I left America after four years a totally different person

Oh, there is Hope for our Nation again

I left America after four years a totally different person

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I know it shouldn’t at this point but it honestly surprises me that the cops love to murder and brutalize people so much that they simply could not at the very least for purely cynical ass-covering purposes get their shit together and agree to all take it easy for a couple months while everyone is scrutinizing their every move. Don’t worry we’ll get back at it later on boys just ixnay on the murdering for a bit while all the cameras are here.

After the protests kicked off some of the cops white knuckled it through murdering detox for like one half of a shift then said ah fuck it. They couldn’t do it. They love this shit. This is what they signed up for.

Speaking of addiction I really enjoyed this recent edition of The Small Bow newsletter as I often do. It’s about depression and being medicated and wasting days away watching dreadful shit on television in this case the TV show Bosch. “I could not stop thinking about it because it was so absurd,” they write of one episode of the show. “I also couldn't stop thinking about it because most of my days were spent thinking about Bosch until it was time for me to begin watching Bosch again.”

Bosch is not for me but that’s how I feel right now about the show The Handmaid’s Tale which we belatedly started watching this week. It’s a lot! We also tried rewatching Justified this past month and after a few episodes I had to bail even though I loved it when it was on. I knew there was a lot of it as there is in almost every show about a rogue cop with a heart of gold but I just couldn’t stomach all of the extrajudicial police violence and abuse of civil rights anymore! I probably never should have swallowed all that shit in the first place.

Raylan is super hot though.

A.J. at The Small Bow goes on vis a vis Bosch:

When I was drunk and alone, I’d always sleep-watch things on the couch, mostly $12 pay-per-view movies I never wanted to watch in the theater. I justified the expense because the movies helped me sleep better. And it was cheaper than Ambien.

But now my four-month-old son is at the other end of the couch snuffling peacefully on his LeachCo Podster. Sometimes I’d forget he was there and accidentally kick him in the face with my foot. We nevertheless made it through five and a half seasons of Bosch.

For those who don’t know, Bosch is an LA-based cop show on Amazon Prime that is both very good and also extremely terrible. The titular lead character played by Titus Welliver has a bizarre value system where he shoots first and asks zero questions later. He has white croppy hair and shimmery blue eyes, and he has a strange gait in that it appears he either has no torso or his legs are attached backwards. He’s constantly reprimanded for bad-cop behavior yet everyone at the department overlooks it because he’s a “great detective.” He loves jazz, prefers being alone, and is a reprehensible parent to his teenage daughter, but she loves him anyway.

I recently spoke at a men’s stag AA meeting, and before it began most of the men–all well over 60–talked about Bosch the same way my wife and her friends talk about Normal People. So that’s Bosch’s target demo–old alcoholics.

There’s an undeniable comfort in Bosch, the kind I imagine most men of a certain sunset age get from Clive Cussler novels and Tommy Bahama pullovers. Maybe it’s lame and deeply uncool, but at this point in life’s journey who gives a shit? The beauty is in all its unfussines.

This fanbase combined with Detective Bosch’s unoriginal love of jazz and violence reminds me of this wonderful George Bilgere poem called Blues for Cleveland:

There’s something about middle-aged white guys
Who idolize black jazz and blues musicians
That always makes me uncomfortable.

Charlie Parker, they’ll say, pouring the wine.
Bird. Mingus. Oh yeah. They get this
Dreamy, faraway gaze, they exchange

Signs of the brotherhood. Coleman. Monk.

Brother Miles. Their wives
Look away, wait for the subject to change.

Outside it’s getting dark.
The streetlights flicker into life.
We switch on the security systems.

Here’s another poem I just read that I liked and thought you might like also.

Reading that brings me back to The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m sure all of this shit was covered back when it was new and everyone was writing about it but one of the disagreements people seem to have had about the plot of the show was how swiftly everything descended into totalitarianism and sometimes I agree and sometimes I think eh it could happen.

The thing is you need the gun goons to get on board to make that sort of takeover work and none of us really think they’d go along with it would they? I don’t know here’s some pictures from a Black Lives Matter rally some high school kids in Virginia organized yesterday.

You’d also need the women to get on board with subjugating the women and we don’t think they’d do that do we?

