Does Leaving United States Amount to Running From Problems?

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Dear Miriam,

For the last two months, I’ve been on a short-term assignment for work on the other side of the world in a major city with all the comforts of a major U.S. city, plus an arguably nicer standard of living. I may have opportunities to stay if I want. My time here has coincided with the worst political and social climate in America in my lifetime. I wake up every day scared to read what’s happened while I’ve been sleeping.

Though I’m excited about the prospect of a job here for professional reasons, if I’m really honest, I’m also selfishly hoping to avoid having to return to America. I’m single and don’t have much in the way of familial responsibilities, but many of my close friends are people of color or part of the LGBTQ community and I worry that if I leave, I’m abandoning them, which I recognize as an act of extreme privilege. Am I just running away?

Signed,

Lucky to Relocate

Dear Relocate,

You are certainly not the only American this week (or this year) to consider if another country would be a safer or more secure home. But unlike the thousands of people who made the Canadian immigration website crash the night of the election, you have a tangible and professionally-sound way to make this happen. There’s no shame in entertaining this fantasy, and no shame in making it a reality if that turns out to be the right choice for you.

You’ve only had the experience of reading the news from afar without also seeing vast demonstrations of goodness up close, and I suspect that there are some aspects of the news that are more frightening to read about from abroad. That’s not to say things seem good from where I sit, but I also realize that in the midst of some truly terrible stuff, most things about life in America are continuing relatively unchanged.

While this sentiment, too, is one of privilege, I am also trying to be part of various solutions at home. If you think that your return to America would involve direct organizing and activism, and that you can conceptualize what kind of direct impact you would make, then not to do so would be abandoning both your friends and your country. If, though, your return would essentially be to engage in self-interested sheet caking with like-minded friends, whether you’re actually here or not doesn’t make a serious impact on the world in the long run. I don’t mean any of this to say that you’re not important or that one person can’t make a difference, but assuming the best way for you to support your friends who are part of vulnerable communities is to ask them what they need, you can do a lot of that from afar.

Running away isn’t the worst thing you could do right now. I wouldn’t renounce your citizenship or anything else permanently drastic, but taking a job in another country actually doesn’t mean that you’ll be there forever or that you’ll never return home. Considering the bad circumstances around us, you don’t really have any bad options in front of you. This opportunity could have come up regardless of the political scene at home, so try to imagine what thought process you would have gone through to decide under other circumstances. Then, with a clear conscience, dedicate yourself to seeking justice wherever you live, and be sure to look up the deadlines for absentee ballots.

Be well,

Miriam

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