Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Few Good Reads about Identity Politics, Syria, Shari'a and Democracy

So much to do here in Montreal and just a few short days to get everything done before we head home. Yesterday the younger Frenchling and I attended an orientation seminar for international students over at the Université de Montréal.  That and a trip to the bank to open my daughter's very own "offshore" checking account filled the morning.  The afternoon was spent getting the health insurance straightened out and taking a quick jaunt to Costco to pick up a few necessities like sheets.  Today we will be moving the elder Frenchling out of her old apartment and then we are off to Ikea to buy a bed to go with the younger Frenchling's new linens.

But it is early yet and right now I am happily ensconced in my hotel room here in Montreal surrounded by piles of books and a full Kindle.  From time to time, I check my mail and peruse the blogs I follow regularly.  Here are three conversations from bloggers I greatly admire that you might want to check out:

Multicultural Meanderings by Andrew Griffith:  Lively debate in Quebec over issues of identity, multiculturalism and the secular society.  There is a proposal to forbid the wearing of religious attire and signs by public servants here.  This has sparked quite a discussion and Andrew has a great round up of articles about it. I personally found this one from Le Devoir to be right on the money.
"La Charte qui nous est proposée est une mauvaise réponse à un faux problème, qu’aucune urgence ne justifie - sinon les visées électorales du gouvernement - et qui ne fera qu’attiser inutilement les tensions entre Québécois."
Identity is such a complex subject and how sad to see it reduced to a tool for political shenanigans.  Eva Hoffman's words seem appropriate here, "It is only after I have taken in disparate bits of cultural matter, after I have accepted its seduction and snares, that I can make my way through the medium of language to distill my own meanings; and it is only coming from the ground up that I can hit the tenor of my own sensibility, hit home."

Arun with a View:  Arun has provided a link to a piece by a blogger in Beirut called An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists.  The frustration expressed in this post is something I have felt myself and empathize with.  Perhaps I will write a post about it later but for now here is Eva Hoffman once again:
Multivalence is no more than a condition of contemporary awareness, and no more than the contemporary world demands. The weight of the world used to be vertical: it used to come from the past, or from the hierarchy of heaven and earth and hell; now it's horizontal, made up of the endless multiplicity of events going on at once and pressing at each moment on our minds and our living rooms. Dislocation is the norm rather than the aberration in our time, but even in the unlikely event that we spend an entire lifetime in one place, the fabulous diverseness with which we live reminds us constantly that we are no longer the norm or the center, that there is no one geographic center pulling the world together and glowing with the allure of the real thing.
Looks like the Americans didn't get the memo.


Terra Nullius:  Rhodri has this brilliant post up Beware philosophers bearing simple answers – Sharia and democracy which he wrote in response to a BBC series by Roger Scruton.
Quite simply put, Scruton’s analysis treats the two categories of post-imperial states as antithetical, positing a nearly unbridgeable divide in historical experience and political culture and going on to issue a fatwa on the incompatibility of Shari’a with democracy. To me, this argument not only essentialises and oversimplifies the diverse experiences of entire regions but also misses the wonderful opportunity that the recognition of obvious commonalities would provide to draw historical lessons relevant both to the Middle East and the (less dramatically so but undoubtedly troubled) frontiers of Europe.
Bonne lecture!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Flophouse Citizenship and International Migration Reading List Updated

Greetings from Montréal , Québec! Time for another update of the Flophouse citizenship/migration reading list. Been doing a lot of reading on airplanes and in hotels rooms recently. Here are the ones that made the cut. New stuff is in green. I highly recommend all the titles below - read them and you will never look at citizenship or migration the same way again. All the underlined titles take you directly to the book on Amazon. I would really appreciate suggestions for other titles that might be of interest. I promise to read and add them to the list if I think they are good.

This is a very well-written, well-argued book.  The author is ambitious and confronts some of the most difficult topics around migration:  Why is International Migration Such a Contentious Issue?  Are Goods and Capital More Important than People?  Don't Always 'Blame' the North, and so on.

The Citizen and the Alien:  Dilemmas of Contemporary Membership (2006) by Linda Bosniak.
Refreshing take on the dilemmas of citizenship and democratic ideals.  Who is included/excluded and on what basis?  The problem of democracy and the legal permanent resident. Complex questions with no easy answers.

A Nation of Emigrants:  How Mexico Manages Its Migration by David Fitzgerald (2009)  The internal American battle over immigration from Latin America is a very public debate but it's only half the story.  Mexico, the U.S.'s southern neighbor and a major sending country, has made and is still making policy to manage its emigration and its emigrants.  This is an extraordinary book and there is much to be learned from Mexico's efforts and policies - even when they have failed.

The Sovereign Citizen:  Denaturalization and the Origins of the American Republic (2013) by Patrick Weil  Really superb book.  Excellent research into the un-making of American citizens in the 20th century.  

