The secret to grass-roots movements is legitimating people’s anger and pain and steering them into serious plans of action which will have a realistic chance of success.
In my post about my recent ousting from the American Expatriates Facebook Group (henceforth “AE”), I tried to be factual, rational and cerebral. I intentionally avoided incendiary or foul language; rather I tried to simply recount what happened at AE, without undue emotion. In a later post, one of the contributors at AE posted that my post was “not so nice“:
This group is a valuable resource for many and I greatly appreciate all those who work hard for all of us. However, it does not excuse the nastiness which occurred yesterday. If I played a part in the nastiness, I offer my apologies. The only excuse I have is that I was at the end of my rope with certain individuals. One of the individuals has posted a not so nice piece on the Isaac Brock Society site about this group and Keith Redmond. For me, it shows the true colors of this person and this person will do anything to ram their way of doing things down everyone’s throat. So please make sure that we can have a level of decorum which can make this group the best that it can be.
- “I missed the discussion but I totally support you, Keith Redmond. Mr. Petros is free to start his own group for whiners and America bashers.”
- “The departed whiners went way beyond US bashing. To say more about my opinion would enter into subjective judgments regarding personalty traits and would not be productive.”
- The blog poster [Petros] has the right to say what he likes, but I think he’s crossed a line using the names of the admin in his post Keith. You don’t start randomly posting hate blogs using people’s names unless you can back up what your saying, even then it’s just best to stop and think before you post. The Internet is written in ink not in pencil what is said can’t be removed. Best to really think before you post, after all this group isn’t secret or closed the whole world can see it!!!!
A hate blog? Really? I do express my disagreement with the policy of deleting comments and entire discussions. But I did not express hatred for these people. Well I do admit that the term “Homelander Abroad” is pejorative, particularly in the manner that I used it. I’ve been asking myself if this characterization is merely inflammatory. What made me think it was an appropriate to call AE administrators “Homelanders Abroad”.
So today I’d like to set out my reflexions on what characterizes Homelanders Abroad. Here is what I came up with:
My friend and author David Koyzis shared an excerpt from his book:
“To be sure, we sometimes speak of the human community or the international community, but in general the more expansively a community is defined, the more abstract and less concrete it becomes. The more abstract a community becomes, the less able it is to command the loyalty of its members and to become a focus of communal identity.” We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God, p. 147.
Koyzis clarified further in a comment on his Facebook page:
People have multiple overlapping loyalties, and that is as it should be. The idea that national allegiance is an exclusive or highest allegiance is a dangerous notion that must be resisted. Allegiance to a “national” political community makes sense only in the context of loyalties to more proximate communities. Yves R. Simon notes that the common good is dependent on all the particular goods which ordinary people pursue on a day-to-day basis.
As for a so-called human community, it can have little if any substance. Even people who claim such loyalty are in effect showing their allegiance, not to humanity as a whole, but to a small set of cosmopolitans who just happen to claim loyalty to humanity. It is impossible to escape the us/them distinction, even if we think we have done so.
The Homelander Abroad thus is one who exemplifies less loyalty to the proximate and greater loyalty to the abstract US national community. There may be some very natural reasons for this attachment. Lack of citizenship , language and cultural barriers, or lack of family attachments in the country of residence may make one a permanent sojourner.
I have a simple test to determine ultimate loyalty: Which would you be more inclined to do if the USA invaded your country of residence? Would you help the USA to accomplish its task? Or would you defend your country of residence? If your answer is that you would be more inclined to help the USA than to defend your country against the USA, then you are likely a Homelander Abroad. This question is quite easy for me to answer. When the USA attacked my family through threats of financial ruin, I relinquished my US citizenship. And if the USA were to invade Canada a second time with troops, I would fight the attackers of my hearth and home. My ultimate loyalty is not to the abstract but to the concrete–those who are closest to me: my wife, my neighbors, and my cats.
