Donald Abroad

“Donald Trump does not reflect America… I mean, to be completely honest, he does reflect it a bit.” ~ John Oliver

I’ve been thinking about writing this piece for a while now, and every time I sit down to start it, I feel overwhelmed by the scope of it. This week, though, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO’s weekly news show, returned and covered a big portion of the subject.

This is helpful for two reasons. One, it provides a nice intro to the topic I wanted to cover today – how U.S. President Donald Trump is viewed by the world outside of America –  and secondly, it covers the bigger political topics quicker, funnier, and more knowledgeably than I could hope to do in a blog post. I fully recommend watching the full 20 minute piece.

What I want to discuss is less political and more personal. I remember Barack Obama’s eight years in office, so I vividly recall all the conservative politicians and pundits talking about how our first black president was diminishing America’s standings in the world. Whether that was true or not (it wasn’t; Bush Jr. had already done that) it’s rather telling that Trump has absolutely torpedoed the US’s reputation around the world and those same politicians and pundits don’t seem to care.

As an American living abroad, there is almost no sustained conversation with a citizen of a foreign country that doesn’t, at some point turn to America’s follicularly-avant-garde leader. Usually, the subject is broached gingerly, my conversational partner testing the waters with almost a stutter or a cautious smile.

Depending on the setting, I may simply acknowledge that the president is a divisive figure, even (or, especially) in my home country and suggest that he doesn’t speak for all Americans. Or, I might state that the United States’ first Persimmon-American president is basically an idiot. 

Here’s the thing: President Trump is objectively a bad president. He is objectively a bad person. And he is objectively making the United States a worse place, both as a home for the diverse constituency we generally refer to as “Americans” and as a country viewed by outsiders.

I am not using “objectively” like some people use “literally.” I know what the word means, and I mean it. If you disagree with those facts, it’s because a) you haven’t experienced real life outside the US in many years (or ever) or b) you work for the Trump administration (in which case, you know I’m right, but you just can’t admit it; blink twice if you need rescuing).

In my time traveling abroad, I’ve only had two interactions with foreigners who thought Trump would be a good president. One, before the election, was former Spanish military who felt that Trump’s rhetoric on ISIS – specifically, that he would eradicate them – was exactly the attitude the American president needed to have. Tough talk, whether it’s backed by actual strategy or not, will always have an audience.

More recently, I was at J&J Books and Coffee in the heart of Malasaña, the University district of Madrid. This particular bookshop is a popular hangout for Spaniards and Anglos alike, and that night, after my roommate and I had stumbled into an English-language trivia night (we got fourth place, not bad), I ended up conversing with a couple of native Spaniards, and the British boyfriend of one of the Spaniards. At some point, the conversation turned to Trump (because if there is one thing the man is undeniably good at, its being the center of attention). The four of us were discussing how terrible of a president Trump is when un hombre borracho interjected to tell us that, in fact, Trump was a good president and, at the very least, better than Hillary Clinton.

Anyone whose spent any amount of time interacting with fans of Donald Trump know that the go-to defense of his presidency is to bring up The Woman Who Would Be President and say, “She would have been worse.” (Because nothing screams confidence like “It could be worse.”)

The point is, I’ve met two people in all of my travels who, if not supported, at least were okay with Trump, and one was basing that on campaign rhetoric and the other was basing it on Russian-pushed anti-Clinton propaganda.

Which is not to say that Trump doesn’t have fans abroad. As Jon Oliver points out, the president and his leadership have a global approval of 30%, which is, again, objectively bad, but is still (somehow) more than 0%.

His approval ratings aren’t of that much interest to me, though. Trump represents – unfortunately or fortunately depending on your bent – an undeniable aspect of America. And so, as an American traveling abroad, I feel the burden of those expectations. 

I’ve yet to meet an American abroad who likes Trump (though I have my suspicions about some conspicuously politics-averse travelers) and that’s almost certainly because so much of Trump’s appeal is predicated on vilifying foreigners and the world beyond the U.S. borders. Once you pass through those imaginary barriers, it becomes damn near impossible to maintain a worldview based on the wholly inaccurate belief that the world is made up of shitholes or Communist nations where people die waiting to see a doctor.

