It's an easy joke to make.
When there's another mass shooting, or Trump leads in the polls, or the wrong movie wins Best Picture, it's funny, it's even kind of fashionable, to announce that you've had enough and you're moving to Canada, or Amsterdam, or Australia. Because the country has finally gone INSANE!
At what point does the joking stop? At what point do you start seriously considering leaving your home country because you're scared for your kids?
It used to seem absurd, the idea of living anywhere else, the idea of raising children anywhere else. It probably still seems absurd to most Americans. But with a new shooting nearly every day, things have moved past absurd and into surreal, and no one seems able -- no one seems willing -- to do anything about it. Someday soon there may be nothing left to do but leave.
I've spent some time abroad -- in Canada (a popular destination for those threatening to defect), in Europe. It's always been on a vacation of some sort, and I haven't spent a ton of time there, so I can't pretend to know what it's like to live in those places in a real-life, day-to-day way. But neither can I pretend that America is (still?) the Greatest Country on Earth. The opening scene of the otherwise mostly execrable "The Newsroom" covered that ground pretty well.
Every place has its pros and cons. Every country has its own politics, its own personality, its own peccadilloes. Again, I've never lived in another country long enough to know what it's truly like, but I know that there are some policies in other countries that might, in some way, make life a little better. Maybe a little safer, and definitely a little different, but probably not that different. Not in the important ways.
There are countries with longer, stronger maternity leave. With actual paternity leave, and better health care. Actual gun control and better educational systems. I'm assuming there are at least one or two regions with a little less political divisiveness. And there must be an oasis in a desert, or a hut in a jungle, or an igloo on a glacier, where lobbyists have less control and influence, where corporations aren't treated as people, and companies aren't given free rein to pour money into politicians' pockets at the expense of everything but their agenda and their profits. Someplace where people are less worried about sending their kids to school or taking a walk past a Planned Parenthood or selling loose cigarettes.
I'm willing to have fewer cheeseburgers if it means fewer school shootings.
The sad thing is, it's not the violence that's most worrisome. There are plenty of more violent places to live, and there's simply no escaping mankind's impulse for conflict, no matter what country you call home. It's the inaction and the indifference that are most troubling. It's the way the people meant to represent our interests are more beholden to their coffers than to their constituents.
I don't pretend to know what the real, or the root, problem is: guns, mental illness, racism, inequality, the constant vitriol on cable news that seems to inspire unspeakable acts, all of the above. There are a lot of possibilities. But I do know that very few of our so-called leaders seem interested in paying anything more than lip service to trying to solve it.
Just yesterday -- YESTERDAY! The day after the San Bernardino shooting! -- the Senate voted against expanding background checks for gun purchases. I shouldn't be shocked. If the massacre of a school full of kindergartners can't effect even the smallest bit of change, what hope do we have?
It used to be unfathomable to consider leaving this country, even when you'd already seen through the myth of American exceptionalism. But after the 355th mass shooting in 336 days, what's more unfathomable: being a so-called patriot and having faith in your country, when the rich keep getting richer and the inequality keeps growing and the death toll keeps climbing and no one has anything to offer except prayers? Or raising young children in an environment like this?
Our children aren't conservative or liberal. They don't hate Obama or love Ted Cruz. They're just kids. Stop picking sides and start doing something.
I have one young son and another on the way. It's too late for me to go back on my decision to bring them into this already scary world. But with every new homegrown tragedy, I get closer to making the decision to take them out of our increasingly scary country.
I don't want to leave the United States, and I have no plans to go anywhere. But for the first time in my life -- because of my concerns for the safety of my children and my utter lack of faith in our politicians -- it's suddenly not out of the question.
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