Love Your Country or Leave It?


“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
― Mark Twain

Usually one of the first questions I am asked about being an expat besides the “What do you do in Nicaragua?” or “Are you a missionary?” is “Why did you leave America?”

My response is that I never left America. I am still here. I live in Central America. If that doesn’t piss them off, then I could say that I am a political refugee from the Divided States of America. But, I never say that because first, it is a lie, and second, I love my homeland and I really don’t like to create tension or controversy unless it is a last resort. I am a mediator at heart, I seek peace.

So, when angry people respond to me in a political discussion, “Love it, or leave it!” what is the appropriate response? Why is it that expats are seen as less patriotic than those who stayed in their home country? Can expats be patriotic? If so, how?

Photo credit to Larry Wilkinson

To answer the question of why we left America the United States, generally I say it was for a sense of adventure. We worked so hard, and made a good life for ourselves in the states, but we became complacent. We needed quirky and found it in the “land of the not quite right.”

We are country people at heart. Nothing fits us better than a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle. How many places in the world can you wake up and watch the fishermen casting their nets for their dinner outside your front doors?

I read a thought-provoking article today in The New Yorker. A Washing Machine That Tells the Future.

Smart appliances are revolutionizing commerce, but there is always a cost. In the “Internet of Things”, a fundamental shift is taking place in the relationship between customers and companies. What would Whirlpool think of our laundromat? For many aspects of our lives, we prefer the old ways where washing is a zen-like moment, our washing machine doesn’t spy on us, we can easily repair it, and it only washes our clothes…we can think for ourselves without the help of a smart washing machine.

Nicaragua is a small, yet diverse country. In an hour or two, we can body surf in the Pacific Ocean, watch an active volcano spew molten lava at night, hike through coffee fields in the mountains, or fly to the Caribbean for a mini-vacation. The United States has a lot of diversity too, but we like the homey feeling in a small country where transportation and lodging is cheaper, the distances are less, and we can take numerous mini-vacations in our adopted country.

I devoted my working life to teaching and social services. Moving abroad only made my passion for service to others stronger and easier to fulfill. Where is the world can one start an elementary school library, hire, fund, and train a librarian, and provide a needed service while living on a fixed income? Nicaragua, of course.

Because we are retired, we have more time to garden, paint, and do more creative projects. If we need something that isn’t available on our island…we make it! Moving abroad, my creativity has flourished and blossomed in a variety of beautiful ways.

People often ask us what we do all day. Some days we just watch cows graze. That’s what we love about living abroad. There is no rush…there is always mañana. A no stress lifestyle, unlike our former lives in the states, is perfect for us.

The cost of living is about 1/4 of the cost of living in the states, which brings me to the main reason we left our homeland. We jokingly call ourselves economic refugees. We probably would have been able to ‘survive’ in the states, but here we thrive. We can travel all over the world with the money we save by living in a developing country.

One day, I had a toothache. I knew it would be a few days before I could go to the dentist on the mainland, so I went to the pharmacy to get amoxicillin and hydrogen peroxide. No prescription is needed and at a whopping cost of $3.50 I bought 20 amoxicillin and a bottle of Agua Oxigenada. In two days, the inflammation and pain was gone. Try that in the United States!

So, now that you know why we left America, the United States, I want to finish on my thoughts of patriotism. Yes! It is possible to love your country and leave it. I am loyal to my country, the founding principles, our Constitution, and the opportunities my country has provided me.

My sense of patriotism is rooted in the love of my land and people, and love, too of the best ideals of my culture and traditions. My voice is often drowned out by the voices of another kind of nationalistic patriotism that marches to military time; those who like to puff up our country by pulling others’ down, those who say, “Love it, or leave it.”

Patriotism to me means love and loyalty to my country, not blind loyalty to my government.  It is difficult for me to wrap my head around blind loyalty to anyone or anything. In fact, historically blind loyalty to our government is dangerous…unleashing wars in the name of our nation…dissecting and obliterating the essence of democracy in the name of our patriotic duty… and don’t get me started on the nationalistic propaganda disseminated to fill us with terror, fear, and division.

How does an expat actively participate in the democratic process from another country?
It is easier than you may think.