Citizenship and Those Who Leave:  The Politics of Emigration and Expatriation by Nancy L. Green and Francois Weil (2007)  I contend that you cannot talk about immigration without also discussing emigration.  A fine work - excellent chapters on how states (UK, Holland, U.S., France and others) have tried to manage emigration.

Citizenship and Immigration by Christian Joppke (2010) This one covers a wide variety of old and new ideas about citizenship.  A good place to begin for someone who is just delving into how immigration/emigration and citizenship are entwined. Joppke refutes the idea of the decline of citizenship - an argument worth reading..

International Migration and the Globalization of Domestic Politics edited by Rey Koslowski.  Some very good insights into how international migration and diaspora politics affect politics back in the home country.

Immigration and Citizenship in Japan by Erin Aeran Chung (2010) Excellent book about Japan as a country of immigration. "Japan is currently the only advanced industrial democracy with a fourth-generation immigrant problem." Chung tells the story of  how this came about and the impact this has had on modern Japanese citizenship law.

Rights and Duties of Dual Nationals:  Evolution and Prospects edited by David A. Martin and Kay Hailbronner (2003)  Fine set of articles on dual citizenship and such things as military service, extradition, political rights (Peter Spiro), denationalization and many others.  Pricey but worth every penny.

International Migration and Citizenship Today by Niklaus Steiner (2009).  A very fine book on the political, economic and cultural impact of immigration.  He frames the discussion around two essential questions:  What Criteria to Admit Migrants?  and What Criteria to Grant Citizenship?

Citizenship Today: Global Perspectives and Practices edited by T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Douglas Klusmeyer (2001).  This was one of the best books I read on the topic of citizenship with essays by Patrick Weil, Karen Knop and Richard T. Ford, among many others.   I particularly enjoyed Ford's contribution called "City-States and Citizenship" which was, for me, a real revelation.

States without Nations:  Citizenship for Mortals by Jacqueline Stevens (2009) A strong critique of birthright citizenship in all forms and a call for citizenship based on residency.  

The Perils of Belonging: Authochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Africa and Europe by Peter Geschier (2009).  Outstanding read.  States make citizens and states can also "unmake" them.  Nativism and the never-ending debate over who really "belongs."

The Politics of Citizenship in Europe by Marc Morje Howard (2009).  A really fine study of the citizenship policies of the oldest member-states of the EU.  Read this book to grasp how citizenship laws have changed over time and the reasons why.

The Future Governance of Citizenship by Dora Kostakopoulou ((2008).  Good overview of the current citizenship models and a proposal for an "anational" citizenship framework.

Beyond Citizenship:  American Identity After Globalization by Peter Spiro (2008).  Excellent book that examines how globalization has changed the value of citizenship overall and American citizenship in particular.  Very thoughtful.  Very well-written.

Qu'est-ce qu'un Français? by Patrick Weil (2002).  Mr. Weil spent over 8 years in the archives researching this book and it is fascinating.  France has been something of a test lab for just about every combination of jus soli and jus sanguinis citizenship possible.  Everything has been tried and tried again.  I read the book in French but it is also available in the usual places in English.

Gender and International Migration in Europe by Eleonore Kofman, Annie Phizacklea, Parvati Raghuram and Rosemary Sales (2000).  If you are looking for some empirical evidence (as I was) for how migration, immigration policy and citizenship rights have different outcomes and impacts for women, this is a good place to start.

The Birthright Lottery:  Citizenship and Global Inequality by Ayelet Shacher (2009) An attack on both jus soli and jus sanguinis methods of transmitting citizenship.  Fascinating argument.

Aliens in Medieval Law:  the Origins of Modern Citizenship by Keechang Kim ((2000).  I've been meaning to write a post about this book since it has a very original take on the historical roots of modern citizenship.  I recommend it highly. 

Human Rights or Citizenship? by Paulina Tambakaki (2010)  Interesting ideas about how traditional models of citizenship and  human rights legislation are in conflict.

International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain edited by Caglar Ozden and Maurice Schiff  for the World Bank (2006)  This book contains a number of very interesting essays about the economic impact of remittances and brain drain/gain.  The editors point out that the potential for economic benefit for all parties (individuals and sending and receiving countries)  is substantial but policy decisions need to be made carefully (we are talking about people after all).

Let Them In:  the Case for Open Borders by Jason L. Riley (2008)  The author makes a very radical argument for simply opening the doors and letting people move where they wish.

For info I have created a Citizenship and Migration book list on Goodread's Listopia here.  Good place to read reviews and find quotations from the above books.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Citizenship-based Taxation: Repression, Resistance, and Democratization


“Hence, taxation appears to be one arena in which the stakes are tangible, salient, and large enough that individuals know what their self-interest is and often express attitudes consistent with these objective stakes.”

