So, there's a US election coming up. I have not said anything about it, because I generally believe that the citizens of a sovereign democracy have the right to choose their leaders without interference from ignorant foreigners. At this point, though, I've lost faith that the US is going to hold free and fair elections and abide by the result.
So, here's my political comment for my American friends: if the election doesn't work out, and if things get to the point where you don't feel safe in your country any more, I will help you get out as best as I can. I'm envisioning things like lending money, offering a temporary place to live, helping deal with the bureaucracy of immigration, standing as a sponsor if that looks like it might help... hell, if that's what it takes I'll marry you.
I very much hope it won't get that bad, and I don't think it's highly probable. Still. If my help can make the difference between getting out soon enough and leaving it too late, know that you have someone to turn to.
Totally fair question. I very much agree that there are places in the world far worse than even the doomiest prediction for where the US might end up. But generally I don't know people in those countries. Even the Americans I know are not the most vulnerable, because the most vulnerable don't generally have access to higher education and travelling abroad and moving in the kind of circles where they would encounter a privileged European like me.
I think what I can reasonably do for all the millions of strangers who don't have freedom and have never had freedom is vote and act politically in favour of rights for refugees and asylum seekers and immigrants in general. More than that, well, I can give money to causes which support those fighting corrupt regimes or who are harmed by such regimes. But in terms of people I know, who have many advantages that would make it possible to rebuild their lives in other countries, it might make a difference to have a personal contact in Europe. I can't imagine the amount of agonizing that would go into making the decision to flee your country, but I'm offering my practical support in case that tips the balance for someone. That feels like something within my power to offer, whereas changing the whole world to make it better is more of an ideological goal, not something I can practically do right now.
Thanks for the offer. In my sense of gloom about the US political situation, I had temporarily forgotten that America has traditionally been the major refuge for people who find themselves unwelcome in the rest of the world. I hope that will be the case again in the near future.
I have an escape plan (relatives in Australia, highly portable qualifications). Part of why I made this post is because American Jews tend to be a lot more complacent than European Jews, and I want to trigger some thinking about the escape plan issue. I think it's unlikely that it will be needed, and vastly unlikely that most of my friends will be unable to formulate any better plans than asking me for help.
(Also, from where I can see now, I entirely discount any threat from the Arab world; there is a threat to Israel, but things would have to be really dire before I'd consider calling in the right of return. Military expansion into Europe looks ludicrously unlikely to me.)
Is it really possible that things could get that bad in the US? I would have thought that the most likely people to have to flee their country for their own safety if the election goes the wrong way would be Iranians.
Possible, yes. Likely, no. Could 1935 Germany have been predicted from 1929 Germany? Maybe, if you knew which signs to look out for, but it would have been pretty tough. Right now the US is 1929 Germany, I think: on the brink of financial collapse, with some very scary fringe elements gaining more power than they would have in a sane political system. If this election gets cancelled or obviously rigged, wham! we're in 1933 Germany. I don't think that will happen, but I'm not one hundred percent sure it won't, and I definitely am rather worried about a few more years of things getting steadily worse in a boiling frog kind of way.
As for Iranians, I take your point (and see my reply to shreena), but all the Iranians I know are people whose parents already realized that it wasn't worth their necks to stay in their homeland and have been in Europe for a generation or two already. Certainly there are places where there is obvious and overt political oppression, and my political choices favour giving the maximum support to people who manage to get out of those places. But I'm concerned about a society that thinks of itself as free and democratic and modern, yet is rotten beneath the surface. History tells me that an apparently free society can collapse surprisingly quickly. Of course not every bad government is heading for full-on state sponsored genocide, but I do think "it couldn't happen here" is a very dangerous point of view to hold.
Having family that came from Poland and both of my parents having been alive during at least part of World War II I am very keenly aware of such things. This, plus my sense of irony, is why my plan if things get too awful in the US is to flee to 21st century Germany.
There are scary signs, but I was much more scared in 2004 than I am now in 2008. I think we have a ~very~ good chance of having the election go okay. Will it be a fully fair election? No. I'm not sure the US has ever had a fully fair election, and I massively doubt it has in my lifetime. However, I think the vote is heavily enough weighted that that the degree of cheating won't affect the outcome. At least, I hope so.
We'll see how things go.
I do appreciate this post though. And my partner is a German citizen... fleeing would massively and horribly suck for us. But my family has a long history of leaving places - Spain for the Inquisition, Poland before the Holocaust (sadly, my grandfather's brothers and sisters did not leave, one survived and moved to Israel afterwards), Russia from pogroms. I don't want to have to leave, but I put a lot of value in getting the hell out of a bad place.
Yes, you completely know what I'm talking about. I agree with you, Germany looks like it has a strong society at the moment, and if you're thinking about protecting yourself you can't have a comic book mentality of Germany = evil, America = good. I have a lot of friends in America, even Jewish friends, who don't seem to think about the getting out of a bad country scenario. They believe the American mythos that it is the "goldene medineh", the embodiment of liberty and democracy. That's a very cool mythos to have, but you can't just assume that Americans will always have more freedom than anyone else in the world just because that was arguably the case in the eighteenth century.
