Northern star

Well, I'm back. Just not in the usual place, that's all.

I'm sure that the two men and the dog that follow this pokey little blog of mine were wondering where I'd been for the past week-and-a-bit.

The answer is that I spent the entirety of the past week preparing to leave the USA. And, last Friday night, I did leave.

As it turns out, getting everything ready for a major transcontinental move is not easy, fun, or quick. It's been a while since I had to do that sort of thing- and the last time I did it, I didn't exactly have a whole lot of stuff to my name, so all it involved was packing two large boxes and getting them shipped off. This time was... a trifle more involved.

I have moved around pretty much my entire life. I've lived in six countries; I've visited many more. I know what it's like to leave friends and family behind- I've been doing it for a quarter-century. It's never fun, and it's never easy. It does get more manageable with time. But the longer you spend in any one place, inevitably, the more roots you put down, and the harder it becomes to break away from them, even if only temporarily.

And this is, for the moment, definitely just a temporary departure. The plan is that I will return after a 6-month assignment abroad to resume my duties in the US.

Still doesn't make leaving any easier, though. Not even if you're living in London.

I'd known that I would have to leave for months. The groundwork had been laid for the move long before. Even so, it is no simple matter to just move across continents.

There are many things that I will miss- that I already miss- about the USA: the easy availability of grass-fed beef and organic produce, the vagaries and silliness of American so-called "English", the taste of eighty-five-plus-percent-cacao dark chocolate, sunshine...

But these are all relatively banal and trivial things next to leaving behind the optimism and joy and sense of freedom that was, and to some extent still is, the spirit of America.

It is nearly impossible to explain what America is like to anyone who has never been there- and it is equally difficult to explain to an American just how unusual his own country is if he has never left it. I guess the best way to put it is to quote that story that ol' Dusty related in that famous speech of his:
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
It may seem trite to say this, but that is exactly how I feel about America. If Mankind is to be free, there is nowhere else to turn, no other example to follow. America is indeed the last stand, and if America falls, Mankind falls with it.

The country may be losing its way. It may be sinking ever deeper into corruption and misery and decadence. It may well have lost most of the tremendous vitality that made it the envy of the world. It may have lost its lustre as the land of prosperity and good fortune. Its government may well have already become a deadly tyranny, inimical and destructive to the happiness of its own people. It may well have become a perverted, sodomy-loving, feminised, fame-obsessed, grotesquely irreverent and immoral caricature of its austere, Puritanical origins.

And yet for all of that, for all of its failure and corruption and decadence, America remains the last, best hope of Mankind.

Before I came to America, I was always rather puzzled by the messianic tones in which conservatives referred to the country. I just couldn't figure out why it was that so many writers kept referring to the country as the "shining city on the hill", or the "last republic", or the "light of Mankind". I simply didn't understand why Americans were so keen on being so very different from everyone else.

It took me a few years to figure it out. And now that I've left, I can only shake my head in wonder when I see the freedoms and the beauties that Americans seem to take for granted.

Here in Europe- particularly in "sophisticated" metropolitan areas like London- most of America tends to be regarded with anything from faint scorn to outright hostility. Europeans think of themselves as being far more sophisticated and worldly than the average pickup-drivin', gun-totin', cigar-smokin' redneck hillbilly. And perhaps they are right, if you think that sipping espresso and drinking French wine and reading The Guardian every morning on your hour-long drive in a snot-box diesel hatchback is the epitome of "sophistication".

Yet, look what America's European cousins have given up in exchange for all of that "sophistication". Their countries are dying on their feet, thanks to plummeting birth rates, readily available abortion and contraception, and a pathetic, weak-kneed Churchianity that seeks above all else to avoid offending people's precious self-delusions. Their taxes are crazy, even by American standards. Their cost of living is phenomenally high- petrol (I refuse to call it "gas", the way you Americans do) costs on the order of $8/gal here, fresh meat and fish is considerably more expensive even for the CAFO-raised stuff, and don't even get me started on the cost of real estate. Their politics amount to a choice between left and left-er.

And as for their freedoms? What freedoms? The Europeans delude themselves into thinking that they actually have freedoms, that they have any say in what their own national governments can and cannot do. That is certainly not the case when the European Commission and the European Parliament can, and does, overturn national laws on a mere whim.

To see Europe today is to see America's future, twenty or thirty years hence. It is a seductive and potent vision of tyranny within a velvet glove, where the warmly pleasant numbness of the artificial world around you is frantically maintained by extortionate tax rates and absolutely zero control over the politics, culture, and ethnic makeup of one's own nation.

And I assure you, as one who has seen both what America is and what it could still become, for both better and worse, that this soft, enervating tyranny WILL be your future, unless you consciously choose to avoid it.

The simplest and most potent example is the never-ending debate over gun control in the USA. Here in Europe, there is no debate. Private ownership of guns is considered "a badness thing". And that would probably be just fine, if only the Europeans didn't insist on letting in hundreds of thousands of invaders who subscribe to a barbaric so-called "religion" that has no problem whatsoever with emulating the example of a man who thought that beheading captured and defeated opponents was swell and dandy.

At least in America, there actually is a debate- because Americans, for all of their innumerable faults, still recognise that the entire point of guns and the 2nd Amendment is to act as a last-ditch defence against tyrannical government.

When I came to America, I didn't expect to stay there for very long. I expected I'd be there for five years, at most, before packing up and heading back to Asia. For various reasons, that hasn't happened- and now that I have found a family of sorts, and a second home, at my Krav Maga school, it's hard to imagine leaving that family and those connections behind.

I do hope to return in six months, and I do hope to be able to stay. It's not up to me, though, not really. I am, and have always been, a guest in America. I am there because of the generosity of the American people- the fact that I also happen to hold down a decent job, which pays not exactly insubstantial amounts to others in terms of taxes stolen from me at gunpoint, might also have something to do with the reason why I've been able to stay there. And if America will have me, I will gladly return.

On that day, I will follow the northern star back home.


  1. I've found that many Europeans don't "get" the US (and Canada for that matter)

    I worked with a guy who moved here from Germany for about 5 years. The first thing he did after getting off the plane was head to a car dealership and buy the biggest truck he could find. Why? Because he could and he knew he would never get that opportunity back home. He was an avid outdoorsman but even he got a little weirded out at times at the sheer scale of the country and how easily you could get to places where there was nothing but trees, rocks and not a living soul for 100km or more in every direction. He mentioned that after camping in some rather remote places he really started to understand why Americans hate big government (ok, some Americans) and the whole "do it yourself" attitude. Out there no one will do it for you and nobody can come help you if things go sideways.

    When he left he said "You guys don't know how good you have it."

    1. Yeah. That pretty much sums up how I feel about America. They don't know how good they have it. I don't know what it is about America- somehow, there is a sense of optimism and freedom there that you just don't get anywhere else.

      He mentioned that after camping in some rather remote places he really started to understand why Americans hate big government (ok, some Americans) and the whole "do it yourself" attitude. Out there no one will do it for you and nobody can come help you if things go sideways.

      If it weren't for the fact that I oppose conscription of all kinds, I'd advocate sending American kids into the wilderness for a week with nothing more than a pocketknife and bag of twine to make them become a bit more self-reliant. Maybe then they'd understand just why government is so dangerous...


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