I have not written much in the past week or so and that was deliberate on my part. I decided to spend more time listening and reading and less on talking and writing. When I first came to Isaac Brock I was hopping mad and ready to fight. I’m still not particularly happy about the situation we all find ourselves in right now but, with a little distance, my thoughts are becoming much clearer. Just for the hell of it and because I know there are people out there thinking this through as well, I thought I’d share how my thoughts have evolved over the last month or so.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I wanted to stay a U.S. citizen and when I came in here renouncing or relinquishing was not at all an option I was ready to consider. So, why am I considering it now? There are two dimensions to this decision – let’s call them “push” and “pull.” Let’s start with the “pull”.
The “pull” is simply the fact that I love where I live. I love France. It’s like a marriage which has had its ups and downs over the years but its a rock solid long-term commitment based on many years of living together and clearly understanding each other’s faults, foibles and odd habits. If I ever left permanently I think it would rip me apart. I just don’t know what I would do without my friends, my colleagues, my church, my confessor, my family and my community here. In addition all my patrimoine is here and I am happy to pay taxes on it because civilization and services have a price which I am more than willing to pay to the French government because I find the French public sector to be humane, efficient and, oddly enough, very customer-oriented. So I decided to ask for citizenship so I can make my commitment to this country concrete and so I can participate in the last area not open to me as a resident: political life. France has one of the most amazing and vibrant democracies around. The political scene really moves and shakes though it has the capacity to make even the mighty De Gaulle throw up his hands in despair. I was also deeply impressed by how the French diaspora has representation in the Senate. These people are not afraid of their expatriates and are quite willing to have their participation in home country politics. So, in short, the “pull” here is France itself.
On the other side of all this is the “push.” To be very clear, it is NOT about taxes. I do not mind paying one whit for civilization and services. What I object to is the complete lack of services for Americans abroad and being castrated when it comes to participating fully in American political life. Living abroad we simply do not have effective representation in the U.S. and we can only stand by helplessly as laws are passed that effect us without anyone in the home country so much as nodding in our direction.
So between the “push” and the “pull” I think you can start to see a theme here. I want to be French because I want to be part of a democratic nation-state that I have a long relationship with and whose values I would be willing to fight and perhaps die for regardless of where I happen to be living. If I decide to give up my U.S. citizenship it will be because I have seen a better world and that I see that what the U.S. has to offer its citizens abroad is (and I think will be for a long time) limited to a kind of second-class citizenship where we can be manipulated, taxed and otherwise abused without much say and almost no recourse. After much reading and listening to all of you here and also the comments of Americans in the homeland, I am coming to believe that my US passport represents a citizenship that is inferior to what people in the U.S. homeland have and overall vastly inferior to what French people have everywhere. In both my head and in my heart, any decision I make really comes down to whether or not I think this will change. These days I’m beginning to believe that my hopes have been wildly unrealistic and that the U.S. will never change (under Obama or anyone else). Under those circumstances (which I cannot change and have no control over) I would be much happier and much more fulfilled as a full citizen in France as opposed to being a second-class citizen of the U.S.