If that daffy family from the old town purgatory jamberoo above seem familiar you might remember them from this Rick Santorum campaign theme song they wrote back in 2012 which Michelle and I have had caught in our heads for years now. It is objectively a banger and I genuinely love it.

Oh, there is Hope for our Nation again
Maybe the First time Since we Had Ronald Reagan
There will be Justice for the Unborn
Factories back on our Shores
Where the Constitution rules our land
Yes, I Believe... Rick Santorum is our Man!

This isn’t some late in life realization that I just had about the American flag not exactly symbolizing everything it’s supposed to I’ve always known that of course but something clicked into place for me this week when I saw an American flag on a truck driving around and I felt this sort of dark ink spill through my veins. That type of instinctive revulsion at the sight of the American flag is certainly not a new thing to a lot of people especially in pretty much every country in the world we've bombed into dust and bone but it’s still a weird feeling to see the flag and feel threatened by it. When was the last time you saw a car or a house brandishing the flag or saw someone carrying one and didn’t think Ah fuck what’s this asshole up to?

When I see the American flag now it inspires the same feeling we’ve all felt all along when we see the Confederate one. And as if that wasn’t enough they went ahead and invented an even more racist and more violent version of the the American flag with the Blue Lives Matter one.

One reliably annoying thing that happens whenever you post about the American healthcare nightmare on Twitter is that dozens of Canadians and Australians and shit will pop into the replies being like hmm that doesn’t happen here we get $10 million worth of healthcare to use per quarter and we all own and operate our own individual cutting edge research hospital and it’s always like we know man please shut the fuck up we know. That very much happened in the replies to this tweet about my interview with Linda Tirado from the other day which blew up.

Reading through a lot of that type of shit gave me an idea though I wanted to know when exactly it was that people in other countries realized just how fucked we are here in America. When were they disabused of our lies we export about ourselves? What was the epiphany moment they had that The Greatest Country In the World was actually a fucking toilet of pain? A bunch of them wrote to me to explain. Here’s what they said.

Well, it's phased I think. I started to understand just how insane the healthcare is (or isn't, as the case may be!) and just how much costs are driven by insurance companies when I moved from Facebook to Twitter and started seeing GoFundMes for hospital bills for various authors and other creatives that had just got “normal” ill, or had an accident, but couldn't afford to get treated.

The depth of the problems with the police, the funding thereof, and all that has only become apparent the last few weeks. I, like I think many, previously thought this was genuinely a case of “bad apples,” albeit maybe way too many of them. It's clear now that's not it.

I'm from the UK, and we have our own issues. I live in Sweden, which also has its own issues (despite being touted as some kind of posterboy socialist utopia), but none of these seem to come close to the US. Although the current UK gov does seem to be trying.

When I found out prisoners and felons can lose their right to vote, sometimes even permanently. My thoughts immediately went to the overpoliced communities in your shitty hell hole who get their members excluded from the democratic process.

Growing up in the 1990s, what was most jarring was the difference between what Americans thought about their country and the rightness of its policies, and, well, facts. Like wars for oil abroad and race riots at home.

I live in one of the poorest countries in Europe in Portugal. A doctor's appointment costs €5. An EpiPen costs €50. Lifesaving medication like insulin is provided for free, as long as you get a doctor's prescription. All this to say, we had a revolution in 1974, and it worked pretty well for us. Maybe you're due for one?

When Obama, before his inauguration, promised not to investigate torture.

I’m Australian with English parents. My dad’s sister moved to the US, and I’m profoundly grateful my folks came here instead. It’s healthcare, and worker rights, and my son not having to do lockdown drills. And education and our voting system.

We have a bunch of issues, and a Conservative party that wants us to be more like you, but still. And I love America. The parts I’ve seen — including two weeks driving around California and getting married in Las Vegas — are beautiful. I couldn’t live there though.

When I saw the exact same complaints about voting being way more difficult for people in the exact same parts of the country for like four elections in a row.

Since my first vacation here as a 22 year old in 2008 to immigrating here in 2012 until now it’s been like the frog realizing he’s being boiled in the pot.