Andrea Louise Campbell
“What Americans Think of Taxes”
The New Fiscal Sociology

I just finished a fascinating book of essays on taxation called The New Fiscal Sociology:  Taxation in Comparative and Historical Perspective edited by Isaac Martin et al.  

Fiscal sociology is a cross-disciplinary approach to what makes taxation tick. Economics is important but interestingly enough so are psychology, sociology, and history.   Taxation, the book’s editors point out, “raise a number of fascinating questions about political processes.”  Some examples:

People may strongly disagree with how their taxes are used and yet most pay anyway.  Why is that?  Force may work for a time but it is costly and inefficient.  Sometimes it is the economy of a particular place that drives what options that state has in terms of taxation.  How do these systems come about and what happens when conditions change?  Are tax systems “path dependent”?  Why in a globalized era have tax systems not converged and become more uniform across the globe?  And finally, what is the relationship between taxation and democracy above and beyond the simple (but often unrealized) premise of  “no taxation without representation”?

It is the last question that I find the most interesting.  

The American system of taxation based on citizenship (and not residency) has its roots in the Civil War though it did not take its present form until the 1970’s.  It is nearly unique in the world and, up until very recently, was not enforced.  This changed at the end of the first decade of the 21st century with a number of measures designed to make Americans and Green Card holders abroad “legible” to the US government.  FATCA is the most recent (and most controversial) of these measures.

Reading Charles Tilly’s essay “Extraction and Democracy” gave me another way to look at tax systems in general and citizenship-based taxation in particular.  It raised many questions for me about what could happen if the United States government does succeed in making CBT “work”. What follows here is a modest attempt to apply Tilly’s argument to the citizenship-based taxation controversy.

Tilly begins his essay by pointing out the obvious:  all states need resources to survive.  What is less obvious is how taxable resources vary according to the local economy and the limited means by which states can extract that revenue.  They can:
  • produce them in their own enterprises;
  • seize them and exchange them for state-sustaining resources (e.g. oil for weapons);
  • extract them from subject population that already hold and/or produce such resources."
Tilly points out that the first two have nothing to do with “citizen consent”.  There is little or no bargaining by the state because the state usually does not need its citizen/subjects approval to do these things.

But extracting resources directly from its citizens or subjects must involve negotiation and this is just as true of autocracies as it is of democracies.  The ideal is to achieve a kind of “quasi-voluntary” compliance where most people pay up without hissing like Colbert’s goose (or getting out the guns).

Tilly then describes a cycle of “Intervention-resistance-repression-bargaining” that ensues when states look to their population for financing (option c).

In the case of citizenship-based taxation (an extra-territorial expansion of the tax base) the “intervention” was the decision to tax Americans abroad in the 1970’s.  What followed was not so much “resistance” as a kind of implicit contract between the U.S. government and its citizens abroad to ignore the whole business. Compliance was (and still is) nearly non-existent.  Clearly, the system was almost impossible to enforce on a world-wide scale and thanks to exclusions and tax credits, it was unlikely that the U.S. would have derived much revenue in any case.   

The “repression” started in the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century, most likely in response to growing budget deficits, a deadly recession, and a need to finance two on-going wars.  

This repression has led to resistance and today there is a growing movement to fight back (the American Diaspora Tax War.)  In this dialogue of the deaf are we finally coming to a tipping-point where something must change?  Maybe and that brings us to the end of Tilly’s  cycle where the the last stage is “bargaining.”  Resistance is noted, negotiations begin, and deals are made.  

The core of Tilly’s argument is that this bargaining process can lead to greater democratization in the long run.  Governments respond to strong push back from the people they are trying to extract resources from and, in the end, bargaining ensues since it is more cost-effective than the harsh (and very expensive) policy of “the floggings will continue until morale improves.”

Assuming that the U.S. government will eventually have to bargain with its diaspora, that the majority of Americans abroad will not renounce, and that efforts to change to a residence-based taxation system will fail, I thought about Tilly’s democratization argument in the context of citizenship-based taxation and came up with a few possibilities for what this might mean for both the American diaspora and the U.S. government.  Just a few ideas for discussion and I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this.  What might we see if the American government succeeds in imposing CBT?

Recognition:  In a sense citizenship-based taxation is a perverse sort of diaspora recognition on the part of the United States. It is very disheartening to be valued for the contents of one’s wallet and little else.   Still, if Americans abroad become “quasi-voluntary” compliant taxpayers it is much harder for homelanders to deny the legitimacy of their “domestic abroad.”  It is not the most positive form of recognition (and other nation-states do a much better job) but it could be construed as a starting point.

More Political Participation from Abroad:  The resistance to citizenship-based taxation takes many forms, one of which is increased political participation on the part of Americans abroad.  This might mean joining one of the organizations representing our interests like AARO, ACA or FAWCO.  It might also mean more active voters from abroad.  In some states with large numbers of overseas voters this could potentially have an impact on the result of local elections.  Efforts to raise our visibility as voters may also change the landscape in our favor. Visiting my Congressional reps in Seattle I introduced myself as “one of X’s constituents from France”.  Others are doing this as well.  

