Where to Flee When
America Begins to Burn
The political landscape of America has spent the last couple of years steadily, assuredly, burning itself to the ground – razing all reason and blocking out the average citizen to have any impact in the larger workings of the political machine outside of their Facebook feed. We are so saturated with our daily dose of doom that many have simply become complacent in its place in our society, and our place within it. And yet now we see the methodical, mappable rise of the tyrant-clown that is Donald J. Trump, the banner for quite literally every symptom of what is going wrong as we watch, and fling jokes from behind our creaking shields; at some point, something's gotta give.
As a “disaffected pesky whipper-snapper”, I'm full of all kinds of future-anxiety; my prolepsis attacks are well-shot, well-directed, 4k nightmares. I've taken the time to map some conclusions, as has everyone else on the internet, and it's time to take action – so let's make a listicle! Let's check out the top four places to flee to when America, inevitably, begins to burn:
The best option for the less brave of us, who still want to be nearby enough that they can drive over the border and visit, like taking a trip to the zoo. The health care is wonderful, the president is weirdly attractive, and everyone apologizes a lot, which is humbling. French slips into your vernacular and you again “a-gain” after a while; Dunkin' Donuts is replaced with Tim Horton's. You mostly wear fashionable parkas. It's all familiar, like someone scraped too little New England over too much tundra.
If anything what's most frightening about the Trump fiasco is the sheer number of rational voices that have risen up against the man, to no avail. All the important celebrity figureheads, pundits, and politicians have called for the man's ideological head, and it seems to have effected absolutely nothing. Arguably the problem with John Oliver doing a tear-down of the orange-haired troll doll is that only people who already watch John Oliver will see it; same with Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, etc. The sanity is in an echo-chamber on the coasts, lacking penetrating power into the thick red blood of the middle of the country.
Once you can get past the smidge of a language barrier, you find there are no mosquitoes, more books per capita than in any other country, and hot springs. Your inevitably beautiful children will be smarter than you. The tradition is to give books on Christmas Eve, then end the party early so everyone can bundle up and read; as you cuddle and watch an aurora borealis appear in the infinite blackness above, you'll idly speculate when the nearest volcano will explode, and find it more poetic than tragic. Everything is incredibly well designed. You still can't speak Icelandic. You invest in a UV lamp. You invest in many UV lamps. The cold is your biggest worry. That, and speaking Icelandic. Af gódu upphafi vonast góður endir.
I have no allegiance to America as a philosophical construct, never mind a physical thing: when I walk the streets of my hometown it's not "America", it's a town in a state in a region, and from there Google Maps stops loading and I just close the tab. I never said the pledge of allegiance in school; it reminded me of the eye on the pyramid on the back of one-dollar bills, and later it was my smallest act of nihilistic anti-camouflage. Having been to other parts of the world and even the other side of the country, it is still impossible to consider "this land" in all its magnitude and variety with any kind of tangibility, never mind reverence or dogma. When crusaders reply with arguments about how lucky we are to have free speech for example, I point out we're not the only country with it; others pay less for it too. When free speech can be ranked by a third-rate website, it's no longer a blessed commodity. I can't think of anything we have that other countries don't that are actual good things.
You didn't even know Uruguay existed until that Buzzfeed article that listed 21 intelligent, well-articulated reasons you needed to go; suddenly this little South American democracy became the beacon for liberal co-eds Internet-wide, and who doesn't want in on that? Your high-school Spanish classes finally came in handy as you burnt both side of the candle night after night in Punta del Este, giving yourself fully to a whole new world you never thought you'd know. When your parents call, worried and wondering when you'll come home, you have to work hard to remember to use slower, deliberate English, even as your temper rises whenever they ask: “is this really what you want?”
A guilty side of me points out that if/when the proverbial drains scab over, most of the bad stuff probably won't pertain to me because of my race, gender, or lack of religion; however it will all affect my life as a twenty-something trying to begin a life in a country that actively hates students and certainly doesn't give a damn about artists. It will certainly affect people I care about, specifically double-x-chromosome holders and small business owners and anyone trying to get their first job in the fields of education, art, and science.
And there's something to be said for just not wanting to fight all the time with these things, for not suffering an interminable, toxic election cycle or daily school shootings or slavish adherence to ideas that never existed. The fact that not wanting those things will get you called weak, complainer, or unpatriotic seems strange, a bit cro-magnon, but you feel it coming – spooky action at a distance.
1. New Zealand
Your friends all made fun of you for moving all the way across the globe, but really this has been the dream all your life – you saw Lord of the Rings and suddenly everything changed – This always seemed like the most logical course of action. You move into a trendy closet in Wellington, and knock on the door of WETA every three days. There are sheep everywhere, but the good kind. The coffee is really, really fucking good. There are beaches, mountains, rolling hills, and aggressively attractive young people with wicked accents all within driving distance. While standing on the sharp rocks off State Highway 1, watching thousands of seals imprint the sands, you think about just how old the world is, and how mother nature doesn't give a shit about electoral colleges or textbook prices. Sometimes you get just the smallest bit nostalgic for home – until you look up airline prices, and nostalgia becomes sticker shock, which in turn becomes sheer giddy content at your isolation. You make a habit out of never checking in on what the rest of the world is doing, and slowly forget that you're a part of it, and therein lies the most total relaxation you could ever know.