I’m a walking talking example of that gag that goes “I joined Twitter to look at sports scores and now I want to defund the cops,” and I don’t think that transition would’ve come, not as severely anyway, if I hadn't moved here.

When I was a kid I was a big reader and just fascinated with the US as this country that was so similar to Australia but also so different…My first few trips here in 2008-2012 I saw like thirty states over the span of four to five months total because every other country has good paid vacation allocation laws. I was very much enamored with the surface level of it all. People seemed friendlier than home. It felt like there was more opportunity to work hard and build whatever type of life you wanted to have. So I decided I wanted to try and move out here and give it a shot. I won a green card in the diversity lottery in 2013 and moved to central Maine, and while I was happy and I had a good time, it became more and more obvious that the healthcare system was fucked. I paid Planned Parenthood $200 for my theretofore regular STD checkup because in-network doctors couldn't get me in for four months. I realized that the low salaries and the idea of “if you work hard, you can have any kind of life you want” was a trap and that just everyone fuckin worked until they died.

Then Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson during my first summer as a permanent resident, and that was what radicalized me. Maybe through specifically following Joel Anderson on Twitter. I was working for a newspaper and I had a column and I wrote one exploring the idea of white privilege and I got so much fucking hate mail about it, and I was like, well there you go, proving my point. Ferguson really opened my eyes to what's actually going on here, which is really naive and 200 years too late, and it's something like guilt that in a microcosm I feel my life has gone on nicely — moved to Colorado, good job I enjoy now that isn't in the news biz, girlfriend, family etc. — but in the bigger picture everything is just fucking broken and the well is poisoned. I'm a citizen now and folks love to ask “Do you regret it? Why didn't you just leave?” and I'm always like lol I've lived and worked here for seven years and I don't have the $100k in savings it would take to move home, and also my whole life is here now, and also at least now I can try and help vote this old wet fucker out of office.

Now we have an eight week old daughter born in a fucking pandemic and amid a huge social movement that's gaining momentum and all I can think of is did I do this baby the biggest disservice of all by bringing her into this nightmare? But then I go change her diaper or whatever and deal with the granular problems because I don't have enough weed to manage having an anxiety attack about what her world is gonna look like in twenty years.

I moved to the Netherlands recently from Boston. Over here they dont get how we're scared all the time and that one incident, injury, lost job, whatever, can ruin you and your whole family's life. It took two or three months but now every day I have this weight off of me. I physically feel lighter and safe. And I have big survivor’s guilt for getting out. Especially during Corona and BLM.

Watching ER, having been brought up on Casualty, the UK NHS equivalent, and them having conversations about paying to fix sick children.

Having it pointed out that the wacky personal injury lawyer billboards and TV pharmaceutical ads are because people can't just like go to the doctor, not just some weird quirk of American advertising.

Not healthcare related, but when I was fourteen we had a teach assistant from the US in my regular, rural French high school, and she showed us brochures from some fancy US colleges during an English class. We collectively lost our minds at the fact that the tuition was something like $40,000 a year. We pay $200 a year for uni and an extra $100 for additional health coverage. Suffice to say she vaccinated an entire class of bored French teens from ever trying to go study in the US, which was exactly the opposite of her goal that day. We also suck for a ton of other reasons obviously, but at least my 25 year old cousin will never have to try to ration her insulin.

I knew the Republicans were fucking monsters since I was like 5 in England, but the Snowden leaks were what made me realise that the entire system was rotten to the core.

Watching Mr. Nobel Peace Prize double down and just say “well it wasn't illegal” really shook my worldview up. And then from there I started looking back over stuff like Obamacare, his foreign policy, the militarisation of the cops, and became more and more aware of how every part of American life is engineered in the interest of capital.

Once I realised how much American healthcare actually costs, and the actual scope of gun violence. I'm chronically and mentally ill in Canada, and it boggles my mind that if I were in the States, I'd likely just be dead.

The first time I saw someone open carry in the States I nearly had a panic attack in a fucking Five Guys. My city was put on lockdown once because someone might have had a gun.

I’m from Vienna, Austria. I'd say when Bush the 2nd was elected in Florida. The war in Afghanistan pushed me over the edge. I didn't even know about healthcare back then.

