Why we’re leaving, spelled out

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This is going to be a hard article to write. I’ve started it about 20 different ways, but maybe I should just start it with that.

I’ve tried to put a happy face on it, but the truth is — I don’t want to leave the United States, at least not yet. My clear first choice would be to continue to work for three or so more years in a job that I like, in a city that I like, in a house that I like and not leave my family and friends especially my elderly mother. I’m excited for this adventure yes, but I didn’t want this and it didn’t have to be this way.

I’ve posted already that we’re moving because of the threat of a second term for Donald Trump and that’s true, but that’s only really part of the story. First, an explanation: 

There’s an important concept in a functioning democracy surrounding the legitimacy of elections. It’s been conflated — especially with Donald Trump’s rhetoric about mail-in voting and “fraud” — to relate to if the election was “fair”. To be sure that’s a major part of it, but it’s not the only part. 

The other part — arguably the most important part considering that it’s virtually impossible to “rig” an election in which 140 million people participate in across 50 states — is that the results of the election are accepted by its citizens and then life moves on. 

It’s legitimacy that allowed for a peaceful transfer of power after the disputed elections of 1876 and 2000, as well as after the 2016 election despite Donald Trump losing the popular vote by more than three million votes. (For those of you interested in politics and history, the compromise that conferred legitimacy on the 1876 election probably did more damage to the cause of equality and freedom for African-Americans than any election before or since,)

In other words, you may not LIKE the results of the election, but you accept it and then move on. 

One of the main issues we’re going to have in November if Biden wins anything other than an absolutely crushing, convincing victory is much of the Republican Party is so far gone off the rails there is no way tens of millions are going to accept the legitimacy of the election. That’s the reason for Trump’s rhetoric pre-emptively dismissing the fairness of mail-in ballots, even though that’s how several states have conducted their elections for decades and it is how active-duty military and absentee voters have voted since literally forever. 

The fucked up thing is that scenario is probably the best case scenario in November. Unless things change to the point where Trump loses most of the toss-up states and the outcome of the election is never in doubt regardless of the number of mail-in/absentee ballots cast, it is going to be one of the shakiest months in the history of American democracy in November. 

All that is before you get to the threats of Attorney General Bill Barr to have DOJ “watchdogs” at balloting locations, which you can guess are going to be only in highly Democratic districts and all of the other norms and guardrails for our electoral process that have been chewed up, spit out and discarded over the last four years. 

That’s all a long way of describing that our democracy is already in great, great peril. There’s never been a threat of this kind for a losing political party and it’s followers to contest the legitimacy of an election and THAT’S IF BIDEN WINS. (Yes, the Democrats contested the election of 2000 in the courts, but only in Florida and only to try and to make sure that the re-count was contested fairly so that all legitimate ballots were counted to try and determine an outcome there. Even then, when the courts ruled against them in the one of the most egregiously partisan and shameful Supreme Court decisions in the history of the republic, everyone stood down and accepted the rule of law.) 

It goes without saying that if Trump wins, either legitimately or illegitimately, the rest of whatever guardrails of American democracy that exist go down. Ruth Bader Ginsberg might survive the rest of the year, but she’s definitely not going to survive another four years. The Republican Party has packed the federal judiciary with partisan judges with paltry resumes other than complete obeisance to Republican politics and little to no respect for the Constitution. 

If Trump wins, the fascist/authoritarian training wheels come off. So what does that mean? 

The immediate effects will be obvious, though most of these don’t affect me personally even though they aggrieve me deeply. The Affordable Care Act will be scraped and those with pre-existing conditions like myself are left unprotected. Roe v. Wade will be overturned. The “voodoo economics” of trickle-down theory will continue and wealth inequality will explode even faster than it has the last 40 years. 

Those three things are all but certain. 

As much as I hate to say it, I could live with those results. Or more accurately, they would not be a reason to feel the need to emigrate from the United States. I have health insurance through my employer and could likely manage the byzantine health insurance system even if I changed jobs or were laid off. We will not personally need an abortion in the immediate future and even if we did would have the means to acquire one overseas or through underground clinics that will cater to the well-off in a post-Roe America. Finally, we’ve either probably benefited some or have been treated neutrally by the tax structure that allows the wealthiest to pay next to nothing. 

