America The Overrated
My ‘birth’ as an expat bred the ‘death’ of my patriotism
You know that feeling when you suddenly and shockingly realize that the principle or tenet you’ve always believed to be true is, in fact, an altogether opposite or incorrect assumption or belief? That this “experience” or idealism is so ingrained in who you are that it feels like cold water has been thrown at your face on a hot summer day without warning when you finally snap out of it?
I imagine this is what it must feel like to suddenly realize you’re in a cult and that you need to get out. Or the moment when your lifelong religious indoctrination doesn’t match what you now believe because of your own personal understanding based on conflicting theories, science, or knowledge.
I received my own bucket of cold water to the face when I moved back to America after living abroad for four years.
In the summer of 2012, my now-husband and I threw a large Fourth of July party at our home in Southern Spain. I prepared a buffet of quintessential American food, we flew American flags from every balcony, and we provided entertainment in the form of popular American games like flip cup and beer pong. And then we shamelessly invited our British friends over to celebrate our independence from, well, them.
We continued to wear our patriotism with pride while we lived abroad for four years, but I’d come to appreciate the way Europeans live — access to universal healthcare, a less prudish lifestyle, food free of GMOs and preservatives, to name a few. Over time I had begun to see the world in a different way and I would wonder, “do we really have it all figured out back home?”
When we eventually moved back to America we were excited to once again be near our family and to restart our life together domestically. How quickly was I hit with that harsh realization that things in the U.S. aren’t as idyllic as our country’s credo would make it seem.
Shortly after our move home my husband started a new company and I hadn’t yet found a job, so the question of healthcare was our first hurdle. We signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but unless we wanted to pay a small fortune, the level of care we could receive left much to be desired.