Leaving the States Ain’t as Easy as It Looks

Passing rice fields and orchards on my way out of Sacramento, I flashed back to five years prior when my then-wife and I were traveling that same stretch of I-5, right around the time Bush attacked Iraq. Our impossible-to-miss bumper sticker, its big, black letters set against a screaming yellow background, proclaimed: “NO WAR ON IRAQ.”

We were stared at. We were flipped off. Some yahoo leaning out his window spat at us something unintelligible but assuredly inane. (You know, sorta like what you’d hear at a Bush press conference.)

It was a lonely feeling opposing the war then. One almost had to whisper to ascertain if others likewise reviled the surefire fiasco-in-the-making since, the week of the invasion, eighty percent of Americans drooled over “shock-and-awe.”

So now, as I head north again, this time to start my new life in Costa Rica (yes, I know Central America’s the other direction: I’m visiting family near Seattle first; sheesh!), two-thirds of Americans say they’re against the war.

But as a famous reptile once said: So? Our opinions matter not. Admittedly, ruling class trivialization of the desires of the great unwashed is nothing new. However, whereas Marie Antoinette took an entire four words to sum up her contempt for her benighted subjects, Dick Cheney named that ‘tude in but one.

Give the creature his due: His monosyllabic dismissal of what the American citizenry (now) thinks of his and his imperialism-loving buddies’ stinking war succinctly expresses the neocon mindset. Like any in-charge bunch, they’re wholly impressed with themselves: they’re the ones with the smarts, they’re the ones with the balls, they’re the forward thinkers before whom we rabble should gratefully prostrate ourselves for being saved from silly ideas like, say, giving peace a chance.

It’s almost too much for me to bear. Sorry: it is too much for me to bear. Thus, my decision in May 2005 to flee and now — finally — after a methodical three-year process, I bid good riddance to living under a fascistic government as surreally soulless as it is innately insane.

Friends say, “You must be excited!”

Not really. Tired is more like it. It’s been a lot of grinding. I assume excited comes later.

Really, though, what I mainly am is sad. Sad I felt compelled to leave my native country after it became painfully clear my opinion (read: “vote”) made zero impact on the whole rotten shebang.

What renders me most melancholy, however, arises from the most personal: While I am powerless over what Bushco does, it is entirely my choice to leave those dearest to me. Being the fine stunted adult I am, I find accepting sole responsibility for causing pain (especially mine) rather distasteful.

I am willingly leaving many friends, most of whom I may never see again.

I am deliberately leaving my hometown, a lovely place I like very much.

I am intentionally leaving my girlfriend, a woman with whom I’ve shared a relationship so unexpectedly delicious, I’ve been careful not to ruin it by proposing. (I’ve had three marriages. And three divorces. Conclusion: It was time for Plan B.) She plans to visit me but — will we drift apart? Living 3,000 miles from one another can have that effect.

An excruciating parting blow came on March 11, when I had to say farewell to my beloved golden retriever, Doctor, forever. He’d fended off skin tumors for years, but they’d finally gone inside and done their hideous work. Now my beautiful boy is going with me to Costa Rica — in a box. Already, I’m planning a summer return to Sacramento to take his surviving older sister, Carolina, who continues living with my ex, for more walkies.

Some things I can’t say goodbye to for good just yet.

“It’s brave what you’re doing,” friends also say.

That’s kind, but I don’t feel brave. What I do feel is wildly lucky to be able to leave a country whose actions disgust me, weirdly fortunate my aforementioned then-wife opened the door to all this when she declared our moribund marriage officially dead. Weeks later, we sold our house at market’s peak. My half of the ridiculously high proceeds allowed me to buy property in Costa Rica, where I obtained legal residency with ease and had a house built not with ease (a long story, but it’s in the book; actually, it is the book).

