Not to be overly dramatic, but a civil war has begun in America. Everyone knows it to be true, but no one knows what comes next.
The conflict of visions between freethinkers and the socialists who believe government should hammer humanity into model citizens has reached what divorce lawyers call “irreconcilable differences.”
Evidence of the hostilities is abundant. Starting with the daily exchange of conflicting, angry “news” stories pandering only to viewers on one side of the great divide. These stories offer no conciliatory or constructive narratives, just animus, angst, and cold anger.
As with the first US Civil War, wide schisms have formed that now separate families and friends. Schisms that will take years to heal, and maybe never.
The odds of this turning into an armed conflict, other than sporadic violent incidents, may seem remote. Yet the vast majority of people living in Sarajevo didn’t see that civil war coming either.
Violent or not, the turmoil is just beginning, with the progressives and their allies in the media determined to end the Trump administration by any means possible.
Lined up against them are the forces aligned with Trump, staunchly determined to hold the hard-won political ground.
There can be no compromise, because Trump is the antithesis of everything his opponents believe in their heart of hearts to be sacrosanct in the Brave New World they have worked so long to create.
It matters not a whit that history, science, and culture are replete with lessons proving that the socialist agenda leads to ruin—a ruin that is being hurried along today by sticky globs of political correctness and multiculturalism that supersede the rights of individual expression.
But my intention this week is not to delve into the current state of US politics. Besides suffering from blistering overexposure, the topic holds less and less interest to me, living as we do in the pacific climes of the Argentine outback.
In fact, here in Cafayate I can go the entire day without hearing Trump’s name, let alone his latest purported outrage against humanity. The decision to check in on the US “news” is, therefore, an entirely voluntary form of self-flagellation.
I wish I could care more, but the fact is that half of the country has its head buried so far up its nether regions, it can only stumble from one excruciatingly inane idea to the next, common sense be damned. You can decide which half.
Yet the US is a democracy, which means that for me to hope for a certain political outcome is to wish a pox on the house of about half of my fellow citizens.
Given the country is so solidly divided, with zero chance of reconciliation, the democracy is effectively broken. Which takes us back to the point that we are in the equivalent of a civil war and no one can really know what comes next.
In The Fourth Turning, Neil Howe and William Strauss’s excellent thesis on the generational waves that sweep through history, the “fourth turning” is a period of crisis like the Civil War or the Great Depression or World War II that fundamentally rips apart the status quo.
The thing about these “turnings” is that you can’t anticipate them. For example, having lived through the “second turning” in this cycle, the 1960s, I can tell you that no one, but no one, anticipated the anti-government riots, the Black Panthers, the rise of recreational drugs, the drastic changes in societal attitudes about sex, fashion, etc.
The key theme of the earth-shaking “Consciousness Revolution” of the 1960s was a desire to be free from societal norms. A revolution I personally supported.
By contrast, the source of the conflict today—a conflict that could very well signal the beginning of a disastrous fourth turning—has to do with two different interpretations of the role of the state. That sets about half of the population against whichever government holds the reins of power.
Given the irreconcilable differences, it can’t end well.
The Uncivil War...
Some years ago, my family and I voted with our feet, a decision we haven’t regretted for a moment. My father, a restless soul, always claimed to be a citizen of the world. As I aged, I came to share that opinion because, in reality, the corner of the earth we are born in is little more than the result of a cosmic crapshoot.
Of course, those of you dear readers imbued with nationalistic fervor will feel differently.
But imagine, if you will, being a resident of Sarajevo and seeing signs pointing to the outbreak of hostilities. Would you and your family really have been better off staying cemented in place out of some notion of national pride?
Or wouldn’t it have been better to get the hell out of Dodge, before Dodge turned into hell?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the now fading ideas that made America so exceptionally successful. And I think it is highly unlikely that the current unrest in American society will devolve into a bitter, armed conflict of the sort that engulfed Sarajevo.
However, as a person who firmly believes in the principle of live and let live, and who appreciates harmony and peaceful coexistence, living in the US today with all its acrimony and hostility would be like consenting to live in a bad dream. Why would I do that when I could simply pack up, as we did, and move to a more agreeable location?
Which finally brings me to the question of what someone living in the United States, circa now, can do to live a life free of the daily stress of walking the razor’s edge of the political divide.
What You Can Do About It
When you get right down to it, there are only four realistic options for dealing with the situation in the US at the moment. Or, for that matter, any country with a politically or culturally divided society, of which there are now many.
1. Keep Your Head Down and Your Opinions to Yourself.
If you intend to stay put, consider simply checking out of the political debate. At this point, no one is going to change their mind based on a rational discussion of the facts. So why bother?
Sure, you can be secretly happy when your side gets a leg over on the opposition, but like bedtime gymnastics, that happiness is best left behind closed doors.
For people like me, who suffer from a genetic disposition toward a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome, holding my tongue while someone mindlessly spouts off socialist drivel isn’t really an option. But maybe you can pull it off.
2. Don’t Give a Damn.
I have a number of friends who have reached the point where they simply don’t care what the other side thinks. If someone starts a political argument, they’ll firmly tell them they are wrong and suggest various ways they might enjoy sex with themselves, or perhaps with the farm animal they rode in on, and walk away.
