Thursday, October 25, 2018

Last chance on a stairway

We've been living in New Zealand over a year now. A year and about four months, in fact, and at long last we're starting to feel settled. I've got my New Zealand residency (whew!). We sold our house in Colorado and survived the stressful NZ auction process to buy one in Lake Hawea. My husband has a job at a cool new NZ company focused on practical uses of geospatial remote sensing data. Our nine year old has made new friends and discovered a passion for trampolining.

Enjoying the new Casa Schafer
The view from my computer desk. I'm looking forward to finally making progress again on new novel The Dreaming Sea and also my Shattered Sigil novellas/stories now that all the real estate drama is over. 
We're not quite done replanting our lives yet, even after all this time. Our household goods, which were in storage for so long in Colorado, are currently on a container ship taking a slow tour of the southern Pacific. It'll be another month or more before our boxes arrive at our door and I am finally reunited with my beloved book collection. (Oh happy day!) Plus we're still figuring out how to handle our suddenly far more complicated tax situation. Taxes, I've learned, are the bane of ex-pat living. So long as we remain U.S. citizens, we have to file tax returns in both the US and NZ, and the tax treaty between the two countries doesn't prevent all forms of double taxation. Remote work such as I am doing throws in a whole host of additional complications.

But I don't mind one bit that I still pay U.S. taxes, because it means I still get to vote in U.S. elections. We may live far away, but I could never, will never turn my back on what's happening in the country of my birth. I've watched in dismay and sadness and sometimes fury as those in power make one terrible choice after another. Forcibly separating children from parents seeking asylum, despite the lasting psychological damage caused to those children, without any system in place to allow reunification. Repealing environmental regulations on air and water quality, because who cares if cancer rates skyrocket so long as companies make bigger profits?

Oh, the list goes on and on. Fawning over dictators while insulting and antagonizing our staunchest allies. Ballooning the deficit while wages remain stagnant. Gutting health care options while people are dying because they can't afford vital medicines like insulin. Ignoring the desperate pleas of climate scientists trying to warn the world of oncoming disaster. And all of this, ALL of it, simply out of greed. The love of money, as the Bible says, is the root of all evil. As was pointed out in a cogent Atlantic article, Trump's many scandals all come down to one: corruption.

Maybe you think all politicians are corrupt. If you are okay with corruption and constant lying, if you're willing to turn a blind eye to the disastrous consequences of current policies in the name of "owning the libs"...well. I don't know how to explain to you that you should care about other people. But if you're apathetic because you can't imagine that things could ever change, so why even bother trying...please listen.

Living in New Zealand, I've experienced a taste of the kind of happier future that America could have. One where nobody has to worry about affording life-saving drugs, or fear that serious illness will bankrupt their family. Seriously, it's amazing to see what a difference that makes. Nobody's afraid to start their own business or work part time or switch jobs; people seem so much less stressed and happier in their work because of it. Nor is there the constant fear of litigation, because nobody has to worry about being sued to pay massive medical bills in the case of an accident. (Even tourists are covered here for accidental injuries, thanks to NZ's ACC scheme.)

It's not just the universal health care that makes life in NZ feel brighter. Here, politicians from opposing parties work together to combat climate change. Leaders emphasize compassion and integrity in government, rather than depending on cruelty and crudity. In 2017, NZ police fired their guns just 10 times while responding to 3.5 million incidents throughout the country.

America could have this kind of future. We don't have to succumb to fear and hatred and greed. But if you want that brighter future, you have to get off your ass and vote. We have to stop the current slide into ruin before it's possible to take a better path. 

The midterm elections are in a scant few days. Maybe it's not America's absolute last chance--as Alex Steffen said on Twitter in a thread about climate change, "At no point on this trajectory will it be too late to work to make things better." But the longer people wait, the harder the climb back toward the light will become, and the smaller the chances of success.

The recent NYT article "How to Make America America again" sums up my feelings:

"One day I hope the truth will be enough again. One day I hope great journalism will be enough again. But today only a lever of power — the House or the Senate — will make it so. Facts, science and truth — without power — are just leaves floating through the air in the age of Trump, scattering aimlessly without impact.

So, this year: No third party, no Green Party, no throwing up our hands and saying, “They’re all bad.” All of that’s for another day. For today, in these midterm elections, vote for a Democrat, canvass for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, drive someone else to a voting station to vote for a Democrat. It’s the only hope to make America America again."

Let me be clear: I am not and have never been a registered Democrat. I have plenty of issues with the party. But like the author of the NYT article, I believe that right now they are America's best and possibly only hope. So, please. If you're a U.S. citizen who feels anything like I do, vote. I already have. All I can do now is hope that Nov 6th will bring a glimpse of light.

Storm clearing to let in the day's last light