Might this recognition of our status as taxpayers give us more moral authority when it comes to intervening in US politics?  

I know that paying U.S. taxes in addition to the French ones has changed my behaviour.  
I no longer feel any unease about voting for (or against) school levies, local judges, state-level senators and representatives, and local funding requests for infrastructure in the home country.  I am not directly taxed at the state, country or city level for the last since I do not live in Seattle, King County or the State of Washington, but having sent a check to the U.S. Treasury, do I not fund these things?


Services and Benefits:  If we manage to get the U.S. government to the bargaining table, and they are not willing to mitigate the tax system, then we would be entirely within our rights to demand services commensurate with (but not identical to) what homeland Americans receive.    These services could be delivered through the local US Embassies and consulates and could include: Medicare for those Americans abroad in countries without a national health plan, free English and civics classes for our children; more U.S. government support of institutions serving Americans abroad like cultural and research centers, librairies, international schools, and  overseas veteran’s associations.  

A Greater Role for "Local Government" - U.S. Embassies and Consulates:  Clearly services cannot be delivered to Americans abroad by the United States government in the United States.  Some existing services already are delivered locally:  U.S. consulates offer help with Social Security and some - like Paris and London - have a small local branch of the IRS.  

An expansion of these services, the creation of new ones, and sufficient authority to adapt to local conditions would have several beneficial effects.  Americans abroad would have an incentive to go to the U.S. consulate for reasons other than the renewal of a passport every ten years - they might even find it worthwhile to register with the embassy;  tax compliance would probably increase if filing help was readily available in English and the local language; and finally a local service provider (be it the IRS or Social Security or another department) that is close to home (the host country) would probably find it easier to earn the trust of the American population in that country.

These things could be a sign of democratization favoring Americans abroad but is that necessarily good for American democracy in the U.S.?  If even a few of these things came to pass then homeland Americans would have to wrestle with the following:
  •  Recognizing that there are 6-7 million Americans citizens who have chosen NOT to live in the U.S. but who are nonetheless full status citizens;
  • Acknowledging that formal US citizenship does not necessarily correlate with a discrete territory and an American identity.  (There are Americans abroad who have never lived in the U.S., have no intention of living there, do not speak English and know next to nothing about United States other than what they have gleaned from local media).
  • Living with “foreign” intervention by these citizens in U.S. domestic politics at the city, county, state, and federal level. 
  • Accepting that Americans abroad will not necessarily be subject to the laws they help to create but their views will be included nonetheless.  This diverse population has been shaped and changed by the countries in which they live and their point of view may be very different from that of the average homeland American, Left or Right.
  • Meeting the demands for services and benefits from this population locally (i.e. in the countries where they live).  

To be very clear nothing I said above should be considered an endorsement of citizenship-based taxation which is gutting the American community abroad.  But in the resistance to it do we see the seeds of a politically active overseas American community?  Is there opportunity in adversity?  Will we be able to bargain for a better deal?  How far will the homeland government go to reach the exalted state of “quasi-voluntary compliance.”

Perhaps the most important question would be: Is the American Homeland ready to embrace its diaspora and accept all the repercussions of extending the nation to include its Domestic Abroad?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tales from the Homeland: Mt. Angel

“On July 16, 1882, His Holiness Pope Leo XII had granted permission to ‘found a house of the regulars of the Order of St. Benedict of the Monastery of Engelberg in Switzerland, at the mission named Sts. Gervase and Protase, as well as permission to found in the same place a house of nuns of the same Order, who are free for the education of girls.’”

Alberta Dieker, OSB


Just a few miles down the road from the family farm here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a small Swiss-American community of around 3,000 souls called Mt. Angel.

Founded in the 19th century by Swiss-Germans, Mt. Angel in 2013 is a small but healthy community.  A quick walk around the town reveals that it has retained much of the national characteristics of the original settlers, not the least of which is the German language.  Many shop signs, for example, are still in English and German.

We’ve visited Mt. Angel three times since our arrival.  The first visit was a family tradition - dinner at a local restaurant called the Glockenspiel;  an eatery with great food, a casual dress code and a family-friendly atmosphere (never a problem seating 10 people for dinner).   Until I ate there for the first time many years ago I had never realized how good German food was;  it was here I learned to love spätzle.