The U.S. would absolutely benefit from more European influence in their social systems (particularly healthcare). Let me also be clear, there are things that the U.S. does better than other countries. This isn’t a case of a guy living abroad for a few months and suddenly deciding that berets are, in fact, very fashionable. Reality is nuanced.

Every country does have its charms and social successes, and to deny that is to deliberately live with your head in the sand. America’s greatness, if we are to speak in those terms, has always been in its diversity, in its openness to immigrants and its ability to blend cultures. 

In addition to the people I meet in Spain, I teach English online and speak with people from all over the world. Many are learning English so they can study abroad, and I’ve had more than a few tell me they had considered studying in America, but it’s become so restrictive that they opted for Australia or Canada, instead. If you don’t think that will hurt the U.S. in the long term, you haven’t been paying attention to global economics.

But, again, I don’t want to focus on politics (or economics), just the personal realities of being a citizen of this planet. Everybody around the world has stereotypes of Americans, just as Americans have stereotypes about people from other nations (assuming they think about people from other nations). Generally speaking, national stereotypes are rarely flattering, but with Trump as the largest, most inescapable avatar of my home nation, it feels like even more of an uphill battle to counteract the worst caricatures of an American.

This is why it’s so important that Americans step out of their comfort zones and travel. Now. Whether Trump is in office for three or seven more years, the image that he has projected globally will linger for a generation, at the very least. Some damage will only be repaired by future administrations, and some damage may be permanent. But ensuring that the stereotype of Americans is not shaped by a short-fingered vulgarian is up to each and every one of us.

A well-traveled, globally-educated electorate is the cure for Trumpism in whatever form it may arise next. It’s important to remain active in America and it’s vital to vote (especially in closely-contested elections), but for those who can spare the time, now more than ever, the U.S. needs global ambassadors.

Go for a week, go for a month; get TEFL-certified and go for a year or longer. Despite everything, people all around the world still dream of moving to America. As a nation, our greatest export has always been our self-worshiping pop culture and overly aggrandized sense of opportunity. Much of that is a lie, but it’s striving for that lie that can spur us to greatness.

The U.S. is a nation built on ideals it has never lived up to, but it should keep trying.

One of those ideals is that America is a melting pot, and for all its faults and historic failings on the issue of race, America is undeniably the most diverse nation on earth. That’s a feature, not a bug. The promise of America, the promise of the 21st century, cannot be achieved through isolation.

If you are one of the 65% of the United States who is embarrassed and ashamed of the leadership of our country (seriously, how is that number not higher?), remember that your options aren’t limited to the ballot box. Resist Dotard Trump by crossing borders.

Palacio Real

Or just travel because it makes you a better human being. That alone is its own form of resistance.

 

Returning to the Road: The 60th anniversary of On the Road

“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Truman Capote’s famous dismissal of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has been spat at me dozens of times. The book that, for a time in American history, defined “hip” is now a very uncool thing to like. To be fan of the book, as I am, is to come to terms with troublesome characters and cultural representation that hasn’t aged well. Perhaps, though, the book’s greatest sin is that it aims for profundity – and achieves it.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s most famous literary work.

On the Road 1st Paperback Edition Cover (1958)

The story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness that any discussion of it almost feels like parody; but I’ll do it anyway. The thinly-veiled memoir-turned-novel tells of the aimless escapades of Kerouac and his friends from 1947 to 1950. The novel, which Kerouac famously typed on a single “scroll” of paper over three weeks while his then-wife fed him drugs, was published in 1957. The real story of the book’s creation, like the story itself, is lengthier and less sexy than the legend, but what difference does it make?

On the Road is one of the defining American myths, like Johnny Appleseed or George Washington’s cherry tree or Trickle Down Economics. Its veracity is less important than what it says about the culture that created it. As the United States is currently embroiled in startling regressive fights over nativism and isolationism, let’s remember that On the Road, more than almost any other book by an American author (certainly more than Capote) spoke to our nation’s historical roots as a nation of immigrants and wanderers.

There’s no escaping it: Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, and almost all of the other (male) characters in On the Road are loathsome people. They’re selfish and loutish, at times cruel, abusive towards the women in their lives, and ultimately wanton addicts that can barely stand themselves, let alone one another. In a word, On the Road is problematic.