I’ve lived in Italy for 9 years. Everyone in Italy loved the U.S., has always been in awe, but now I’m hearing sympathy and shock for an empire fallen and exposed for all its faults. There’s also a new scorn, where it never was before, when someone realizes I’m American. I agree.

As a Canadian I can't really pinpoint one specific thing, but I always found your prescription prices insane. Like if I have to pay $40 for a prescription here I flip my lid. And ambulances! How the fuck do you charge for an ambulance ride what the fuck?

Also, the insane lack of job security?! You can just get fired for no reason in half the States? With no notice? What the hell? Here if you get fired they have to either have a good reason (like violence or theft) or pay you out two weeks plus of pay by law. And if you don't think the payout is enough you can negotiate! If you were terminated with cause they usually still pay you out just to cover their butts. Don't get me started on maternity leave. I'm taking 18 months paid.

I'd say it's gotta be 2003 for me. Seeing as an 18 year old nerd from Toronto the way the government and media openly lied to start a war for no reason convinced me the country had nothing left but spite.

As cliche as it may sound, and I know the man is far from perfect, but the work of Michael Moore, mostly Bowling for Columbine and Sicko, were real pick my jaw up off the floor moments.

I moved here from Scotland in late 2017 and I'd honestly say I've had about six epiphanies.

The first one was probably that medical bills aren't an exaggeration. My wife had minor wrist surgery and it was like $20,000. She then had neck surgery last year and I didn't even look at that bill, because what's the point? That shit ain't getting paid.

Lately I've realised that vast swathes of the population actually believe anyone to the left of, say, Reagan is a communist. I guess it's like fucking Jenga for me. Everytime I think it's going to topple, another epiphany goes on top. I still love it here though so I guess I should shut the fuck up.

The Tea Party/general backlash to Obama in 2008. I was in Catholic school at the time in British Columbia, so my politics then were conservative-ish, but seeing the absolutely blatant racism towards someone who at that point had nothing objectionable about him aside his skin ended up radicalizing me.

There are a few but I remember getting caught up in the Obama hype when I was a 17-year-old in Ireland and then realising his big life-changing healthcare plan was that the government would make you buy private health insurance.

I guess the last three years of Twitter have been very enlightening. The thing that I found very shocking was that people could just be fired. No severance, no reason, just pack your shit and go. It boggles my mind. South Africa may be bad, but I am so thankful for our worker rights

Canadian here. YOU HAVE GUNS EVERYWHERE AND DOCTORS COST YOU MONEY just about sums up my earliest epiphany I can remember from grade school. Since then no event has occurred to negate that impression of your fucked-ness, but a host of additional layers have been added.

Seeing how seemingly dysfunctional the process was to get one-time $1200 pandemic cheques sent out, while the Canadian government passed $2,000 per month in a couple days and the few Conservative pricks that said it would help lazy people got immediately owned.

There are so many things, but the most jarring for me lately is how one party actively tries to make it impossible for a significant percentage of the population to vote, and they don’t even try to hide it! Just not like that in Canada, or most developed nations, I’d think.

So I moved from Canada to the US at age twenty, and left at twenty four after school. This was just under twenty years ago. The first thing that really got my head tilting and going huh? was the authoritarian alcohol culture. Like I knew the drinking age was high, but I figured that was the only difference. Not so! They really hate alcohol, until they don't, at which point they really love it to excess. Not very much space in between.

I'm not sure how there is no money for anything, businesses can't pay people, etc, but somehow every dive serving burgers in Boston can afford a guy standing at the door for 4-12 hours per day pretending to be a border guard or something. While the waitstaff make like $2.50/hour or whatever it is. And Americans, these famously prickly freedom people, just willingly turn over their ID like 5 times a day in every conceivable situation. Out for dinner? ID. At the grocery store? ID. Go to the bar? ID. Go see a show? ID. Get spotted carrying a case of beer around in a university town? It's ID time. Oh that ID is not good enough, let's see the other ID. Nope, not good enough. Got your passport? It's legit insane if you're not accustomed to it, and complicates the narrative we're given about Americans not liking authority. It seemed to me like they love authority!

That's a banal tipping point, but it got me reading. Like why would you essentially criminalize your kids? They really seem to hate young people, and I couldn't understand it. Where does that come from? Who does it benefit?

