateful for things I absolutely took for granted:

  • Being a native English speaker (even though I really want to be fluent in something else)
  • Reliable postal service, including addresses, not a thing in the UAE or in Israel.
  • Amazon Prime (okay, not restricted to America but not in Israel at all and not as close in the UAE)
  • My American passport. There is a terrible hierarchy that exists in the UAE based on nationality. Western passport holders enjoy a lifestyle and opportunities not available to people who are from the Philippines or Indonesia or much of Africa. I have an Egyptian friend who cannot even come to America with his American wife to visit and has been rejected several times for a US visa. Americans can often get "visas on arrival" and not have to pre-purchase a visa to visit a country. On the other hand, to visit Tanzania US passport holders have to pay $100 instead of the $50 ish everyone else pays!
  • The US constitution. A new Israeli friend told me recently, "I'm so jealous of your constitution." Israel doesn't have one (in fact, I think they are going to try to form a new government this spring). The UAE is ruled by a Sheikh. We have had the same system of government for over 200 years.
  • OSHA is a thing. As best I can tell, not so much all over the world. You never know what they do until they don't exist.
  • Target. Need I say more?
  • The smooth transition of power (At least, this is what we learned in school. I have faith it will happen again). It's like the song in Hamilton where King George doesn't understand how we could possibly do this (you've got to watch this)! 

  • Hamilton! Totally American! You need to see this, I promise.
  • Although we have our problems, people can still change their situation in America through hard work and perseverance. I'm not saying our system is working for everybody, but from what I have seen there are a lot of people in the world who are in some way, shape or form trapped. A man from an African country said to me several years ago, "I'd do anything to get to America. Why would you want to leave?" My dad agrees with him!
  • Term limits, especially presidential. We are only allowed to have one person in charge for 8 years--a sort of insurance policy against someone becoming a dictator.
  • The amendment process to the Constitution. If we don't like it, we can change it. It is difficult and requires dedication and perseverance, but we can change it.
  • Freedom of speech. Sometimes this one drives me crazy because I don't like everything we are allowed to say in America. However, the UAE does not have freedom of speech and I could feel the difference. I never knew what it was like to be without it until I didn't have it anymore.

1 comment:

  1. beautifully expressed. love hearing your perspective on what you've experienced and learned after "putting yourself out there". Living life to its fullest