I wouldn't mind some "interference" (let's say "oversight") from the United Nations. Already I have one friend whose name has been purged from the voter rolls due to "inactivity" despite the fact that she voted in the primary earlier this year. I, too, have my doubts about the likelihood of free and fair elections this year.
Your offer is generous. I hope no one needs to take you up on it.
I don't know how to begin trying to get UN oversight for American elections! It's certainly too late for this year, and I hope that the evil fringe isn't quite consolidated enough to make this coming election meaningless. What I expect is a lot of petty corruption, but not enough to change the actual outcome of the election when popular opinion is so firmly pro-democrat at this point.
It goes without saying that I hope I never have to activate my pledge! But for for someone with my background, it's a strong moral imperative to make that offer. I'm all too aware of people who ended up dead because rich, secure countries didn't want to deal with an influx of refugees.
What I expect is a lot of petty corruption, but not enough to change the actual outcome of the election when popular opinion is so firmly pro-democrat at this point.
I hope hope hope you're right. I have optimistic moments and I have very, very pessimistic moments.
I wish I had time to participate in this discussion more today, it's an interesting one, but I've got a doctor's appt to get to and I need to go read up on my local candidates so I can make informed choices, and get the trick-or-treat stuff ready for the kiddies.
A marriage proposal from the lovely Livredor is always a pleasant, albeit slightly surprising, thing but... seriously... what exactly are you worried about? Your post was a little vague. As a "legal alien" in the United States, I'd really like to hear your more specific political thoughts.
She was like this around election time four years ago, too. I think there may be a fair number of conspiracy theorists hiding on her friendslist who somehow manage to convince her that everything's really terrible.
While I'm very worried about the Democrats' proven ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and also about the Mormons' pro-8 fundraising abilities, I think that anything that goes wrong there will be due to stupidity, not actual illegality.
It's true I was like this four years ago, but dude, I wasn't wrong! The election was probably somewhat corrupt, and the political situation has definitely got worse in those four years.
If you asked me to make a prediction, I'd say that the Democrats are so far ahead that the bits of petty corruption going on won't be enough to change the outcome of the election. I try to ignore the most extreme conspiracy theorists, but there are definitely problems with voting machines, and voter registration, and I think there will be problems with polling stations being badly run so that people don't have time to vote and so on. But yes, stupidity is a worry as well; lots of Democrats are either complacent, or so obsessed with ideological purity that they will refuse to vote at all unless they actually agree with every one of Obama's policies.
In any case, I'm not completely sure that the Democrats will win the election, nor that they will actually fix things if they do. Most probably, it'll all be ok. I just wanted to make it clear that I am willing to help if the worst scenario happens, which I hope and expect it won't.
You won't need to marry me, you're a European citizen in your own right and you have a bona fide European husband and a European mother and at least as many contacts over here as I do!
My post was intentionally vague because I am not a political prophet, and indeed I think that the most likely thing that will happen next week is a landslide Democrat win, hopefully followed by fixing a lot of the things that have gone wrong in the US since 2001. I'm worried about the level of racism and xenophobia in political rhetoric at the moment. I'm worried about the erosion of constitutional protections. I'm worried about threats and even actual attacks against Muslims, gay people and political dissidents. I'm worried about the already shaky healthcare system getting even worse, so that my disabled friends literally can't go on living in America. I'm worried that the Democrats will quite enjoy having massive sweeping powers and won't actually fix things even if they do win the election.
At some level, I'm worried that election will be cancelled altogether, or will be obviously rigged, and at that point I think there's about a year's window to get out before things really go to hell. But I don't think that's at all likely, I'm just making this post because if God forbid the worst happens I want people to have that offer in their minds.
However, that said, I fail to understand why you think there will be election fraud. It's conceivable that America will be insanely stupid and fail to vote for Obama — but I don't think there will be a massive wave of disenfranchising, or that somehow Bush is going to refuse to leave the White House unless it goes to McCain, or something.
You can totally have dibs on marrying me if you like. It seems somehow appropriate. But I don't think it would really help you, because whether I marry for love or for political reasons you'll most likely want to pass up your right if offered. Still, I'll be sure to check with you before getting married.
I think there will be election fraud because there already has been election fraud and disenfranchising! Plus a whole load of things that are not technically illegal but are liable to influence the election in ways that I consider unfair. What I don't know is the scale of it; most probably, it will not be widespread enough to change the result of the election. I'm also a little scared that (chas vechalilah) there will be some kind of "terrorist" attack this weekend and the election won't happen at all, but that's paranoid, and I don't really expect that to happen.
I'm not sanguine about the UK situation either, or other parts of Europe. I think the big difference is that we still have some semblance of electoral accountability. We still have actual ballot papers which are counted manually. I just don't know about the US; if the election tomorrow bears some resemblance to the opinion polls, I will relax again. If it comes out with a completely implausible majority for the Republicans, or gets cancelled, or mired down in a hundred legal challenges which all just happen to come out in favour of the Republicans (the last is the most likely, I think, given past experience and sheer plausibility), then I will be seriously scared.