In the view of AE adminstrators, the best way to solve the FATCA crisis is to work the system–lobby the US government, discuss with bureaucrats, exploit contacts in the government and the media. On the smaller, more tolerant Facebook group, Citizenship Taxation, this view was expressed to me yesterday by a domestic Homelander: “Well I might make a suggestion. If you dont’ like a law, work within the existing system to change it.” First, I have to say that this person understands the term “law” to mean US law–in all this the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the body of International Law governing the relations between nations are meaningless. Secondly, he believes that the only legitimate way to address the problem is through the existing system, i.e. through Washington DC. And this is exactly the approach of the administrators of AE–one who is the President of Democrats Abroad in Sweden complained:
After spending his entire weekend making preparations Keith, along with John Fredenburger from AARO met with:Elena Virgadamo – Department of Treasury, Wendy Ryde – Chief, American Citizen Services, James Heg – Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs and Daniel Goodspeed – Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the American embassy in France on OUR behalf outlining all the banking difficulties. That effort was on top of the daily work Keith puts into this –week in and week out– with absolutely no compensation for it. …
Yet there isn’t a day that goes by that someone just has to post something completely irrelevant and unhelpful to the situation just to make a point. If you have the time it takes to rummage for any and every negative article you can find on the internet then perhaps you should think about putting that time to better use and do something that would actually make a difference!
Thus, the administrators are indeed industrious, and one can only hope that their efforts will bear fruit. My efforts on the other hand are nothing but America bashing. The work that Petros has done since writing his first blog post on February 25, 2010, the day I decided that I had to renounce my US citizenship, is just whining. But I maintain that my writing, for which I am not paid either, is indeed doing something–it is helping others to see that their complaints are legitimate and it has spurred them to action. My role in this battle, I said, is as a writer. But a Homelander Abroad said:
It’s easy to sit back and say your writing is lighting the fire in others, but that seems unlikely and somewhat arrogant. All you’re doing is making extreme comparisons between the U.S. and evil things in the world, you’re not contributing ideas.
But for me the system is foreign and illegitimate. I am no longer a part of that system, and it has no legal role in my life. For Homelanders Abroad, all they see is bashing and that nothing I do is helpful, because I seek no USA-centric solutions.
Ultimate loyalty to the USA and USA-centricism ultimately leads to reactions like we’ve seen at AE. Homelanders Abroad view my critique of their culture as disloyal bashing. They have dubbed our cries for justice as whining, and they have decided that it can no longer be permitted. Above all, they needed to silence my voice–because I insist that the objections and complaints are legitimate and necessary for any meaningful discussion of our situation. The secret to grass-roots movements is legitimating people’s anger and pain and steering them into serious plans of action which will have a realistic chance of success. To silence the complaints is the top down strategy of an oppressor. It is hardly a mistake then that the administrators of AE are party operatives in Republicans Overseas France (Keith Redmond) and Democrats Abroad Sweden (Deedee Gierow). Whether they understand it or not, the chief purpose of these political organizations is to promote their party’s agenda to expats, not to promote the concerns of expats to the political party. I.e., these political operatives are often at cross purposes of the interests of groups like the Isaac Brock Society or Maple Sandbox. By representing the interests of US political parties, these operatives at AE demonstrate that their focus and their ultimate loyalty lie along the Potomac, and not along the Seine, nor in Stockholm. Thus, they must silence those who seem disloyal to America.
Their silencing of critics, deleting their comments and posts, is parochial; it is judgment based on USA-centricism. Calling it bashing and thus illegitimate is also paternalistic. I wrote in another blog post that one of the aspects of a paternalistic leadership style is to belittle those below you:
Belittling. In a paternalistic relationship, the superior belittles the intellect, opinions and concerns of the inferior. The superiority complex in the paternalistic relationship often causes the stronger person to consider the opinions of the weaker to be nonsensical or foolish. The inferiors accept that they have a low level of competence and are in need of the greater intelligence of their superiors. The inferior will accept being treated as a child in need of guidance, unable to make decisions for himself. In the paternalistic relationship between slaves and masters, the master will often call a fully grown man, “Boy”. Also, the superior will often pretend to listen to the inferior only in an effort to trick the inferior into implementing the superior’s agenda. If the inferior party complains, the superior will begin to make accusations of disloyalty, ungratefulness, stupidity, lunacy or extremism. If that doesn’t work, the superior may use violent force to quell legitimate complaints.
I have insisted for the last five years that the United States is acting in a criminal and immoral fashion, destroying so-called US citizens abroad. The administrators and members at AE who remain, now agree (with a few bold exceptions) that I am navel lint, that my concerns are merely nonsensical and foolish “bashing” of their beloved America.
Lines are being drawn in the sand–not by me. Those who belittle our concerns resemble Vichy and not Charles de Gaulle. I, for one, do not believe that resistance is futile.