They don’t get invited much to the family gatherings, but in many cases, that’s not such a bad thing.
Unfortunately, in many parts of the US these days, publicly displaying an affinity for the ideas espoused by Trump will expose you to social ostracism and even physical attacks. If you are okay with that risk, carry on.
3. Give a Damn.
Go on the offensive and join the political apparatus with a steely determination to beat the opposition into submission. Raise funds for your favorite candidate, write letters to members of Congress, organize your friends to knock on doors come election time, go undercover to try and get dirt on the opposition that you can later use to chase them to ground, or even run for elected office yourself.
Who knows, maybe your side will ultimately reduce the opposition to the point where they are politically powerless to stop the agenda you support.
In the case of Trump, the only way his political regime will take hold for any duration is if he is able to pass his full economic agenda and it actually has time to work. Sadly, the odds of that happening are not good.
But if you feel strongly enough about the situation, and have the time and inclination to get involved in politics, then why not go all in? At least that way, if things go badly, you can take comfort by telling yourself you did everything you could... as you are being ushered into the nearest reeducation camp.
4. Vote with Your Feet.
Per my earlier comments, that was the choice we made. As my then-girlfriend and now-wife and I traveled the world for three full years actively looking for our version of paradise on earth, I can provide a few tips that may help you locate your personal Shangri-La.
A. Move in Stages.
Some expats I know approached their exodus by selling everything and hitting the road. The first time I expatriated, that’s what I did.
Sometimes this works out, but often times it doesn’t. That’s because without actually experiencing day-to-day life in a new culture for a reasonable period of time, it’s very hard to know whether it will suit you for a longer stay.
That’s why I always recommend people put their primary residence in mothballs, or rent it out to generate some useful income, then rent in the new locale for three months or so.
That gives you the time to groove into the local culture (or not), meet other expats, and question them on the pros and cons.
Then, if everything passes the test, make the jump.
B. Start by Deciding What Your Vision of Paradise Looks Like.
The reality is that every place has its drawbacks. For instance, if the place is green, it means it rains a lot.
Start with a wish list prioritized from “non-negotiable” to “nice to have, but not essential.” Our list of non-negotiables included:
- Nice weather. It speaks volumes that over the past seven years here in Northwest Argentina, we have had to cancel exactly one game of golf due to inclement weather. One of the expats living here commented that he thought Cafayate might have the best weather in the world, and I’d have a hard time arguing with him.
- Nice people, low or no crime. During our three-year world tour looking for paradise, we spent time in Central America but couldn’t help but noticing that every single house had walls topped with razor wire or broken bottles. Here, that is very rare. Mind you, in other places in the country like Greater Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Cordoba, that’s not the case. But those are big cities far, far away and so not my concern. The locals here couldn’t be more friendly and welcoming. I believe it is because we are off the beaten path and the place isn’t overrun with tourists. And what tourists there are tend to be of the sort that the locals welcome because they tip well.
- An unintrusive government. At least here in the Argentine outback, members of officialdom are largely of the night-watchman sort. Of course, after years of corruption dressed up as socialism, there is a hefty bureaucracy, but you can minimize your interaction with it by hiring competent local representation. I sincerely think that my various interactions with the government here in Argentina amount to no more than an hour a year, and I am involved in three different businesses
- No Mold. I am quite allergic to mold, which eliminates wet, humid areas, beach communities, etc.… so probably half of the world, if not more.
- Low Taxes. Provided you manage your affairs intelligently, the taxes are very reasonable. And far less than the brutal toll taken by the US government.
That pretty much covers the non-negotiables. In terms of “nice to have, but not essential,” the list is much longer, so I won’t go into it, except to mention that here in Cafayate we very much enjoy the wine, the horses, the food, the low cost of household help, and, in particular, the lively culture.
The Argentines as a whole possess a great attitude. They love to sing, laugh, and otherwise live life to its fullest. In all sincerity, if asked how the place might be improved, I’d have a hard time coming up with an answer. I have even learned to appreciate standing in the lines that occasionally slow one’s forward progress. It’s an opportunity to practice patience, meet people, and take in your surroundings.
C. Do Your Homework.
Be sure to fully understand the tax regime, the sorts of banking services available, visa requirements, what it will take to buy a house or car, etc. Fortunately, in the Internet age, much of this research can be done from a distance, though in the end putting your boots on the ground is always essential.
While the idea of cutting loose from your cultural roots may seem complicated or make you feel a bit uneasy, in my experience, making the move can radically reenergize your life.
But in order for you to make it a positive, life-changing event, you must accept the new culture you are moving to. If you arrive expecting it to be much the same as the one you left, or try to retool it to suit your needs, you’ll set the stage for disappointment.
On the big positive side, within a day or two of arriving, you’ll be happily surprised to find that you are free of the unending stream of acrimonious “news” that is such a prominent feature of life back in the US.
That leaves you time to focus on more important matters, like what to have for lunch, who to play golf with, or, in my case at this particular moment, where to ride my horse this afternoon.
I am sorry things have eroded to the point they have in the United States. It’s a damn shame, and ultimately may become a damn shame I’ll have to deal with.
For now, however, I’ll thank my lucky stars that my path brought me to this beautiful life among the vines far from the maddened crowd.