I am a British citizen who is a permanent resident in Spain. I have travelled widely and spent much of my life travelling to the US. I was a frequent visitor to the US because of my involvement with The International Association of Lighting Designers, based in Chicago. When George Bush was elected I considered refusing to travel to the US because I objected to his political views and stance.
I have strong practical and emotional reasons to both dislike and disagree with what is happening in the US during this turbulent time. I have determined not to travel to the US anymore. I realise that there are other solutions, as well, that I can adopt to express my reaction to the current state of the US. I would like to clarify the reason I am now exploring these.
I am not particularly left-wing but I certainly do not support the right-wing agenda of the new US government. I do not accept that issues such as abortion or healthcare should be subject to political in-fighting. I do not believe that human rights should be subject to partisan dispute. I believe that there is a certain level of decency and honesty that people should expect from government. I do not see that, currently, in the US.
There is not a lot I can do about that. I do not live in the US and I do not have a vote. There is an argument that these issues in the US are not my concern. I understand that argument.
When I look outside the country to the rest of the world I become deeply concerned and feel that it is for me to stand up for what I believe in and get my voice heard. The world order is my concern and directly affects my life as well as the lives of my children and their children.
The problem is a long-standing one that the world struggles with, that of the isolationism of the US government and many US citizens. The concept of ‘America First’ is an aggressive expression of the isolationism.
The film, ‘I’m All Right Jack’, was made in Britain in 1959 as a satire on British industrial life in the 1950’s. The title has given rise to the British expression, ‘I’m All Right Jack’, indicating smug and complacent selfishness with an implied “fuck you!”
That is what the phrase ’America First’ says to the rest of the world. There is the threat to withdraw from the UN and NATO as well as a refusal to join the rest of the world in trying to find a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. The cozying up to Putin sends shivers down the spines of many Europeans. There is the blanket portrayal of Islam as terrorist related without looking at the actual situation.
I lived in the UK during the years of ‘The Troubles’ when the IRA conducted a war against Britain both in Northern Ireland and in mainland Britain. I was personally affected by this and lived under the constant threat of bombing. This situation was made worse by the blatant funding of the IRA by Irish-Americans. Apparently, in support of ‘freedom’, they happily supported terrorism in the UK, a country the US has a ‘special relationship’ with.
What options are open to me other than speaking my mind? I do not see many but I do see one which could be powerful if enough people adopted it. It is the option to boycott the US.
The concept of a boycott comes from Ireland in the 1880’s when the Irish Land League subjected Captain Charles Boycott to social ostracism over the unfair treatment of tenants on the estate that he was the Land Agent for. The term caught on and is now seen as an act of voluntary abstention from dealing with an organisation, or country, as an expression of protest.
There have been many examples of the powerful use of boycotts against nations for political purposes. There was the international boycott of South Africa, because of its policy of Apartheid, and Gandhi’s boycott of the British Raj to force their acceptance of Indian Independence.
What does this mean for me?
My wife and I have already made a simple commitment to not travel to the US. On another level, I have decided that I will retract from my involvement in the US as far as is practical. At first, this may seem counter-productive as my involvement is mainly with people opposed to the current regime. The point, however, needs to be made with all Americans.
I propose to implement a gradual withdrawal from American politics and culture. There is more than enough for me to focus on in Europe. Some of the areas I will look at first will be:
- My Virtual Men’s Group. I started this group three year’s ago. We meet every two weeks to sit in circle on issues concerning men and ourselves. The group is a mixture of American and European man. I will consider whether I want to continue the connection after discussing this with the other men.
- My involvement in The Good Men Project. I have been writing for GMP for many years, always trying to bring an international viewpoint to matters concerning men. Despite the efforts of many people, it remains a largely US-centric site. The writers and readers are substantially American, as are most of the issues discussed. I will re-consider this involvement after discussion with the Publisher.
- I already use non-American software, where it exists, and I intend to look further into this and make adjustments where appropriate.
- The world of communications is very US-centric and difficult to withdraw from—Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, and Amazon immediately come to mind. I will work on this and investigate what alternatives there are.
The US already maintains its distinctiveness from the rest of the world in a stubborn way. The US refuses to adopt metric weights and measures, unlike most of the rest of the world. Paper sizes, temperature, weights, pin credit cards, banking systems are examples that cause difficulties around the world, it is time this changed.
If you live outside the US please consider joining me and if you live in the US please accept, and support, the necessity of this approach.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/musicalwds