Our second trip into town was to visit the Queen of Angels Monastery.  This Benedictine community was founded in the late 19th century by sisters from the Maria-Rickenbach Benedictine convent in Switzerland.  The story of how these European sisters came to the United States (the far far West) and built convents, schools and churches is brilliantly told in the book A Tree Rooted in Faith written by Alberta Dieker.  More than just a dry recital of the facts, Dieker explores the historical context and the motivations of these unlikely pioneers.
“The sisters who came from Switzerland to Oregon by way of Missouri were part of what historians today consider a mass migration of peoples from Europe to the Americas.  The Land of Opportunity beckoned all kinds of Europeans for many reasons.  The reasons that inspired a particular group of sisters to emigrate to the United States and to make a permanent settlement in Oregon are important to our story.”
It was certainly not about “making it rich.”  The first years of settlement were hard - some sisters even died of disease caused by overwork and exhaustion.  The convent was often in debt and had to ask for funds and personnel from the mother house.  During World War I, the German sisters who were not U.S. citizens were required to register and many worried about anti-German sentiment (and a fair amount of anti-Catholicism as well). 

For those of us who are following the culture wars over the veil in France, it is interesting to note that the state of Oregon had similar ideas 90 years ago but directed primarily against Catholics, not Muslims.  

In 1923 the state legislature (regional parliament) passed The Garb Bill which forbid public school teachers from wearing any clothing thought to be religious. "This bill was aimed squarely at five or six small local school districts in communities with a predominantly Catholic population."

Since many nuns taught in the Oregon public schools as salaried employees, they had a choice to make:  cast off their habits or leave the public school system.  Since the communities they taught in were Catholic, the locals urged the nuns to comply; but they refused and instead chose to focus their efforts and use their teaching skills in private Catholic institutions.  Another law passed in the 1920’s would have made it a requirement that all children in Oregon attend public schools.  This, of course, would have shut down all the Catholic and other private schools in that state.  However, the law was fiercely contested and declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme court in 1922.


A modest suggestion for those who support restrictions on religious apparel in public spaces (which for some reason seems to be mostly about what women are wearing - are we not old enough to dress ourselves?) or the rabid insistence on the exclusive use of the national language.  Things look very different when it is your culture or religion that is considered "foreign" and when your migrants and their descendants are being accused of a "refusal to assimilate."  I personally am delighted to see that German survives here and that the nuns can continue to wear their habits in public and that the Mennonites can wear their long skirts and cover their hair.  It makes for an interesting community.  And, believe me, it is no less a community as a result of these things.


Habit by Dior
http://monkallover.blogspot.com/2006_05_21_archive.html
For our third trip and last trip into town my mother and I got up at the crack of dawn this morning to go to Mass at the Mt. Angel parish church, St. Mary’s.  From the outside it is a rather sober structure made of brick.  The inside is another story.  The nave is airy and light and there are many statues - some to Mary and others of Benedictine nuns and monks.  As we reached the high point of the Mass (liturgy of the Eucharist) the sun began to shine through the stained glass windows on both sides of the altar.  Magnificent.



For an early early Sunday morning Mass the church was surprisingly full.  Many farm families with well-behaved children. The church parking lot was filled with huge trucks and many wore jeans and looked ready to get right back to work once services were over.  Perhaps it is my imagination but I had the thought that these parishioners would not have looked a bit out of place in a parish in Germany or Switzerland.  


As for us we came back to the farm and no sooner had we made coffee then it began to rain which put a halt to our various projects.  A good day to stay inside, make pies, read books and just be with family.

Bon dimanche, everyone.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tales from the Homeland: The Oregon Farm

The Flophouse is enjoying its temporary digs here in Marion County, Oregon.

This area was originally settled in the 19th century by migrants from New England.  Then came the Swiss-Germans and the Mennonites and after that, the Russians.  These diverse people brought their faiths with them and there is an abundance of small and large churches everywhere you look: Russian 'Old Believers', Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and Mennonites.

Due to very strict zoning laws the region continues to be almost exclusively agricultural and there are immaculate working farms everywhere that seem to be quite successful (lots of swimming pools and fancy cars).

Our farm today is about half the size of the original homestead.  Of the 40 acres (16 hectares) that are still in the family, the fields are rented to local farmers but the barn and the orchards are still managed and tended by our familyI've been told that the walnut harvest is something to see and typically yields about 300 lbs of delicious organic walnuts a year.  We also grow apples, crabapples, grapes, pears, plums and peaches.  The two wood lots are perfect for blackberries and we've been picking buckets of them for pies.  Delicious.

There is always something to do on a farm - even a small one.   Working on the farm is a family affair - everyone pitches in.  Here are some of the projects we are working on:

Orchard maintenance:  At this time of year it's mostly about keeping the grass under the trees mowed.

This is my father on the original 1939 Model N Ford tractor.

"An extremely simple, almost crude tractor, the 9N was fitted with the Ferguson system three-point hitch, a three-speed transmission, and featured footpegs instead of running boards."
Still runs after 70 years of service and it's still perfect for small farms.  My dad has no trouble whatsoever getting parts locally.


