EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—
Is it just me, or does it seem like more and more people are actually fleeing, or at least thinking about fleeing, the United States and settling abroad these days?
In the past few months, I've seen one co-worker leave for a new position within The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong; a couple of favorite film critics/fellow cinephiles decide to pack up and settle in foreign cities, presumably for good; and another well-known film blogger voice a desire on Facebook to leave the U.S. for Canada.
"Anyone with a longing for civilized society should be leaving the U.S.," wrote that Canada-yearning film blogger. In a similar vein, one of those fellow cinephiles posted a long explanation on his blog in which he expressed deep disillusionment with the state of film criticism and independent-film distribution and his hope that relocating to a new locale overseas would rejuvenate his heretofore dwindling passion.
I suppose I shouldn't draw any broad conclusions about the state of this union from what may well just be an insignificant trend among this small-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things group of people within which I interact. But with the rise of the Tea Party movement, the astonishing ubiquity and popularity of fearmongering demagogues like Glenn Beck, the apparent incompetence and arrogance of both political parties in Congress and this sense that the American people have only gotten more divided since Barack Obama swept into the U.S. presidency in 2008—well, it can't be a coincidence that, with all this going on right now, people I like and respect are apparently giving up and leaving the United States for good.
Whatever happened to all that "hope," "change" and "reaching across the aisle" Candidate Obama promised during that memorable 2008 election? I vividly remember the excitement Obama inspired in people my age all around me; many of them were so happy to find a relatively young and electrifying presidential candidate that seemed to speak directly to them, stirring them to cast away their apathy and get involved. And hey, I won't pretend that I didn't get swept up in it, too (I voted for the guy, after all); the glow of history being made when the election returns flowed in on Nov. 4, 2008, and indicated an Obama victory is still something I will never forget.
Two years later, midterm elections are coming up, and despite a handful of major victories in the Obama presidency—healthcare reform and Wall Street reform chief among them, both of which are not inconsiderable, by any means—things just seem like "same shit, different day," with things, if anything, seeming even worse than before. Has President Obama simply run up against the brutal realities of the American political system? Or did we all just get rooked by the usual politically calculated sweet talk?
In any case, it's sad to think that, for some, living in the United States has become such a burden and an embarrassment that people are seriously thinking of fleeing it in droves. But I suppose when confronted by ignoramuses like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, both of whom are contributing to the dumbing down of political discourse; or the Gainesville, Fla., pastor who plans to publicly burn copies of the Quran this coming Sept. 11 despite denunciations and warnings about the dangers of retributive religious violence such an act would cause—well, I'm not sure I can entirely blame them.