US expatriates urged to embrace political involvement

Published:  20 Mar at 6 PM
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In this unique and hopefully brief period of American political history, US expats living and working overseas could be forgiven for thinking their democratic rights are valueless as no-one wants to know about their fears and feelings.

Moving overseas for work or retirement is no reason to simply abstain from exercising your rights and giving your opinions about today’s unfamiliar state of the nation. However powerless US expatriates may be feeling, this is definitely not the time to close your eyes and shut your ears to what’s happening in the home country. Living abroad gives a sense of distance, but it doesn’t mean you don’t care and can’t make your feelings known.

The first step towards doing rather than just thinking you can't do anything is to decide what your priorities are. There’s a choice between taking small actions on a number of issues or concentrating all your efforts on one major issue. You may not be aware that, contrary to general opinion, expats have more political power than people living in the USA who don’t have voting rights and are therefore at a far greater risk of being disadvantaged by the consequences of political change. Your vote is powerful, but only if you use it.

Another fallacy is that America’s congressmen couldn’t care less about phone calls, especially from those who’ve chosen to get out of Dodge. They do care, because they are part of a representative democracy and it’s their job to care. They’ll take your calls because, if they don’t pay attention, they’ll be voted out in the next primaries. Calling is the best way to make your feelings known, simply because everyone hates the phone nowadays. Sending an email or signing an online petition is easy, and it’s equally easy for politicians to forget both, but repeated phone calls become intimidating – a very good thing nowadays.

One of the most powerful aspects of being a politically-involved expat is that, when huge protests break out across the world, international media coverage roars into action and doesn’t allow protestors’ feelings be ignored. Sometimes it’s difficult to convince yourself that you’re actually making a difference, but you’re speaking out about actions you’re certain are not democratic or beneficial to your country and the world can hear you, thanks to the internet revolution.

Finally, all Americans overseas are still a living, breathing part of a great democratic experiment which should not and cannot be allowed to fail. Write, call, march, organise, vote, donate, boycott and create, and never forget what you’re fighting for.
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