Vote, yes - but with your feet?
Attention American expats!
There's an election coming up in November, and why yes, in fact, your vote DOES count. Majorities in the House and Senate make a difference, and however you decide to vote, 2 1/2 years away from the mother ship have shown me just how important a responsibility voting is.
I once heard my college roommate's father, a solid self-made Hoosier, call the act of not voting "unconscionable". That adjective's stuck with me a long time.
Jimmy Carter's been out encouraging expats to vote, and both the Democrats and Republicans have organizations and websites aimed at Americans living abroad. My Chicago absentee ballot arrived last week.
I've had change on my mind lately, and responsibility, and action. I made the mistake of growing up under a sign that read: "Somebody asked me why I didn't do something, til I realized I am somebody". These days, I find myself pondering my own role. Where is the line between being "the change I'd like to see" and trading the often troubling big picture for my own peaceful serenity?
So I was intrigued by a recent Expatica article, titled "End of American Dream? Why Americans are leaving their country".
Says the article's author, Paul Stiles:
Now here is an interesting fact: the United States Government does not keep track of its expatriates.
There are statistics on immigration, but not emigration.
Since the US government does not monitor the flow of emigrants, it has no idea how many people are leaving, or why.
Good point, says the Marketing me.
He goes on to compare countries to consumer markets, with reasonably well-off citizens easily able to change brands, or countries, when a product (country) disappoints them. An interesting idea. And very true. He talks about the current flow of people, from less developed nations to the US, UK and Ireland, for example, and from the UK and Germany and other Northern European countries to Spain.
Certainly some Americans have left out of frustration and dissatisfaction with the way things are going at home.
But Stiles throws in a surprising call to action.
After inviting American expats to respond to a survey about why they chose to move to Spain, he closes with this:
We will publish the results in a future article.
Until then, just remember: the most powerful vote is with your feet.
I didn't move for political reasons. I moved because I wanted to see the world from another viewpoint, because I wanted to see myself in another culture and language, and because this was the life I wanted to live, right now.
And thankfully, any of us can leave any old day. For any old reason.
But should we consider that move a vote?
If the US government has no idea who emigrates and why, which Stiles himself tells us, are you really voting -or even stating an opinion - when you hit the road? Will anyone pick up your message?
Now, I suppose you can hope your move dramatically affects the economy - that you're sorely missed enough to make your statement just by your move. And there's no reason to believe Stiles doesn't mean to encourage leaving AND continuing to vote from afar.
Still, I have an idea. This year, let's move our feet wherever we'd like.
But let's VOTE with our pens.
Labels: an american abroad