So is history. So is art. So is life. I do not meant to wipe away the offenses of the characters or the real life people on whom they’re based, but rather to argue that there’s still a baby in that dirty bath water.

All art, especially historical works – and at 60-years-old, On the Road qualifies as an artifact – requires acknowledging flaws along with merits. Kerouac had questionable racial politics, no doubt, but for his time, the book’s sympathetic portrayal of the Hispanic immigrant populace was incredibly progressive. Frankly, it’s fairly progressive for our time. Despite all that Kerouac gets wrong in terms of cultural misappropriation and othering, he was at least willing to surmount walls to engage with different cultures.

Kerouac writes with considerable sympathy, especially for the cavalcade of degenerates that made up his beatnik circle. Dean Moriarty, in particular, was the quintessential anti-hero decades before such figures were the center of every TV show. There’s clearly a touch of Dean in Don Draper. The most common criticism I see lobbed at On the Road is that it glorifies these unlikeable characters as heroes. On the contrary, though, the desperate finale in Mexico is a denouement in the vein of Breaking Bad. We’re meant to live vicariously through these characters, but that doesn’t mean we’re meant to absolve them of all sins.

As far as Capote’s charges of “typing,” well, there’s really no accounting for taste. More than a few respected writers, both living and dead, have hailed Kerouac as an innovator and an influence, for what that’s worth. Kerouac’s breathless writing technique could certainly lead to paragraphs that feel aimless or empty, but there are also passages of pulsating beauty, exhilarating in their jazz-infused momentum and startling in their revelatory power.

For those who hate the book, for whom the characters are irredeemably repugnant and the writing is slapdash puffery, I make no effort to convince you otherwise. No, I’m writing for a different audience, for Kerouac’s audience, a crowd that has shrunk over the decades but that I suspect still exists in greater numbers than one might expect. It’s okay, you can come out of hiding.

kerouac-by-ginsberg

Reading On the Road as a teenager should be transformative, the eye-opening experience when you realize that the world extends beyond your own yard and everyone’s life doesn’t have to follow a single path. For most readers, that philosophy resonates for a few years until they get a job or finish college with a stack of debt. Then, On the Road suddenly morphs into something far less profound, something childish.

Maybe you backpacked Europe or tried to make it as a musician for a few years. There might have been some poetry readings or even a Buddhist phase. Admit it: you were once idealistic. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

Grotesquely, the Beat Generation was long ago co-opted by corporate interests and sold as action figures and t-shirts, as is the fate for all forms of art and rebellion. There is no counterculture movement that can’t be neutered and decimated with a logo or a catchphrase. When a thousand drop-outs followed in Kerouac’s footsteps and hitchhiked across America, they were merely substituting one form of conformity for another.

The lesson of Kerouac’s travels is not that travel makes you free or that America is a nation of squares. What On the Road conveys is that we are all on a journey, that the perfect metaphor for life is the road, and ultimately, we alone are responsible for choosing – and reaching – our destination. Do with that what you will.

For me, that meant 10 Cities/10 Years: I took a decade out of my life to move across the country, meeting people from every corner of America and experiencing its wealth of stories. Diversity is a pleasure.

My copy

A year after finishing my project, I re-read On the Road for the first time since I was in college. I wondered – worried, really – that the book would have greatly diminished in the interim years, that adulthood would have dulled its potency.

Instead, I found that the book had evolved just as I had through my own journeys. No longer a guide to the unfettered thrill of escaping, the novel was a ledger for the costs and rewards of pursuing a dream. That was a life of travel for me, but it could be anything to anyone, the pursuit of any passion.

As you read this, I am currently embarking on a new travel journey, this time abroad. Though I’m eschewing a schedule like I had with 10 Cities/10 Years, the spirit that embodied that project remains. I will follow opportunities where they lead me. I will make my way as I always have, by working hard, saving money, and taking risks.

Before I departed, I’ll sold or gave away most of the few possessions I still owned. Things are a burden. I held onto a few essentials, though: Clothes, a laptop, old journals, and, of course, a dog-eared copy of On the Road.

Six More Months in New York City

The last day of February means one thing: Six months until I move.

That’s what this date has meant for most of my adult life. I thought I would be sticking around longer, but it turns out that the siren call of the road is just too enticing. Even New York City couldn’t silence it.