1.  I apply for an absentee ballot, and I not only vote in the presidential elections, but I also vote in my county and local elections. How to Get Absentee Ballots for U.S. Citizens

2. I attended the Women’s March in Los Angeles. The thrill of my lifetime! A Sea of Humanity

3. I am the Warden for the U.S. Embassy for Ometepe Island  Responsibilities of U.S. Embassy Wardens

4. I fax my state and local representatives daily with Resistbot. It is a user-friendly bot that will find your representatives, and fax your messages directly to your representatives.

5. I read, research, and thoughtfully dissect news articles and CNN International. I have learned so much this year and have become a kind of political wonk.

I think our most relevant American patriot might well be Thoreau, who, a hundred years ago, said, “I am a citizen of the world first, and of this country at a later and more convenient hour.”

I will always live with eyes without borders first, and loyalty to my country second. I love my country AND I left it.

What does Patriotism mean to you? 

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24 thoughts on “Love Your Country or Leave It?

  1. Great article! When we left the United States in October of 2016 to travel the world I posted on Facebook “Just mailed in our absentee ballots. Given the choices we are leaving the States tonight” But I was joking, that is not why we left. We simply love to travel. I love my country. It is beautiful land that gave us the opportunity to rise above poor beginnings and now travel the world. It is not perfect, but I do love my country. Yes, expats can be patriots!

  2. Implicit in many of the “Love it or leave it” crowd is that you should happily suck up anything the US Govt does. I heard that nonsense from the pro Vietnam war crowd many years ago. If they had their way we would still be there! All countries have pluses and minuses. There is no such thing as an absolutely best country. Sadly, many Americans who should know better just assume America is always the best in every way. This is not true by any barometer: infant mortality, personal wealth (and its distribution) , longevity, political freedom, etc. Is is a great country ? – absolutely; but it is far from perfect.

    • Good points, Thomas. Absolutely and profoundly true! I refuse to live with horse blinders or those crazy plastic collars they put on animals to protect them from licking their wounds. We all need to lick our wounds, learn from them, and do something positive to help others in this mad, mad, mad, world.

  3. Enjoyed reading your thoughts and I love seeing all the ways you still participate in life in the States. No reason you can love two (or more) countries. Each place has good and bad, so you have to enjoy the first and strive to change the latter. Love your turtle!

    janet

    • Perfect words to live by, Janet. The thing is, I can love people unconditionally, but not countries and definitely not the governments. There is always room for improvement ..no place is paradise and I wish people would stop using that phrase. Thanks so much for commenting on my turtle. I had fun painting it.

  4. Such an amazing post, Debbie and I loved your opening quote by Mark Twain. The “Love it or Leave it” chant harkens back to a dark time in our nation too, when questioning the morality of the Vietnam war was met with that nasty little sentiment. One of the US best traits (used to be?) is its encouragement of diverse opinions but now the threat against free speech and our press is becoming frighteningly real. We too, left the country several years ago to learn more about the world and find our own adventures but that doesn’t necessarily mean we love the US any less. We follow the news with a real zeal daily and watch with incredulity, horror and real disgust at what’s happening as #45 continues his assault on the most vulnerable of our fellow US citizens. And I could just weep when I think of the people of Puerto Rico… I’m not a praying person but I hope there’s a reckoning somewhere and sometime for those in our government who have failed to govern, who have kept silent or who have condoned the assault of the government upon its own citizens. Shame on them. Anita

    • Anita, as always, you can express elequently, precisely what I feel. Sometimes my emotions take over my posts and it is hard to be objective. I have become quite outspoken on twitter lately. Not that it makes a difference to others, but it is a release valve for me. Shame, frustration, and daily rages have taken over my political life! I need to go watch cows graze more often! I don’t know how much longer I can deal with the stress of our moronic government. Hugs, mi Amiga.