Cider:  My brother has taken up making cider.  What else to do with all those apples?  The younger Frenchling was drafted yesterday to do some picking and came back with tubs of fruit.

One area in the barn (the old feed room/chicken pen) has been turned over to my brother's operation and he's running out of room.

A new cider shed will be up soon so he can have a dedicated space.






Re-siding the Barn:  This barn is almost 100 years old and there is an on-going project to re-side it.

My French spouse is, of course, drafted for this one.

This kind of siding is called board and batten and is often used for barns. Large wood planks are nailed into place and then smaller strips of wood are used to cover the spaces between the large planks. 

This year the project has an unexpected twist:  a hornet nest under the roof which means that using the nail gun stirs up a swarm of really angry insects.  So far we haven't been able to find the nest and so the score is:

 Hornets: 2 (stings),  Frenchman: 0.




Weeding:  This is Oregon which means that you could plant a stick in a field and it would grow.

I have some limitations (aftermath of chemo and radiation) but I can still pull on a pair of gloves and get out there in the garden.  When I get tired I go inside and read until I feel well enough to get back out there.

So far the vegetable garden is done and I'm starting on the perennial beds.  These are the priorities on the farm:  Food first, beauty later.

Tomorrow morning we are off to St. Mary's for the 7:30 AM Sunday mass.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Accidental Americans versus Accidental Canadians

We are packing up and heading for Oregon this evening but I wanted to draw your attention to a brilliant article written by Lynne Swanson that was just published in The Hill Congress blog.

It's called Nothing Against the United States, Until Now and it takes the Ted Cruz story and turns it around.

Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, is an "Accidental Canadian" born in Canada to an American mother.   The revelation that he is a dual seems to have been quite a shock to him and he has promised to renounce.

Lynne points out that his situation would be very different if he had been an "Accidental American."

Ted Cruz's biggest issue right now is controlling the damage to his political career.  But Canadians who are claimed by the United States as U.S. citizens have much much more to worry about if they are "outed" as Cruz was.  Lynne explains it very well:
These "accidental Americans" only recently learned IRS expects them to file income tax returns each year. Most owe no U.S. tax because they pay taxes to Canada, where they have lived their entire lives. Yet accounting and legal costs are prohibitive due to the complexity of the U.S. tax code, especially for non-resident aliens.
In addition to annual IRS returns, these Canadians are expected file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR), outlining all "foreign" bank and credit union accounts, insurance policies, mutual funds, retirement savings and other assets and investments they have in Canada. If they don’t, they could face draconian penalties of up to 50 percent for each account or $100,000, whichever is greater.

Now, Canada doesn't do this her citizens living abroad but let's think about what would happen to Cruz if she decided to emulate her southern neighbor and passed the same sort of laws?

Just imagine Senator Cruz being forced to file 5 years of back Canadian tax returns, pay all the penalties for "failure to file" and then being subject to a hefty mark-to-market exit tax just so he can renounce his Canadian citizenship?

Americans would consider this to be absurd and rail against the temerity and overreach of the Canadian government.  And they would be right. In fact I can't imagine any American defending Canada's right to do this to a U.S. citizen.

Now do you see, my dear compatriots, why America's FATCA, citizenship-based taxation, and exit taxes are so damn wrong?



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ted Cruz: Birthright Citizenship is Not Voluntary

There are many misconceptions about how citizenship works but one of the most pernicious is that citizenship is always voluntary.

 The most parsimonious definition of the term is "membership in a political community."  Since most of us live in democracies these days we like to think of citizenship as an association that we choose freely whether we stay in our country of citizenship all our lives or move outside its borders temporarily or permanently.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Birthright citizenship is ascriptive.  This means that human beings are basically sorted into nation-states based on criteria that they have no control over:  place of birth (jus soli) or bloodline (jus sanguinis).  This sorting occurs at birth and the status of citizen follows that person for a lifetime unless he or she takes on another citizenship and formally renounces.

Different nation states have different rules for how they define their citizenry - transmission by jus soli, for example, may be limited in one country and completely open in another - but the essential fact we all should grasp is that it is the state that does the sorting, not the individual.
This distinguishes the state from most other forms of human association, including the family, which is founded upon a voluntary act - marriage.  It also flies in the face of the modern state's own constitutive ideology of contract and consent, articulated in the political philosophy from Hobbes to Rousseau.  (Christian Joppke in Citizenship and Immigration).
It is a prerogative that states guard jealously.  If a French, Mexican, Chinese citizen moves to the U.S. and decides to become a U.S. citizen and does so by swearing the Oath of Allegiance:
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

We should all understand that this "renunciation" is not at all valid from the perspective of the sending country.  France, China and Mexico will continue to see this person as legally "one of us" and the new American citizen will still have formal citizenship status in that state until he goes through some sort of renunciation/relinquishment process.