The real problems come in the breakdown of the checks and balances that are supposed to protect our democracy. As mentioned, the packing of the judiciary means that an unrestrained Trump can rule by executive order and bypass Congress, leaving them as an impotent participant in the democracy except when it suits Trump’s whims. The judiciary has already acted as a brake on Trump’s worst impulses, but with the loss of RBG’s Supreme Court seat the remaking of America into a Republican dictatorship can begin in earnest. 

One of the first things to go will be the 22nd Amendment. Trump has already stated he intends to remain in power until his death and the Republicans will begin an effort to either repeal or overturn the 22nd Amendment in the now Trump-friendly courts. This may or may not succeed. Necessarily, there is an exceptionally high bar to disregard or overturn an amendment to the Constitution in the way that Trump would like.

No matter though. Just like his fellow autocrat Putin, Trump will put up a surrogate in his place in the 2024 election which he controls — likely his son, Donald Jr. who has spent the last four years bathing in the warm stew of grievance which constitutes what little agenda the GOP has beyond the pursuit and maintenance of power. 

Next to go will be birthright citizenship. But for maximum effect, those changes will not happen from the moment of the executive order he will issue to repeal it. It will also affect all those who have been born in the country to non-citizen parents who are still alive. In other words, by the stroke of a pen tens of millions of Americans will either be immediately disenfranchised and/or forced to prove their parents were US citizens at the time of their birth. 

By this one act, it will become impossible for the Republicans to ever lose another national election in this country ever again. 

He will likely not be done. If this doesn’t happen in October to try and influence the coming election, Bill Barr’s DOJ will manufacture a conspiracy to prove that President Obama and Joe Biden attempted to influence the 2016 election and they will be put on trial, likely in the most Trump-friendly federal court Barr can find to ensure a conviction. 

All of this will be cheerleaded on by Trump-run propaganda networks like Fox News and OANN. 

The net effect by 2024 will be that national elections will exist in the United States like they do in Russia — in theory only. There will be a Democratic candidate on the ballot, but they will have no chance to win — just like opposition candidates do not have a chance to win against Putin. The constant threat of legal action by the now-partisan Department of Justice will ensure no credible candidates run and the legal and illegal disenfranchisement of minorities will return to 1920s-era levels.

In short, the United States of America will no longer be a functioning democracy. You might think I’m spouting a conspiracy theory but Donald Trump has told you all of this stuff himself at various times. Just check the links above. A crowd in Nevada not four days ago chanted “lock him up” after Trump lied about being “spied on” by President Obama. 

Democracy itself is very much on the ballot in November and Trump can win, especially with the Department of Justice working behind the scenes to ensure his election. 

So when the best-case scenario is tens of millions of Americans convinced of an illegitimate election and the resulting chaos and violence that will inevitably ensue in the months and years to come (remember the Oklahoma City bombing? Now imagine a movement like the Michigan Militia on one thousand times the scale) and the worst-case scenario is one that is completely untenable, I’m left with the choice that we’ve made. 

To cut bait. To protect our assets and our personal safety as best as possible. To leave our homeland. 

If Trump wins, we will only be amongst the first wave of refugees. Those with the means and the assets to do are making plans like we are. I’ve talked to several people who are in various stages of planning what we’re doing. Some are moving to Mexico, some are fortunate enough to have Canadian citizenship or citizenship in another country where they can eventually find work. That wave will crest over the course of four years or so. 

Once it becomes obvious by 2024 that American democracy is dead, the second wave will be those who essentially leave with only the clothes on their backs. American military hegemony means that very few countries will welcome American refugees with open arms for fear of antagonizing the Trump regime. 

Perhaps some countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Western European countries will welcome those with specific skills like computer programming, engineering and the like they can benefit from. Everyone else will be trapped in an authoritarian “free-market” economy like Russia. With all the latest bells and whistles but no way to buy them for most of the country other than the elites. 

Crime will thrive, especially organized crime sanctioned by the Trump regime. Those loyal to Trump will be able to exploit American assets like plutocrats do in Russia now. 

And our country will be all but unrecognizable in ten years as eventually the federal legislature and courts are remade and almost all aspects of the New Deal and the Great Society are dismantled. Fearful of falling out of favor the GOP and GOP voters will remain loyal to Trump and support his children for the presidency and senatorial seats after he dies.

