I was just thinking this morning about the impossible choices that are put before Americans all the time these days and how, often, to make the “right” choice ends the same as making the “wrong” one. The actuality of this post though is inspired by a commentary in The New Yorker by George Parker called The Fall of the American Worker
In the mid-nineties I, a woman in my mid-thirties with a slow-moving form of Muscular Dystrophy, met my sweet love in an online forum run by MDA. He has the same diagnosis as I do but his body’s interpretation of “slow moving” is somewhat different than mine. He is German, I am American. When we married, seventeen years ago, for reasons of his business and our health we chose to make our home in Germany.
I left my mid-western hometown with ten boxes containing mostly books, two suitcases containing not nearly enough sweaters and two-hundred pounds of dog who had to travel first to Dallas, to catch a flight on an airplane with cargo doors wide enough for his cage and the forklift he rode in on.
My family is small and we’re tight, we’re there for each other and still, after nearly twenty years, we struggle with our separation. All the technology in the world only allows the appearance of connectedness. From five-thousand miles away it is simply not possible to partake of each others every day life. To do that one must be present; present at family dinners, present at Christmas, Easter, Weihnachtsmarkt, Pferdemarkt, the fourth of July. Present for birthdays and measles, for new puppies and dying hamsters, missed buses, new jobs, for teeth coming in, teeth falling out, couples falling out and couples feeling their way back to each other again. Without physical presence and proximity, family life is but a dream, a fiction and a cherished memory.
Today I got the news that my first niece bought her first car. I haven’t seen it and there is nearly no chance that I’ll go with her for a little joyride while going for a little joyride is still filled with the beautiful, impossible innocence of new-adulthood.
This evening as the sun sets here on a simple summer day, America sits around the picnic table with burgers and beers; the kids are restless, fireworks are still hours and hours away and I am angry. No one should be forced to decide between the daily joys of family life that enrich us all and the solid long-term financial health of their tribe. For this, I feel betrayed by my country and my culture.