The U.S. government itself does exactly the same thing.  An American who takes on British citizenship and swears an oath to the Crown does not lose American citizenship automatically - he or she will only lose US citizenship by informing the US government that he took on British citizenship with the intent to relinquish US citizenship.  If he does nothing then he is a dual and is claimed by both.

Furthermore since so many nation-states today have mixed citizenship transmission regimes (jus soli AND jus sanguinis) the original state may claim the children (and sometimes even the grand-children) of the emigrant even if they do not live in the home country of their parents, may not speak the language, and have no other ties to the original state other than blood.

This state of affairs has been exacerbated greatly by international migration and there are some serious consequences to this clash between state citizenship law and globalization.

The first is obvious - the dramatic increase of dual nationality.  In fact, we are entering an era where it is probably more accurate to say "plural nationality" since it is becoming more and more common to see children with 3 or more passports.

Another is that citizenship as status no longer correlates precisely with citizenship as identity.  Just because someone has a U.S. passport does not mean that he feels American or has any real ties to that country.  For him it may simply be a travel document that is required if he wishes to visit the United States - be aware that it is US law that all US citizens must enter the US with a US passport even if the person does not consider himself to be an American.  That, I think, shows very clearly that citizenship as status is not up to the individual but is decided by the state in question.

In fact, formal citizenship status in a second state may come as a complete surprise to the person concerned.  A second-generation immigrant may be completely unaware that he is, in fact, a dual national.   In countries with large numbers of immigrants like the U.S., Canada, France and Australia, a person born to immigrant parents or grand-parents may be completely oblivious to the fact that he is (or could be) a formal citizen of one or more other countries.

For countries of immigration this is a serious issue that they prefer (for now) to ignore.  As citizens of another state it is much easier for the children or grandchildren of immigrants to reverse migrate back to the original home country.  In the case of the EU, the possibility of obtaining a passport that opens the doors to 27+ states is very very attractive.

Sometimes the revelation that a person is in fact an involuntary dual citizen is an unwelcome bit of news.  Since citizenship as status and citizenship as identity are seen as the same thing in many places, this status can lead to suspicion when it is revealed.  This is especially true when it concerns a public figure - a politician, a government official, an intellectual, a leader of industry or a much-admired entrepreneur.  Telling my French family that Anne Sinclair was an American evoked some very strong emotions.

Something very similar has happened recently in the American political area.  The Texas senator Ted Cruz was recently "outed" as a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S.  From the Dallas News:
"Born in Canada to an American mother, Ted Cruz became an instant U.S. citizen. But under Canadian law, he also became a citizen of that country the moment he was born.
Unless the Texas Republican senator formally renounces that citizenship, he will remain a citizen of both countries, legal experts say."
Does this mean that Senator Cruz is one of those "anchor babies" that politicians love to rail against?  Was his American mother a "birth tourist"?  Inquiring minds want to know.

What is clear is that his status as a dual will have an impact on his political career in the U.S.  And that is a bit unfair.  Ted Cruz didn't choose to be Canadian - he is an "accidental Canadian".  In fact, he has made it very clear that he considers himself to be an American.  Well, that's fine but his assertion of identity does nothing to change his citizenship status because it's not up to him.  He has birthright citizenship from two countries - birth, not choice, made him a dual citizen and that is not any of his doing.  And now he must go through the formal process to renounce if he wishes to shed that birthright.  That's just the way it works.

Personally, I find that there is something fundamentally wrong in the way birthright citizenship  "works" in the 21st century.  It's terrible for democracy since it makes "membership in a political community" an inherited status and leads to an aristocracy - something that should have no place in a democratic nation-state.  In other cases it leads to the conferring of citizenship against the will of the person concerned - where is the explicit consent here?  And it has real consequences (some of them very negative) for people caught entirely against their will in a state's net.  

Allison Christian's recent post, Here is the Only Reason Ted Cruz's Citizenship is Interesting, eloquently explains how  involuntary citizenship transmission methods coupled with the obligations demanded by modern states of citizenship have terrible consequences for more and more people in today's globalized world.

My firmly held belief is  that the conferring of citizenship at birth is one traditional prerogative of the nation-state that should be wrested out of their hands and buried deep.  
"But, it is plain, governments themselves understand it otherwise; they claim no power over the son, because of that they had over the father; nor look on children as being their subjects, by their fathers being so. If a subject of England have a child, by an English woman in France, whose subject is he? Not the king of England's; for he must have leave to be admitted to the privileges of it: nor the king of France's; for how then has his father a liberty to bring him away, and breed him as he pleases? and who ever was judged as a traytor or deserter, if he left, or warred against a country, for being barely born in it of parents that were aliens there? It is plain then, by the practice of governments themselves, as well as by the law of right reason, that a child is born a subject of no country or government." (Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government.)"
I believe that what Locke wrote in 1690 is just as pertinent in 2013.  Jus sanguinis and jus soli, if conferred without consent, are incompatible with democracy - it is the "consent of the governed" that is the root of legitimate political authority in today's world, is it not?  These citizenship transmission practices --however convenient  and useful (dare I say lucrative?) they are for the state-  should be ended.  