For two and a half years, New York City has been my home. It is the second longest I have lived anywhere in my life, and I’ve lived in 10 states and a dozen cities. If you’re living in Omaha, or Dallas, or L.A., and you’re thinking NYC is overrated, well, you keep telling yourself that. New York is the best city in this country, and I feel pretty confident I have the perspective to say that.

The problem for me is, I can’t be sure New York is the greatest city in the world; not yet. So now I have to go find out.

Viewing

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been drawn to the Big Apple like the swallows (and salmon) of Capistrano. Every move, every new city, was just a scenic detour before reaching my inevitable destination.

And then, in September of 2014, I finally made it here.

Chk Chk Chk at sunset

Three years after that, I’ll be leaving.

No question, this will be the hardest departure of my life. New York City has been a city of stories. Sad, funny, confusing, erotic, revealing, disheartening; invigorating.

 

the-paparazzi-dogs

Even before I moved here, I knew that I could never hope to explore all of this city in a year. That’s why it always had to be the last of my 10 cities.

Cyclone

When I reach the end of my third year here, I’ll still have only scratched the surface. I hope to pack in as many sights and sites in these last six months that I can, but there is never enough time.

Alice In Wonderland (Central Park)

It’s not that I want to leave. I just have to. There’s too much of this world that I have yet to see, and that is a compulsion I simply can’t ignore.

little-dancer-of-fourteen-years

Once I leave New York City – once I leave the US – I don’t know when I’ll return again. It may turn out to be merely a brief excursion; it could take up the rest of my life. Whatever comes next, a part of me will remain here, in Brooklyn and in Manhattan; in Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy; in Greenwich Village and Chelsea; in Central and Prospect Parks; in the only home I ever wanted.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ6Tw2tD2zd/

It’s a cliché, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less true:

I love NY.

Who We Are

My apologies ahead of time if this post is not what you come here to read. It won’t be very funny (not that they ever are).

When I decided to bring this blog back from hibernation, I did so with the intention of writing exclusively about travel and directly related topics. Long time readers of this page know I’ve never been shy about getting into politics and writing passionately about social issues. Going forward, though, I wanted this page to eschew those topics as much as possible, to be a positive page buoyed by the joy of travel.

To ignore what is going on in my country right now, though, would be a disservice. To write some random entry about a failed trip I once took would be a lie, because that isn’t where my mind is right now.

This is not a political post. I want to write about who we are.

Put simply, this Travel Ban – the Muslim Ban, the Refugee Ban, whatever you would call it – is not who we are. I refuse to accept this as a Conservative versus Liberal issue. Shame on us if we allow it to become so.

Since World War II, when America was forced to reconcile with the tragic results of banning refugees in the 1930s, we have been a nation that said we were a home for the outcast. It has been our identity in the world; it has been our beacon, a figurative idea made literal by Lady Liberty who stands roughly 5 miles from where I type this.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This has been the spirit of this nation for over 100 years. That is not to gloss over our numerous failings as a nation, especially as it relates to foreign policy. Our actions have rarely lived up to our ideals. But we have had those ideals, and they have been what united us as a nation, even if we couldn’t agree how best to achieve them.

For eight years, dyspeptic voices warned us that President Obama was fundamentally changing the character of this nation. Well, in eight days, Donald Trump truly did it.

You can be fiscally conservative and see this is wrong. You can be socially conservative and see this is wrong. You can love your children and want to protect them and not turn your backs on others – that isn’t love, that’s fear. This isn’t Right versus Left, this is a basic question of our humanity. To shut our doors on those in need under the guise – the lie – that it will keep us safe is to fail on every level to be the nation we have claimed to be for a century.

I won’t post pictures of the children caught in the Syrian war because I don’t want to be accused of using emotional manipulation or propaganda. But you have seen them. You have seen these children, these mothers, these fathers; you have seen their suffering. They are no less human because the God they pray to answers to a different name than yours.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I have been told often that we are a Christian nation. When will we act as such? How can we be a nation that professes that it is in God we trust, yet we have no faith that we will be protected if we do what is right?

I don’t know what motivates you. I don’t know which truth you hold most dear to your heart. I don’t know which belief guides your choices.