I also don’t feel courageous because, rather than retiring outright as I’d originally planned, I instead took a one-year leave of absence from work, providing a) me with more options (including retiring anyway in twelve months) and b) America with enough time for its next appointed president, after the end of the current quadrennial dogma-and-phony show, to heroically rescue the Constitution from being totally annihilated by the country’s democracy-hating corporate masters. (It’s possible “b” is a tad overly optimistic.)

So, brave? Hardly. I caught some breaks, made a decision and carried it through.

Costa Rica has its problems, for sure. But what it doesn’t have is a military, nor has it had for almost six decades. The effect on Costa Ricans of long foregoing an army to free up funds for other things, like health care and education, is palpable.

Critics assert Costa Rica might wish to prioritize other items, like, say, infrastructure upkeep. Potholes, some capable of swallowing cars whole, are ubiquitous and could arguably be the national symbol.

I see it differently. A government unable or unwilling to make even basic repairs is also less likely to be concerned with tracking my every move, one reason I feel noticeably freer in Costa Rica than I do in the States. I relish being allowed to just be, a sense of liberty I’ve not experienced in America for far too long.

For me, then, I can’t not go.

But that still doesn’t make it easy.

Mark Drolette writes in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: mdrolette@comcast.net. Read other articles by Mark, or visit Mark's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Rich Griffin said on April 14th, 2008 at 5:19am #

    I wish I could leave the U.S. but I’m dirt poor so therefore stuck here forever. Maybe when people wake up and realize that we are allready there in a fascistic country and stop pretending that we are only part of the way there, things will get better. But I don’t really have very much hope. Constant frustration over other progressives unwilling to give up on the duopoly give me very little hope for things changing for the better.

  2. evie said on April 14th, 2008 at 5:41am #

    Have you lived or vacationed in Central America/Costa Rica before? Just curious as why CR was your choice for “exile.” It’s a beautiful country.

  3. HR said on April 14th, 2008 at 2:06pm #

    I’ve concluded there’s no place to run on the planet, even if I could afford a move. Besides, this is my country, too, a place whose theoretical ideals I’m willing to die for. My country is NOT the exclusive property of corporations and the bullying morons among us who (nearly) elect leaders only interested in toeing the corporate line, those of us who slapped on the insipid car magnets and attenna flags and who now “oppose” the war solely because they didn’t get the quick victory their almost-elected monster leaders promised.

    My sense is that there are tens of millions like me. We are fed up, have been pushed to the limit over the last four decades by authoritarian liars in a government that is supposedly of, by, and for, the people. We are sick of evil abbreviations and the horrendous agencies those abbreviations stand for, like CIA, NSA, FBI, etc., agencies that exist only to steal freedom and privacy, all in the name of (false) security. We do not need a national ID card, nor do we need cameras pointed at us as we go about our daily activities in public places. We do not live in a “homeland”, we live in a country. When you illegal wiretappers, readers of email, Internet crawlers, and your armed comrades come for us, we will not go peacefully. Bear that in mind. Enough is enough!

  4. Raven said on April 14th, 2008 at 7:35pm #

    I live for the day I’d be able to leave the same way. I’m not willing to die for a theory, and I refuse to allow my children to suffer the consequences for the actions of people that don’t care about us.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no escape from what is going to happen to this country. Protests and talk are all cheap- and no one is willing to take any action and stop these thieves and cheaters. I’m dirt poor myself. I can’t up and decide to leave the way the OP has, and I truly commend him for it. Don’t feel guilty- you’re only doing what any sensible person with the means to do so would do. I’d be right behind you if I could.

  5. BlytheM. said on April 14th, 2008 at 10:45pm #

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the article. I too have considered leaving the country but a major determinant for me, especially as resources become more limited, is does the country have access to resources and the means to protect them. I understand the allure of traveling to a country without a military, certainly after living in Fortress America, but can that country protect itself from countries that may seek to steal its resources? I hope Costa Rica welcomes you warmly, and that my concern never becomes your concern.

    I hear that Uruguay and Argentina are also two beautiful countries to consider.

