A good friend of mine, a Canadian citizen who has lived in Canada for 40 years, recently shared some of her thoughts with me regarding what she describes as a sort of cognitive dissonance in terms of her changing feelings towards the country she was born in, grew up in, and is still a citizen of – the USA. The following is narrated from some emails she sent me, and for which she gave permission to share with the Brock community. She says:
I needed a break from all this FATCA craziness, so went to a show called “Rock ‘n Roll Legends”, at a local theater with my neighbours. Although the theater is small, it is a class act and people come from all over to watch the shows. I expected to have trouble staying in my seat and figured I would want to dance up and down the aisles. And it was just fabulous! They did this retrospective of showing US news on the screen while performing the music that was current at the time from the 60′ and 70’s. The cast was amazing. They had the music just absolutely perfectly dead on, all could sing unbelievably well, mimicking the original artists perfectly, and each played multiple instruments.
It was unreal. But the most unpredictable thing happened to me. Instead of wanting to dance in the aisles, I ended up sobbing. You didn’t grow up in the USA, and are much younger than me. I lived through Viet Nam and lost classmates. I lived through the atrocities committed, and yet I loved my country – not the government but the nation. I loved my classmates that died in Nam, understood that: only the poor kids were sent to fight and were not honoured upon their return; the politicians’ kids didn’t go; and the country didn’t care about the expendable poor kids but just used them for political fodder.
In a strange way that whole era, combined in my head at the same time with this FATCA mess we are currently in, and I had this soul wrenching, demoralizing sense of utter betrayal and complete understanding of what a fool I have been for so many years. I just sobbed. They showed pictures from Viet Nam – the young soldiers, the devastation – all to the backdrop of “He ain’t heavy he’s my brother”. It just killed me.
To actually have believed that the country was good, but to now understand that the government has always been and always will be just simply cruel, makes me ashamed to have this red, white and blue tattoo, just simply ashamed. Yet it is who I am. At a gut level I think I actually see myself as an American living in Canada. But now I am left with this empty, groundless, terrifying feeling. I cannot shed this ‘American thing’ that is me, nor am I really Canadian (aside from living here for 40 years and having a Canadian passport).
In the grand scale of life does it really matter? We are all citizens of this planet. Maybe having what one calls a ‘national identity’ is just simply foolish, and an ego thing. Intellectually, I believe this but in my gut I am simply sick, sad and very, very unhappy. It is a sense of being adrift, beyond lonely, of not having one drop of solid ground under my feet, having no identity, and of being terrified of and hurt by my once beloved country.
Am I making one drop of sense? I really can’t describe the source of my tears nor the pain in my tummy. Betrayal? Fear? Being adrift? Am I overreacting? Maybe being involved with this fight day in and day out is causing me to flip out. But it is real, and not dealing with it, not fighting back will do nothing to make it go away. I have to stay involved. Taking a break will just cause me more anxiety.
Well, so much for it being a fun night. I now feel hung over and exhausted, and I didn’t drink a thing! My head is stuck in a depressive bubble.