The United States will become almost a South African-like apartheid state where Blacks have civil rights in theory only and are not protected by the state. Social Security will be raided by the regime through various schemes which will funnel money to the Trump family and his allies. Medicare and Medicaid — gone. The elderly and poor will be left to their own devices, either to die or live in ghettos.

Some states, especially California, will eventually definitely try to secede. What happens then — I don’t know. My crystal ball doesn’t go out that far, but I can guess. 

A second Civil War seems likely once it becomes obvious to Trump that losing one or two states is tenable, but losing 15 or so scattered throughout the country is not. Hawaii will probably successfully secede with the benefit of thousands of miles of ocean. Puerto Rico might as well. Any talk of succession in the mainland US will be put down ruthlessly and quickly. Partisan groups will form and commit acts of terror against the regime, but short of some infusion of arms or weapons from another country which won’t be forthcoming those will be brushed away like gnats.

I know this is a horror story, but it’s important to realize that even if occasionally hyperbolic, this is not anything completely rooted outside of reality. Imagine the damage to our norms and democracy that Trump has done in four years even after being impeached and even after being stymied on occasion by the courts. Now imagine Congress and the courts with virtually no power to check him. Will he behave responsibly and benevolently? I think you know the answer. 

Happy Mexican Independence Day!

Photo by Hugo E on Pexels.com

Kind of bittersweet since this is one of my favorite weekends of the year in Las Vegas. There’s always a big prizefight on the Strip, usually involving a Mexican boxer, so the town is full of Mexicans celebrating a long weekend. Another casualty of COVID I guess. Looking forward to being in Mexico next year for the Mexican bicentennial though. Hopefully COVID is under control so that the country gets the party it deserves.

In case you were wondering…

I’m a dope and put this as the main image on the blog, but it’s a good picture. This is the neighborhood we’re hoping to live in — the Zona Romantica.

Since we’ve announced to our friends and family we’re pulling up stakes and moving to Mexico, we’ve gotten a lot of questions — sincerely curious and concerned questions, so I thought it best to address some of those here, more or less at the start of this journey. We covered the question of what happens if Biden wins already, so here are some others: 

Q: Why Mexico? 

Why not? But seriously, we had several requirements of any place we considered relocating and Mexico checks all of those boxes and then some. I’ll get into those, but we’ve visited several Mexican cities over the years and have always felt welcomed and at home there. From living in Las Vegas for the past 12 years, we’ve absorbed quite of a bit of Mexican culture even beyond the cuisine and it just seems like a natural fit. 

Anywhere we want to live has to have several things: 

• A warm climate (sorry, Canada)

• A less expensive standard of living than the US (sorry, Canada) 

• Unique culture and cuisine (sorry, Canada)

• Welcoming to expat Americans (sorry, Canada)

• Ease of obtaining a visa (sorry, Canada)

Q: Why didn’t you consider Canada? 

See above. We love Canada and Canadians, don’t get me wrong. It’s just as well too because Puerto Vallarta is full of them, especially in the winter. But moving to Canada was never realistic for many, many reasons. 

Q: Are you worried about crime/safety? 

Not really, no more so than we do in Las Vegas or did when we lived in the Detroit area. The neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta that we’d like to live in — Zona Romantica, Centro or 5 de Diciembre — are full of other expats and as safe as any major city in the United States. That is somewhat damning with faint praise as the United States is much more unsafe than other developed countries, but the stories you see about Mexico being a crime-ridden hellhole are simply not true, at least not in the areas frequented by tourists in coastal cities like Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas, etc. 

Q: What are you going to do for a job/money?

The sale of our house should provide us with a small nest egg, but it won’t be enough to make it until we can start to tap our retirement plans at 59 years old. And ideally we won’t have to start tapping those until even later than that. 

Fortunately, my employer is allowing me to switch my work status to be a contractor instead of a full-time employee. This comes with some negatives and some positives that I won’t get into but ultimately, we should be able to hopefully live comfortably on about $2,000/month while still continuing to save quite a bit towards retirement. 

I can’t guarantee the future or if the arrangement will work for them as well as my living in Las Vegas has but as long as I have access to high-speed Internet I should be able to continue working for the foreseeable future. They’ve been incredibly accommodating so far and I can’t thank them enough.

