Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ex-PATRIATE, Not Ex-PATRIOT

Our niece is moving to Spain with her husband and four children ages 14 and down. What an incredible experience this will be for them! I hope they will come to love Spain and the people. I'm sure there will be challenges and certain aspects that may be confusing, frustrating, or just plain annoying, but I hope that overall they will fully enjoy the wonderfulness of their new home and they'll end up with many happy lifelong memories of their time there. I also hope they will acknowledge and express at least an appreciation for the home they've left.

I've noticed, since moving away from the U.S. in 2001, that some ex-pat Americans have a tendency to fall into the habit of viewing their native land with a jaundiced eye. My own experience has put me in a community with members of many other nationalities and I don't see it anywhere else. Palauans love and revere Palau, Koreans long for Korea, Filipinos miss the Philippines, and many Americans miss the good ol' USA, but definitely not all judging from the sometimes volatile tirades they get on in listing everything that's wrong with it. Loudly. Publicly. Authoritatively as if they're the final word.

Of course, there are any number of reasons behind a decision to move away, and that may be why these people are ex-pats in the first place. Some of them end up being the convicting judge and jury on their new homelands as well, but I wish they would keep it to themselves. Doesn't it ever feel like a privilege to be where they are? Maybe they grew up in families that moved around a lot and they're just plain sick of all of it--I guess I could understand that. Maybe the nay-sayers feel like they need to run down the U.S. in order to appreciate wherever else they are. You don't have to dislike one to like the other--you can love both! The beautiful lands, the cultures, the people, the interesting histories, the quirks, the language(s), the struggles, all of it!

Being an ex-pat enriches, enlightens, and expands life in marvelously meaningful ways. I've learned more about other people and how they think, the influence culture has played on my sense of right and wrong (as opposed to what is truly right or wrong), since 2001 than I probably would have in a lifetime if I had stayed at home. I've also come to have a greater appreciation for freedoms that enable me to live and travel pretty much where I want and have shaped--and allowed--a compassion and interest in others. I have learned to marvel at the God-given privileges that my native country has in this world and seen it struggle with how to live up to the responsibilities that come with that position.

Enjoy life in Spain! Love it. Embrace it. Be Spaniards! And be Americans. Be both.

3 comments:

Ave said...

Good post ML and I feel duely corrected. I often kvetch about my life in Utah. I complain about the culture and the people there, and all of the bad things. I rarely talk about the beauty of the mountains and valleys. The amazing national parks, or the feeling of being completely alone in the southern desert and being able to pray without interuption. Those are the things I should be dwelling upon, not of how I perceive the shallowness and corruption of the people. After all, I always get defensive when people rip on Maine and the excentric weirdos that live here. I defend the rain and clouds even, because I like it.

yesweareonmars said...

I don't get along with most ex-pats because of that attitude. Most of my foreign friends don't do that but most are not ex-pats. Most of them are like me- immigrants so they are here for a different reason. They have also integrated so they know what's going on. I think most ex-pats are simply not up to whats going on around them. Ignorance is not always bliss.

Lucy said...

Wonderful post, ML! I agree whole-heartedly. I know exactly what you're talking about, though you don't have to leave the US to hear that kind of talk. I've witnessed that attitude in spades right in the good old USA. I hope I would never view my country with a jaundiced eye. I brought several books on US history and the Constitution because I consider those subjects vital to my children's education. I hope that learning some European history and government will help them better understand and appreciate US history and government.