  5. What a fantastic post. One of the most offensive things someone said to me on Facebook once (I think it was back when I was getting into too many political debates on FB, a useless exercise) was along the lines of: “How can you have an opinion on this, when you don’t even live here??” It hurt me to my core, because there are few people on earth that love their country more, or feel more passion about what’s going on there. We vote, and we pay (lots of) taxes. And we’re probably more plugged into the news back home now that we ever were before, thanks to the havoc being wreaked by a certain cheeto occupant of the White House. The idea that living as an expat somehow makes you less of a patriot belies real ignorance, not to mention a complete lack of imagination and sense of adventure.

    I’d like to reblog this, if you don’t mind!
    Cheers,
    Susan

  6. You are such a great writer ,,and photographer , loved this post , and it made me think about how I really dislike the United States of America , and am happy I don’t live there anymore .
    We live in a fallen world , and the huge falling is the U.S.A …
    I believe its going to go thru the darkest of times ever in history ..
    as well as the world will in general . .. little by little . Don’t u see it ?? Feel it???

    Lets just say …what goes around . comes around … time to wake the hell up people!!!

    Sad , but true , growth only occurs when “”” pain is happening .””””

    The different …””agendas “” will de populize and suffocate , poison and kill .. plans are ugly and evil…
    Controlled weather , shootings , chem trails , opioids , water shortage , fires , hurricanes , pollution
    need I go on? Transgenders , trannies , what a world!

    EVERYDAY ……IN YOUR FACE THERE….

    Living where I’m planted now,,separates me from that mess to a certain point and I love it …
    seeing it all from the outside , working on the inside ,,

    I don’t need that continual fear factor …. on the agenda …. spit into my face 24 /7.

    Where I’am , I feel ….saved …. hallelujah!!!

    … We’re all on different paths , so go with your own flow , and if you don’t like where u are ,,make a change …. be courageous….. BE your own hero!

    • Heidi, Ron and I were discussing the fear factor in the states after I wrote my piece. Truthfully, when we were in the states for the month of May, we didn’t feel the fear or a sense of doom. Of course, we didn’t talk politics with anyone except our closest friends and family. What we felt was a sense of urgency, of of a need to do something! To act, to protest peacefully. To organize. The media spreads fear. So, for my own sanity, I try to understand the techniques of propaganda. It helps me to make friends with the fear disseminated by our illegitimate POTUS and his unconstitutional gang of thugs.
      Like you said, it helps to live outside of the country and it gives me a different perspective…a much more peaceful perspective. Sometimes it helps me to just watch the cows graze and do nothing! Lol
      Thanks Heidi for your perspective and your sweet comments. ❤️

      • Thanks for understanding my views .. the agenda is evil and is being pushed forward now at great speed , aside from fear , starvation and sonic bombing.. etc will take place more and more …. as ..this agenda moves forward .
        Potus is there to do nothing on purpose ,,he’s a puppet…. thats his purpose, he’s working out perfectly for the New World Order…. just as planned …..
        Ever watch …The Simpsons??

  7. Like both of you I am a resident in a different country from the one I grew up in; I am a citizen of choice in Canada but haven’t left really left Switzerland or the Swiss in me, but I’m also a Canadian. I’m a fully involved and informed citizen and proud of all the things Canada does right like universal healthcare, infra structure and their commitment as peace keepers and pissed off at the the things the did wrong like the treatment of natives. Having a foot in two countries also gives me a more objective view of the one I left behind, like looking into a room from the outside and it also makes me more tolerant of other migrants and immigrants. All they want is to have the choice for a better or different life for themselves and their children. I respect that. Am I a patriot, loyal to both my countries? I like to think that I’m just plain lucky to be born in a civilized place and living in an open society. If being grateful makes me patriotic then I guess I am. Bruno

    • Ah Bruno, you have so much to be proud about! I wish we could say the same about our homeland! And you are spot on about an objective view from the outside looking in! Living in Central America, I also have a better understanding of the problems we face with immigration policies throughout the world. We were trapped on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua once when a fight occurred with the Somalians who were detained for months at the border. One frustrated Somalian held his baby up to the heavily armed riot police and shouted in anger. I wish I had some answers to their plight, and like you, I feel deeply for those who only want to escape war and famine. We are the fortunate ones to have choices, right? Thanks for your thoughts, Bruno. We are looking forward to sharing a pint with you and Elizabeth someday and hashing over all the problems in the world. ❤️

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