Here is mine: Humanity is flawed; it is capable of great evil and depravity, motivated by selfishness, greed, hatred, and, more often than anything else, fear. But within humanity is also the capacity for tremendous acts of love and sacrifice, resilience and hope. I believe that humanity at its best surpasses humanity at its worst. And I believe that there is no Judgment Day awaiting, no eternal reward or punishment; just the beating rhythm of our own conscience too often drowned out by the frightened bellows within us.

To those living elsewhere in the world: Know that the actions of these particular leaders are not the will of much of the people. It is not my will. I became a traveler because I do not believe in walls. I travel because my humanity is awakened when I open myself up to new experiences and new perspectives.

To those of you living in the US: Now, we must resist this spreading evil, just as generations passed resisted tyranny in Europe and elsewhere. We must not grow complacent or irresolute in the face of this onslaught of cruelty. This is not who we are as a nation. This is not who we are as people.

This is how we resist:
ACLU = https://www.aclu.org/
CAIR = https://www.cair.com/
IRC = http://www.rescue.org
Southern Poverty Law Center =
https://www.splcenter.org/
Planned Parenthood = https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

We are different; we are not separate.

 

 

 

The View from Outside the World

“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

The world is a scary place. Or, more accurately, a lot of people around the world are scared. Yesterday alone, attacks across Europe shook politicians and civilians, even as ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen – to name just a couple – continue testing our ability to just look away as innocents suffer. Meanwhile, in America, the next president was officially given his Electoral College victory even as a sizeable portion of the nation’s population looked on in dismay. It was for much of humanity, not a happy day.

This post has no answers. It isn’t about stomping the ground for some political point or pleading for you to donate money. I mean, yes, please, do that if you can; there are no shortage of causes demanding your attention. If you’re a charitable person, consider yourself blessed with an abundance of opportunities to prove it.

I believe there are answers to all of these problems; I just don’t have them.

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This is a blog about travel. I write it because my undying hope is that we will make our world just a little bit smaller by fulling appreciating how vast it is. I write this blog because I refuse to allow borders to be prisons.

The attack in Germany appears to be terroristic, and at this moment the prevailing theory is that the attacker was an asylum seeker, a Muslim immigrant. Of course, anytime anything bad happens in the world, that’s the prevailing theory. No matter who turns out to be the perpetrator, there will always be people who believe immigrants in general – and Muslims in particular – are a danger to society.

History is clear on this: the Outsider is always evil.

Of course that’s not true. There is not a person reading this who wasn’t an outsider at some point. Maybe you’re an immigrant, or the children of immigrants. Maybe you’re a Muslim in a Christian society, or vice versa. Maybe you’re gay, or an atheist, or transgender, or disabled. Maybe you just never fit in.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by suggesting all outsiders are the same. Some people are put on the outside for the good of society: Murderers, rapists, thieves, so on.

The point is, we’re all on the outside of something. Even Trump, a rich white man from New York City who was born into money still managed to run a campaign as the “outsider” candidate. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

There are millions and millions of people around the world who want nothing more than to be inside the United States, who want to be accepted here and given access to the opportunities and freedoms many of us take for granted. Just by birth, some were blessed with the ultimate insiders’ pass. I’m one such person. And all I want to do is get outside.

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Every year for a decade, I moved to a new city and over a period of 12 months, I worked my way from outside to inside within my new home – and then I started over. I won’t pretend my journey was even 1/100th as difficult as those of immigrants moving to a new country. One thing we Americans often take for granted is that we are lucky to live within a country that is so diverse in culture while still unified by language and common experiences. I will never understand the people who don’t take advantage of that.

What 10 Cities/10 Years taught me was to not be afraid of being on the outside. As I plan my move to Spain in 2017, I’m reading accounts from those who have already done it, and the most consistent sentiment I read is, “The hardest part for me was being away from friends and family; it took me a couple months to make friends here.” I can only smile, because that stopped being a concern for me many years ago.

I want to be on the outside. I want to learn new things and be confronted by circumstances where my previous experience and knowledge isn’t sufficient. I don’t expect to enjoy every step of the journey or to always succeed. I will regret choices and wake up some days thinking, “What have I done?” That’s called traveling.

Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. Terror is the most basic response to what is going on the world, but compassion should be as well. Empathy and a desire to understand, these should be just as powerful emotions within all of us or our world will continue to deteriorate. We can’t keep pretending that just because something happens on the other side of an imaginary line that we won’t be impacted.

