The time has finally come for me to say goodbye to old Blighty and return to America.  So many of my European friends ask me if it feels good to be going home.  I’m not sure, in more ways than one I am not going home.  I wonder if it is ever possible to go back.

For almost five years home has been a small, but ancient city known as York.  Pronounced as “Yoarwk” by the locals, the train announcers, and people like me who are tired of people assuming I live somewhere a little newer.  Today my bags are packed and I have left on a jet plane.  When I land I will be heading to my new home in Philly, a city I have thus far spent about 24 hours in, and have never lived closer than three time zones away.
I feel strange and nervous.  My world view for the last five years has changed in ways that will take me some time to understand and come to terms with.  I have adapted British spellings to ensure that my thesis is consistent.  My accent and word choice are properly mid-Atlantic.  It slips without me meaning it too and gets worse when I drink.  I have become comfortable with British humour and comfortably uncomfortable with the British outlook on life.  I eat Marmite and drink Real Ale, I wax philosophical when choosing a pub or confronted with British opening hours.  I have even had to come to terms with the weather, yesterday I complained that it was too warm and muggy, that we were due for a storm and that it wasn’t even bad enough to properly complain about.
America also has changed in the years I have been gone.  My country has endured thing it should never had had to endure and it has done things which it will never be able to justify doing.  In some ways I feel as much of a stranger when I visit the US and I do when I land in the UK.

As I am writing this on the journey to Philly, much of my thoughts on returning are angst and not actually what will happen.  Rather than share too much of my fear of not being a foreigner, I’ll continue this installment with short summary of the last five years of America from an ex-patriots perspective.

In November 2000, I was already facing jokes about American’s and having to answer all sorts of questions about the electoral college.  I got used to reading American news because I was expected to be able to explain them to the curious Brits.  My initial opinion after the election, was to hope that he would govern like he said he would comfortable in the belief that he was unpopular and would be weak.

On September 12th I was supposed to catch a plane from San Francisco back to Heathrow, needless to say I was a bit delayed.  By the time I got there, the reflexive support offered by the citizens of other countries was starting to fad and I had to listen to comments about how we should have expected it, that we deserved it, or that proportionately it wasn’t that many people.  I am one of the ten percent or so of American’s whose response on September 11th included “Oh shit, Bush is president.”

When I visited America in 2002, I thought I had got off the plane in China or Utah.  I couldn’t understand the mindless patriotism that lead to silence, the were flags plastered all over places they hadn’t ever been before (actually Utah was much better than that when I visited).  I have been spared much of the propaganda that saturates America.  I thought Fox news was some sort of joke when I first heard people talking about it, you know “Who is the lead anchor, Bart or Homer?”  The country was still shell shocked well into at least 2003, it was clear that they were being manipulated and it was working.

On March 19, 2003 I was on a flight to Athens for what was to by my first of many trips to Greece.  The war was inevitable, it was clear to this member of the American public within a week of the day thousands Americans died and Bush gained his “democratic” mandate.  I landed hours before America’s first admitted pre-emptive attack on a sovereign state.  The protests in Athens and around Greece were impressive, and for the first time in my life I was a bit afraid and ashamed to be an American.  Greek protests often contain at least the threat of violence.  Nothing happened to me, but if I was a flag waver I probably would have been lynched.

All over Europe the protests were immense, even more so in the member stated of the Coalition of the Willing, Threatened and Bribed.  In Britain very few people supported the war.  I only knew a few people who did, most of them had recanted on that by about the time Bush declared “mission accomplished”.  Tony Blair’s famous 45 minutes to strike within British soil is now a mockery (speaking of mockery Tony’s reelection is the greatest mockery of democracy on the scale of Ohio and Florida).  Spain’s protests were particularly impressive, 90% of Espania opposed the war, I somehow doubt that as unpopular has ever been launched.

The 2004 election season was painful to watch by any measure, even worse to be as I was abroad and wasn’t a part of it.  I couldn’t quite understand it, and I couldn’t really effect it.  I became actively political on-line I needed the Kos to discuss American politics with actual Americans, and eventually used it help work on Project Shame on You (I was the middle man for that one).  I had been watching American careening out of control with horror and hoped that we could put someone even remotely responsible at the wheel.  In the end we failed, in my opinion America failed.

On that day, we caused irreparable harm to ourselves which I believe will be haunting us for years to come.  There are many reasons why I am returning to the US, but one of them is to fight to repair my country and minimise the damage.  I intend to fight for our freedom and our future in 2006 and beyond.

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