By Mark Drolette
Passing rice fields and orchards on my way out of Sacramento, I flashed back to five years prior when my then-wife and I were traveling that same stretch of I-5, right around the time Bush attacked Iraq. Our impossible-to-miss bumper sticker, its big, black letters set against a screaming yellow background, proclaimed: "NO WAR ON IRAQ."
We were stared at. We were flipped off. Some yahoo leaning out his window spat at us something unintelligible but assuredly inane. (You know, sorta like what you’d hear at a Bush press conference.)
It was a lonely feeling opposing the war then. One almost had to whisper to ascertain if others likewise reviled the surefire fiasco-in-the-making since, the week of the invasion, eighty percent of Americans were drooling over "shock-and-awe."
So now, as I head north again, this time to start my new life in Costa Rica (yes, I know Central America’s the other direction: I’m visiting family near Seattle first; sheesh!), two-thirds of Americans say they’re against the war.
But as a famous reptile once said: So? Our opinions matter not. Admittedly, ruling class trivialization of the desires of the great unwashed is nothing new. However, whereas Marie Antoinette took an entire four words to sum up her contempt for her benighted subjects, Dick Cheney named that ‘tude in but one.
Give the creature his due: His monosyllabic dismissal of what the American citizenry (now) thinks of his and his imperialism-loving buddies’ stinking war succinctly expresses the neocon mindset. Like any in-charge bunch, they’re wholly impressed with themselves: they’re the ones with the smarts, they’re the ones with the balls, they’re the forward thinkers before whom we rabble should gratefully prostrate ourselves for being saved from silly ideas like, say, giving peace a chance.
It’s almost too much for me to bear. Sorry: it is too much for me to bear. Thus, my decision in May 2005 to flee and now -- finally -- after a methodical three-year process, I bid good riddance to living under a fascistic government as surreally soulless as it is innately insane.
Friends say, "You must be excited!"
Not really. Tired is more like it. It’s been a lot of grinding. I assume excited comes later.
Really, though, what I mainly am is sad. Sad I felt compelled to leave my native country after it became painfully clear my opinion (read: "vote") made zero impact on the whole rotten shebang.
What renders me most melancholy, however, arises from the most personal: While I am powerless over what Bushco does, it is entirely my choice to leave those dearest to me. Being the fine stunted adult I am, I find accepting sole responsibility for causing pain (especially mine) rather distasteful.
I am willingly leaving many friends, most of whom I may never see again.
I am deliberately leaving my hometown, a lovely place I like very much.
I am intentionally leaving my girlfriend, a woman with whom I’ve shared a relationship so unexpectedly delicious, I’ve been careful not to ruin it by proposing. (I’ve had three marriages. And three divorces. Conclusion: It was time for Plan B.) She plans to visit me but -- will we drift apart? Living 3,000 miles from one another can have that effect.
An excruciating parting blow came on March 11, when I had to say farewell to my beloved golden retriever, Doctor, forever. He’d fended off skin tumors for years, but they’d finally gone inside and done their hideous work. Now my beautiful boy is going with me to Costa Rica -- in a box. Already, I’m planning a summer return to Sacramento to take his surviving older sister, Carolina, who continues living with my ex, for more walkies.
Some things I can’t say goodbye to for good just yet.
"It’s brave what you’re doing," friends also say.
That’s kind, but I don’t feel brave. What I do feel is wildly lucky to be able to leave a country whose actions disgust me, weirdly fortunate my aforementioned then-wife opened the door to all this when she declared our moribund marriage officially dead. Weeks later, we sold our house at market’s peak. My half of the ridiculously high proceeds allowed me to buy property in Costa Rica, where I obtained legal residency with ease and had a house built not with ease (a long story, but it’s in the book; actually, it is the book).
I also don’t feel courageous because, rather than retiring outright as I’d originally planned, I instead took a one-year leave of absence from work, providing a) me with more options (including retiring anyway in twelve months) and b) America with enough time for its next appointed president, after the end of the current quadrennial dogma-and-phony show, to heroically rescue the Constitution from being totally annihilated by the country’s democracy-hating corporate masters. (It’s possible "b is a tad overly optimistic.)
So, brave? Hardly. I caught some breaks, made a decision and carried it through.
Costa Rica has its problems, for sure. But what it doesn’t have is a military, nor has it had for almost six decades. The effect on Costa Ricans of long foregoing an army to free up funds for other things, like health care and education, is palpable.
Critics assert Costa Rica might wish to prioritize other items, like, say, infrastructure upkeep. Potholes, some capable of swallowing cars whole, are ubiquitous and could arguably be the national symbol.
I see it differently. A government unable or unwilling to make even basic repairs is also less likely to be concerned with tracking my every move, one reason I feel noticeably freer in Costa Rica than I do in the States. I relish being allowed to just be, a sense of liberty I’ve not experienced in America for far too long.
For me, then, I can’t not go.
But that still doesn’t make it easy.
Copyright © 2008 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.