Earlier this month, Curtis decided to shine some light on Americans abroad by putting together his own Expat Survey. If you are an American living outside the U.S., please participate. The survey is completely anonymous and I vouch personally for Curtis' honor here - he is not asking for names or any identifying information and he will not use the data for anything other than this survey. If you live in the U.S. homeland or you live elsewhere and know Americans living abroad, please pass along the link and and ask them to participate.
This is important. Unlike other countries, the U.S. government does not even attempt to learn anything about its citizens abroad. There is zip, zero, nada. Everyone should think hard about the implications of that - it means that whenever Congress writes a law that impacts us, they do so in an information void. Just about anything that comes out of their mouths is simply a projection of their own opinions and emotions. That's not only stupid, it's almost criminally irresponsible. For an example of a country that does a much better job, have a look at the French government's Enquête sur l'expatriation 2013. This is the kind of information upon which responsible policy can be based and I am personally infuriated that the U.S. government can't seem to get it together to do something similar.
Ain't rocket science, guys.
Fortunately there are two books coming out that should help. I am eagerly awaiting the publication of:
Migrants or Expatriates?: Americans in Europe (Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship) by Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels (publication date: Jan 31, 2014) and
The Citizenship of Americans Living Abroad: Democracy and Those Who Leave
by Katya C Long (publication date: December 1, 2014)
Curtis is now publishing the preliminary results of his survey and they are fascinating reading. Four parts and four posts so far.
Part 1 Expat Results: Personal
The last should be required reading for all homelanders, especially U.S. politicians. Remember that American expats are looking at the U.S. from the outside. What we think is what we tell our foreign spouses, friends, our fellow church members, and colleagues. It is how we talk about our country to our dual citizen children. Who do you think is of greater influence to a Frenchman or a Chinese: the U.S. President or the American spouse, mother, father, fellow worker, comrade, confidant or friend?
I honestly think that a few years ago most Americans abroad were very much Goodwill Ambassadors in their host countries. Even when we didn't entirely agree with homeland politics, we felt (or at least I did) that we had a responsibility to build bridges and try to present our country's case. When I think of all the times I did this precisely because I felt I had a role to play that was much bigger than just little old me, American IT worker and mother of two Frenchlings, I feel like a fool.
Forget FATCA reciprocity, there is another kind based on mutual respect and trust that should be the foundation of the relationship between the United States and its diaspora. In the words of James Baldwin: “Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal.”