  6. Gary Corseri said on April 14th, 2008 at 11:52pm #

    The country that is no country–is my country.
    The land that is all land–is my land.
    The name that designates no citizen–
    that is the name of my comrade.
    The sky higher than imagination
    and the Earth deeper than love–
    they are my sky and my Earth.

  7. D.R. Munro said on April 15th, 2008 at 4:41am #

    I’m leaving as soon as I finish my studies, and as you said – this does not make me happy, not at all. In fact, it is quite a sad feeling.

    Being that I am now college-aged, I have grown up with Bush and this whole War on Terrorism in the background since I was in my early teens. Slowly but surely I began at first questioning, then hating, then feeling like I needed to leave.

    That is certainly an interesting feeling, feeling like you need to leave your native country (I’m even prepared to renounce my citizenship) – but things are going to get far worse before they get better here in the ol’ USA.

    It’s not because I’m angry or hateful. It’s because I am so very tired.

  8. hp said on April 15th, 2008 at 2:56pm #

    D. R., to me you’ve always come across as much more mature than your young age would suggest.
    It’s very sobering and a bit sad to hear you talk like you do about how you feel and how you see your future, or lack of a future here in America. Good luck to you.

  9. D.R. Munro said on April 16th, 2008 at 5:01am #

    Thanks for the kind words, HP.

    It surely wasn’t something that I arrived at without much consideration, but in the end – it seemed the only real choice left to me.

    I don’t think I’ll “give up” on the United States, maybe all I need is some time to breath and a little relief from the constant battle we fight daily. Perhaps maybe after I’ve been gone five years or so, and have regained some of my energy and motivation – I’ll come back and get ready for round 2.

    It is sad though, like you said. I hear all of these great stories from my grandparents and older aunts and unlces (perhaps romanticizing the past, but still), about how there used to be something special about America. And I look around and go . . . “where is this place they are talking about? It certainly can’t be here.”

    Maybe a few years will give me an outsiders prespective on things and I’ll be able to look at it in a whole new light. I just need to be sure that I don’t pick a country that the United States may invade between now and then.

  10. mary said on April 16th, 2008 at 9:48am #

    Gary Corseri speaks above of a universal country, even a world, and I agree wholeheartedly with that concept. Excessive patriotism and nationality have a lot to answer for.

    The US Senator Byrd (old enough to be from the same generation as H.R. Munro’s grandparents?) on the eve of the Iraq invasion said ‘Today I weep for my country…’ and was he right to say that (although I see he’s had some strange connections early on in his life). Yes he was, unlike McCain who replied to the speech with militaristic platitudes about supporting his President and that it was a just cause. He said ‘Events will prove one of us correct in the next few days. But I rely on history as my guide to the future, and history shows us, unequivocally, that this nation has stood for freedom and democracy, even at the risk and loss of American lives, so that all might enjoy the same privileges or have the opportunity to someday enjoy the same privileges as we do in this noble experiment called the United States of America’. I think the laugh’s on McCain now except nobody is laughing, certainly not those who survived in what remains of Iraq.

    I am sorry that the author of the article feels so disenchanted that he must leave America but I quite understand his reasoning. I wish him happiness wherever he lands.

    We are all feeling the same collective shame, guilt and disquiet at what has happened in the last five years and nobody I know here in the UK feels very optimistic, even though it’s Spring and there should be an awakening. It still feels dark and cold although the days are getting longer and the temperature’s rising. If only our spirits were!


  11. mary said on April 16th, 2008 at 11:04am #

    Forgive me. I should have used the word ‘nationalism’ and not ‘nationality’ at the top. I have been upset and distressed today about the slaughter in Gaza. 19 dead in total from overhead helicopter fire, missiles and shells including a 67year old man, 3 children in a refugee camp, a Reuters cameraman in a clearly marked Press vehicle, and countless more. This is the Israeli retribution for the earlier death of 3 of their soldiers. A hospital has even been shelled and damaged. All this to the tune of Bush and his band busily occupied today shaking the Pope’s hand with their bloodied ones.