I’d also like to augment our income by trying to write more. I’m doing this for free, but having people pay you for your writing is a unique thrill. I’m generally too busy with work to want to spend a lot more time at the computer, but I’m hoping to do more in Mexico. After retirement I’ll hopefully have a lot more time to see what I can produce that would interest more than just my family and friends!

Q: Are you going to stay in Mexico forever? When would you move back?

Like the saying goes — Man Plans, God Laughs. But I’m still hoping to only have to work until around my 50th birthday in September 2023. Unless she picks up something that she can do online, Tanya might very well already be retired at age <age redacted>!

We’d likely plan on staying in Mexico until then and decide if we want to stay or try a different city in Mexico or a different country for awhile. 

We loved Thailand and would like to live there at some point, but have also discussed living in Ecuador, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Belize or Panama. Access to “retirement” visas are available at age 50 in all those countries, so we’ll have to see what our options are around then. Moving back to the United States long-term is unlikely short of some kind of setback we don’t want to contemplate. 

Q: What about health care?

That’s a bit of a concern. I had my brain tumor a few years ago and I learned how important access and availability of health care is. Without my health insurance, the bills would have bankrupted us 10 times over. One of the disadvantages of going to contractor status with my employer is I lose access to my company’s health care plan, but that wouldn’t have covered us in Mexico anyway. 

We’re essentially going to be like the tens of millions of Americans that don’t have the backstop of health insurance because the Republican Party doesn’t think that’s a right Americans should have. So in that sense, we’re no worse off than lots of others. Fortunately, Mexico does have very good medical care for all but the most serious of issues and we’ll probably be able to afford all but a catastrophic illness. 

Q: Why are you moving in the middle of a pandemic? 

The timing is less than ideal, right? A competent federal government might have made this an easier time to move, but it is what it is. Home values are staying strong in our area and the time to do this seems right.

The pandemic doesn’t really factor in to the decision very much. We’ve been monitoring the number of cases in Jalisco state, where Puerto Vallarta is located and it’s comparable to some of the better-managed states like Maryland, Michigan and New York. It sucks that we won’t be able to explore our new city as much as we’d like right away, but it will also provide a bit of a period to settle and get our bearings. Also availability of rentals in PV are hopefully a lot better than they would be for the winter months if there were no pandemic, so that’s a bit of a silver lining.

If there’s anything else you want to know, leave a comment or drop me an email. We have a lot of work yet to do, so there’s plenty more to share as the weeks move on. Hopefully our house will be on the market by the second week of October, which is the next big landmark.

What if Biden wins?

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We’ve been legitimately touched by everyone who has reached out to wish us well and ask questions about our plans to sell our house and move to Mexico. The one prerequisite for this move to happen is being able to sell our house for an amount that we think is fair. Our asking price is fair (we believe), so that doesn’t seem to be a stumbling block, but the most common question we’ve gotten is — will your plans change if Joe Biden is elected president in November?

We’re going to do everything in our power for the next eight weeks to make sure that happens, but obviously it’s out of our control.

This piece by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine does a good job of explaining that the election of Joe Biden is not a cure-all for what ails the body politic in the United States. Nor is that going to be the case for society at large.

Yes, we are moving because of the implications of what a second term in office for Donald Trump will bring, but the well is already poisoned regardless of the election outcome. There are millions of Americans who legitimately believe that the Democratic Party is a front for human trafficking and pedophilia. Those beliefs are only going to be validated further by a Biden victory, no matter how legitimate and convincing it may be.

The United States of America has become a nasty, brutish place. Tens of millions have gotten a taste for fascism and aren’t going to fall in line under a Biden presidency. Those people own a lot of guns and they’re itching to use them.

Are we physically in danger regardless of either outcome in November? Probably not. We’re white, middle class, live in a diverse working-class neighborhood in a solidly liberal city. But that misses the point. I don’t like what this country has become and a single election isn’t going to change that.

When Tanya and I visited Thailand in July 2018, the sensation of being thousands of miles away from the United States was a literal physical relief. I no longer felt the weight or dread of daily life. Even a quick glance at the news from the United States evinced nothing in response. I couldn’t even tell you what happened here those two weeks. We visited Puerto Vallarta in January to look at several neighborhoods in anticipation of this move and the sensation was the same.

