Shortly after we moved to Canada, a long-time reader told me that I seemed less angry, more calm, almost serene. We never spoke or met in person, this was based only on wmtc. His observation amazed me. I did feel a huge sense of relief in being here - both from leaving the US and from finally achieving our goal - but I didn't think it was so obvious.
For the last few days, I've been going back over wmtc from the very beginning, to label every post with categories. (I've stopped because I'm not sure the labels will import to WordPress. Much time wasted.) It's been very eye-opening, seeing how this blog has changed over time.
If you've been blogging a long time, and you write regularly, your blog has probably undergone changes that you're not even completely aware of. Your writing reflects your mood, what you're going through at the time, your comfort level in writing for an audience. Every time you sit down to blog, you're a slightly different person than you were the day before, and your writing is going to reflect that. The changes are probably imperceptible on a daily basis, but the patterns show up over time. That's been the case for me.
As I went back over every post, the first thing that struck me was that this blog used to be much more political. I blogged constantly about the war, about labour, health care, poverty - with a consistency and a fervor that I rarely bring to this blog anymore.
There are two reasons for that. For a long time I was very reluctant to write a "what I'm doing" kind of blog, although I knew once we moved I would want to. And more importantly, while we were still in the US, I was positively seething with anger and frustration - not just at what was going on in the country, but that I was party to it. That I was involuntarily supporting it. That it was being done in my name. I just couldn't stand it.
Once we left, I felt such a huge sense of relief and peace. All those terrible things are still going on, of course, but now I see it from a slight distance. I feel removed from it. The burning urgency is gone.
I suppose this is what certain people meant when they said we are "giving up" or "running away". After a lifetime of activism, watching the country get worse and worse, fighting to keep it from moving further backwards, but always seeing it regress further still, I could stand it no longer. My activism in the US helped keep me sane, and I had to believe it could make a difference or I couldn't have done any of it. But the more I saw it make no difference, the more our actions seemed merely symbolic and to make ourselves feel better - two important reasons, but neither producing change - the more frustrated I got. Eventually it reached a boiling point. And I did what we were accused of doing. We gave up. We ran away.
We were entitled to, of course. And you know I am so grateful that I had the opportunity, more grateful than I can ever express. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to do this.
For the most part, I think people who left comments on wmtc criticizing me for "giving up" were full of shit. All the progressive Americans who stay in the US aren't doing so because they're more dedicated and committed than I was. They're staying because it's right for their lives, or because they have no choice, or because they are afraid of doing otherwise. They're making a personal choice, just as we did, and that choice allows them to look more-activist-than-thou compared to me.
I also still believe there's such a thing as "voting with our feet". Withdrawing ourselves from the system can be seen as the ultimate protest - especially when you're leaving the (supposedly) GNOTFOTE.
And I still believe what a very early move-to-Canada blogger told me early on: "I don't feel like I am running away. I feel like I am running... home. Giving up? Nah, no more than I "gave up" on personal relationships in the past that weren't right for the long term. At a certain point, you've got to stop beating that dead horse."
I still believe all these things. But now I can also see that I did give up. And I feel so much better for it. Is it a coincidence that my blood pressure decreased to normal for the first time in 10 years?
* * * *
Our lifestyle has changed a lot since emigrating to Canada, mostly because of our change from urban to suburban living. I knew that I wouldn't get involved in any activism or volunteer work for a while, that I needed time to focus on my own life, to let all the newness settle down. I knew that when the time was right to get involved, I would know it, as I always have, because I'd feel compelled in that direction. That time is coming.
Actually, it's here already, but moving (again) and adopting our new pup has pushed it off a bit. But soon I'll be able to fulfill part of my response to the critics from our side: people who work for social justice will do that, no matter they live.