Reflecting on life as an American Expat
In September 2019, I packed my bags and headed off for a year living and working in New Zealand. Unlike what many assume, politics played no role in my decision to move abroad. Instead, I did it to get away from a job that I felt stuck at, in a city that I had grown to resent. I knew I wanted to travel and discover a new path, and New Zealand offered an easy option to do just that.
A year passed and then another, and now I find myself applying for a residency permit to stay here permanently. Personally, the past two and a half years have been wonderful. The people, natural beauty, and more laid-back way of life appeal greatly to me and life would be all but idyllic if it weren’t for the ugly, brewing storm hanging above my head.
That storm is the burning dumpster fire that is the US.
As I watch the US from afar, I can’t help but feel a growing sense of dread. I’m constantly anxious about the news I see unfold in front of me. From the protests to the pandemic, nothing seems all right and there is little I can do to change it.
Growing up in the Midwest, I was taught that America is uniquely free, strongly virtuous, and resistance to tyranny at every turn. This idea of American Exceptionalism has seeped into every facet of American life, from the whitewashed history we’re taught and the idolization of our founders, to the flags plastered on stores, homes, and even our clothes. Many in my own family scoffed at the idea that I’d ever want to leave the US, the “most free country in the world,” in their eyes.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, some have never truly believed in the idea of American Exceptionalism. Minorities that have lived in fear of the police, been denied service and healthcare, and constantly worried about deportation have never accepted the idea that America is uniquely free, nor strongly virtuous. And over the past decade, the American Exceptionalism that has pervaded American culture no longer seems true even to many that have lived in relative comfort their entire lives.
Many of my friends back home idealize New Zealand as a democratic utopia and I have to burst their bubbles and tell them that Aotearoa is far from…