Eventually that rabbit hole led to the answer to every American question, which is race. The criminalization of every aspect of being young has conveniently dovetailed with the increasingly vocal projections of...uh "demographic shift" over the past thirty odd years...

So that was the beginning, and it was downhill from there. Here are a few other brief bullet points.

- The university profs who would scream and belittle students in their 20s with speeches about “the real world,” and the way the students seemed to eat up that teaching style.

- The university counsellor who said she had to report people to immigration if they shared anything dicey on that topic with her. Kind of negates the point of having a counsellor, eh?

Oh and the time two police walked into my apartment without asking. I made the mistake of tapping one’s shoulder as he walked by and asking what was going on and why he was walking into my apartment without permission. I got thrown against the wall and told I would be dead if I ever touched a cop.

I was very naive at this point, like twenty one and nine months into living in the US.

The whole setup makes you into this quivering, afraid mess, ready to lash out at anyone and anything. It's literally still traumatic. I left there after four years a totally different person.

I live in Toronto and I love visiting the US. Americans are much friendlier and willing to strike up conversations with strangers which does not happen in Toronto. But I’m white so I know this is all catered to me and not the reality….

With covid-19 the realization came to my wife and I around Friday March 13 when we began fully isolating our family as we have a 6 month old, 3 year old, and 6 year old. We were freaked out at the lack of response from the Canadian government but even more terrified at the lack of US response knowing the inadequacy of the healthcare system there and the open border we share.

Seeing clips and articles on Twitter and reading your newsletter it was (still is) chilling to see the ignorance of the pandemic caused in part by the idea of American exceptionalism. That mentality that it will never happen here is present in Canada but not as fanatical. It was that Friday the 13th that we talked about how we may not be visiting the US again or at least for years to come. I have the utmost respect for Americans and I would love to bring my family down there again but holy shit your country is terrifying.

It was a slow moving process, over years. It started with the news. I used to watch US news regularly, then couldn't stomach it anymore (probably decades ago). I thought the election of Obama might be a turning point, but saw he couldn't save it.

I'm British so obviously we share some, but not all, of the same issues. I've been to the US on three occasions but I follow US politics very closely.

As to the realisation for how fucked the US was; there was no one revelation moment, but when I first heard that people didn't want to call ambulances even when they were having medical crises because of bankruptcy, that was a moment. When I learned that insurance companies were actually advising people to do crowdfunding to pay for life saving surgeries, that was a moment. When I saw the guy in the midst of a deadly pandemic getting charged [a lot of money] for doing the right thing and getting tested, that was a moment. When I told my family about the journalist [who got her eye shot out by police] even though we all know about the US healthcare system, they still didn't quite believe such a thing could happen. “Surely they're insured?” That was a moment.

Every British person complains about the service from the NHS, it's a national pastime. But the government here knew that the NHS is more popular than they are, which is why they framed lockdown as “protecting the NHS.” It's the nearest thing we have to a secular religion here and one of the best achievements this miserable country has managed to cling onto through decades of neoliberalism.

The level of patriotism you encounter in the US is really really bizarre. “This is the greatest country in the world” is like a virtually universal thing for people and politicians to say. The national anthem, the flag, the reverence for these things, and not the ideals that they are proclaimed to represent. These are things that would make people here throw up. We would find it laughable. I wonder if the Roman Empire had the same kind of arrogance before it fell? I'm pretty sure the British Empire did and that's why we exist in this sort of embarrassed history-erasing version of patriotism as something that's almost seen as vulgar these days. I don't see how it helps you to repeat this mantra of being the greatest nation on earth while living with the awful systemic fuckups (of which Trump is just a symptom), and looking at the healthcare system's manifest inferiority to others around the world in terms of service, cruelty, and cost, and yet it seems amazing that people can't get past this patriotism to point out how things could be made better.

“Freedom” reappropriated as the freedom to die in a system run by kleptocrats who don't give a fuck about you but will gladly shake down your corpse for a few extra cents. Freedom isn't free, they say. Well, you got that right.

The UK is also fucked of course in different/similar ways but at least I can call 999 if I have a heart attack.