Yes, the world can be a terrifying place. It’s also a beautiful place. I’m not sure it could be one without being the other. We can’t appreciate that dichotomy if we don’t get out and see it for ourselves. And we won’t ever step outside if we are motivated solely by fear.

If you’re the kind of person to make New Year’s Resolutions, may I suggest a very simple one for 2017: Don’t be afraid. Don’t let what scares you dictate the kind of life you’ll live. Learn to appreciate what it’s like to be on the outside.

And, you know, travel.

Thanksgiving in America

Thanksgiving is the only holiday I celebrate. Which is not to say that I make a point of giving thanks to some immaterial deity or thinking fondly on the mass genocide that Made America Great Originally. I just like cooking and drinking and not going into work.

This year will be my third Friendsgiving in four years, and quite possibly my last. This time next year, I plan to be teaching in Spain and removed from the mental malfeasance that is our government. It’s not that I believe other governments are better than ours; they just don’t belong to me. Even when my vote doesn’t win, even when it doesn’t count, I am a product of my nation of birth, and it is a product of me.

So, next year, I’m leaving it behind.

Home for the holidays

One of the persistent themes of 10 Cities/10 Years was that individual cities or individual states do not define who we are. We have open borders within this country, so passing from New York to Massachusetts, moving from Tennessee to Washington is not just easy, but part of the very definition of this nation. We didn’t like how things were going in Europe, so we came over here. We weren’t making it work in the East, so we covered wagoned to California. Is the history of this nation far more complicated and problematic than that? Absolutely, but that’s a post for a different day.

The point is, our nation might have been founded by settlers, but they were travelers first.

One of the biggest divides between America’s two main political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, is this notion of Federal Government versus State (local) Government. I align far more with Democrats not just because I’m a godless libtard, but because I don’t believe in the myth of state lines.

When I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina during the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the south. We were told to expect massive rain storms to branch off from the larger storm and hit us, but they never materialized. While families in New Orleans and throughout the region were losing homes, livelihoods, and loved ones, we were having sunny days in Queen City. We avoided the atmospheric impact of Katrina, but Charlotte – and the rest of the country – still felt the rippling effects of the disasters, not just in the slight economic drain it caused, but in our discussions on race, poverty, and culture. It would be hard to argue that the devastating “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” optics of the post-Katrina non-relief didn’t play some part in the election of our first black president.

As a nation, we do everyone a grave disservice when we think of ourselves as merely citizens of our home state or hometown. We are citizens of the United States, and there is no “real America.” I was born and raised in Kansas, but the Sunflower State isn’t my home. My home is where I rest my head at any given time, my home is any stop along I-70 or any town where a friend will share a drink with me. My home is the United States.

Furthermore, as a species, we do ourselves an even graver disservice when we put too much faith in the borders that divide our nations. I understand the legal need for nation states, I get that people fear a one world government. Believe me, after this election, and seeing what’s going on in Europe right now, I’m no proponent of centralizing global power into the hands of a select few. We need opposing voices in power.

It is vital, though, that we stop looking at people from other nations as enemies, as challengers for resources, especially since this planet has more than enough resources to sustain our entire population if we weren’t just so desperate to hoard and accumulate beyond our needs. When an uncharitable sack of shit billionaire is a hero to people, we have lost our humanity.

I’m moving to Spain next year because I’m a citizen of the world. I’m taking leave of the nation of my birth because what happens here has an effect throughout the world, and if I’m going to be an informed and empathetic voter, I should see it for myself. I’m moving because I’m an American, and that’s what we do.

I encourage everyone, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your background, find a way to cross borders. A funny thing happens when you drive from one state to the next, or fly from one country to another: You see that those lines on the map aren’t really there.

I’m privileged, I know. I’m (sadly) not a pretty blonde with a sponsored Instagram, but I still have a considerable amount of freedom. Some people don’t; some people live in abject poverty or under horrible regimes of oppression. For those of you who do not, take a chance on the road. Be a better global citizen for the sake of those in poverty and oppression. Be a better global citizen for your own damn sake.

This Thanksgiving, possibly the last I’ll celebrate in the United States, I am thankful that my backyard is far wider and grander than what my eyes can take in.