To be sure, the news will be less of a daily torture under a Biden administration, but the problem isn’t the news. If it were that easy, I’d just ignore it (to the extent that is possible, which is not very if you’re an engaged citizen). The problem isn’t the news, it’s the people.

Sorry if that’s a little depressing. The mission of this blog isn’t going to be to traffic in political hand-wringing or to score easy points on pathetic QAnon-ers, but mostly to describe what it’s like to separate yourself from your homeland. That said, a little political hand-wringing is going to be hard to avoid in the next eight weeks and while we’re still living in the United States. But no matter what happens in eight weeks, if we sell our house, we’re out of here.

Goodbye Facebook, Hello Mexico

This story really starts on November 8, 2016, but for immediate purposes it begins on my birthday, September 10.

My wife, Tanya, and I have told our immediate family and close friends of our decision to emigrate from the United States of America and begin a new life in Mexico because we no longer feel safe or welcome in Donald Trump’s America.

I’ll get into a lot more of those specific feelings over time, but for now it’s important to note this was a decision not made in haste. We had been discussing trying to retire early — perhaps as soon as my 50th birthday (I turned 47 on Sept. 10, 2020) — and moving to another country with a less-expensive standard of living, where we could live more simply and spend our remaining years doing what we want to do instead of being just two more consumer cogs in the American economy. (We’re in the process of organizing our belongings to get our house ready to sell and I can assure you that if America is a consumer economy, we’re good Americans — we have lots of stuff, most of which we don’t need and a lot of which we’ve never used.)

So the desire to live more simply somewhere else pre-dated Donald Trump’s election, but November 8, 2016 changed everything for a lot of people. That thought creeped into my head probably for the first time in that fitful night of sleep — “we might have to leave sooner”.

On the evening of November 9, 2016 we celebrated the birthday of Darrin, a lifelong friend now living in North Carolina. Darrin married an immigrant from Poland, Patrycia, and that evening many of the people in his house were also immigrants, friends of Darrin’s and Patrycia’s from work.

We drank shot after shot of Polish vodka, toasting Darrin’s birthday but also toasting America, a land of opportunity I no longer recognized. We didn’t discuss the election too much that evening so as not to harsh the buzz of Darrin’s celebration, but it hung over the evening like a pall, especially as we basked in the love those Polish emigres have for the United States and western North Carolina. I think about that night a lot, especially when Donald Trump attacks immigrants from Latin America.

So that’s where this story really begins — in a sleepless night in a casino hotel in North Carolina. We watched the election results with Darrin and Patrycia, unbelieving and unsteady. We eventually left them around 1 a.m. to drive back to the hotel, parked in the massive casino parking lot to see Trump supporters carrying Trump flags through the casino and parking lot yelling “Fuck you, Hillary!”

I didn’t think things could get any worse. Boy, was I wrong.

Final Post on Facebook, Sept. 10, 2020
First off, thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes.

Second, this is probably going to be my last post on Facebook for awhile, possibly forever. I won’t bother to get too deeply into the reasons for that, but they are numerous and mostly involve Facebook being complicit and willing in spreading fascist propaganda to a misinformed, deluded and frightened nation.

Speaking of which, third of all I’ve told this news to all of the people who needed to hear it in person, so it’s probably safe to share publicly that we’ve decided it’s time to leave the United States once and for all. 

We believe it is no longer safe to remain here for the long term so we are putting our house on the market and moving to Mexico as soon as possible, hoping to preserve as much of our assets as possible before the turmoil that is to come, regardless of the result of the election in November.

There’s a lot that has to be done logistically to make this happen, not the least of which is going through a lifetime of accumulated stuff that needs to be sold, discarded and otherwise dealt with.

We’ll have a lot of news to share about how that’s going so either Tanya will share it on Facebook or perhaps I’ll start a blog (how very 2005!) and discuss it there. 

I’m planning on keeping a diary with the thought that I might publish a book about our experience of being exiled from our home country because half of the damn country has literally lost its goddamned minds.

Hopefully, we’ll see you all in Mexico one day and hopefully the United States of America will somehow endure this crisis. If it does, we’ll be sitting it out on the sidelines, praying for the best and drinking margaritas.

May whatever deity you believe in bless and save the United States of America. Take care of yourselves, all.