This would mean:  no more aristocracies made up of birthright citizens;   no more tyranny of birthright citizens over the naturalized and immigrants;  and no citizenship without consent.  Ever.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Recent Articles about FATCA and Renunciations of U.S. Citizenship

Following the news that a record number of American citizens recently renounced their U.S. citizenship (over 1000 in one three month period) some reporters are smelling a story behind those figures and are finally digging deeper into the underlying causes.

That wasn't just good luck on our part, mes amis.  Part of it came from hard work on the part of organizations like AARO, ACA, FAWCO and the Isaac Brock Society,  and people like Marvin van Horn, Peter Dunn, Lynne Swanson, James Jatras and Allison Christians (to name just a few).

But another part (the most important in my view) was the decision of so many Americans abroad from all over the world to publicly share their stories and be interviewed; to leave thoughtful and intelligent comments to the on-line articles; and to respond to the questions (and sometimes the insults) of the homelanders.

It's been a collective effort to educate American lawmakers, the international media and our dear compatriots in the homeland.  You should know, folks, that your comments were noted and read by reporters and that was one of the reasons that we are seeing so many new articles now that are more balanced and give our side of the story.  The mosquitoes are swarming and isn't that something to see?

Here are just a few of the articles that have appeared this past week - some good reads that you can peruse over your Sunday morning coffee.  Please feel free to add any I may have missed.

Exposed: IRS Is Colluding With Banks To Unfairly Target U.S. Citizens Abroad by Catherine Featherston on Occupy.com

Why are so many American expats giving up citizenship? It’s a taxing issue by  Patrick Cain, Anna Mehler Paperny and Leslie Young in Global News (Canada)

(You can join the discussion about these two articles on Isaac Brock and the Maple Sandbox.)

Américains, ils renoncent à leur citoyenneté pour échapper à la loi FATCA in L'Expansion.

Sharp Rise in Americans Giving Up Citizenship by Marcus Wraight on PRI's (Public Radio International) The World.

Overseas Americans: Time to Say 'Bye' to Uncle Sam? Chased by the U.S. Government, Thousands Are Severing Ties With America. Here's What You Need to Know by Laura Saunders and Liam Pleven in the Wall Street Journal.

FATCA and the American Expat:  Taxation without Representation by Robert Held in the Washington Examiner.

There is also an excellent blog post up on Tax Controversy (hat tip to Marvin who passed along the link from Jack Townsend's site) called  Tax Consequences Resulting From Renouncing U. S. Citizenship by Lacey E. Strachan.

And here is an interview from Fox News about US entrepreneurs renouncing:



And finally I recommend that you go back and read (or re-read) Colleen Graffy's excellent article (published before the renunciation numbers came out)  How to Lose Friends, Citizens and Influence in the Wall Street Journal.

Bonne lecture!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tales from the Homeland: Seattle Tattoos

It's been a very busy week here at the Seattle digs of the Franco-American Flophouse.

Before leaving France I resolved to "get inked" on our vacation.  No sooner had we landed than I went looking for a tattoo parlor - something that is almost as ubiquitous as coffee shops here in Seattle.

This was not my first tattoo.  For a picture of what sits on my upper back close to my shoulder check out this post from 2011.  As I left Two Birds Tattoo that summer, Tara warned me that tattoos were addicting and she was sure this was just the beginning.  She was right.

Some people are shocked to discover that a nice 40-something lady like me has tattoos.  I understand.  When I was a teenager (around 16 or so) the only person I knew with a tattoo was my boyfriend who was in the army and posted at Fort Lewis.

Fast forward to 2013 and take a stroll through neighborhoods like Fremont, Capital Hill, Wallingford and you'll see people of all ages (and of either sex) with some gorgeous body art.  And not just tattoos but piercings and hair in every conceivable shade.

Why?  I dare not speculate too much but it might have something to do with Seattle being a pretty laid back place.  The Elder Frenchling dyed her hair green recently and not one eyebrow lifted when she walked into work.

When some people think of tattoos, they think military or bikers or perhaps someone with a little prison time - a tattoo being something men do when they get drunk or on a dare or just before they ship out.  Phooey.  Why should the guys have all the fun (and all that sweet pain)?  Yep, we women have decided to crash the party.

I was stone cold sober for my first tattoo and my second.  I thought a lot about design (it is permanent after all)  before I made my decision.  Sylvia Plath once wrote, "wear your heart on your skin in this life."  And what do I love to do?  Garden.  So my first tattoo was bluebells and my second -  done by Ashley at Super Genius Tattoo this afternoon - looks like this:



Really beautiful work.  The flowers are exquisite, the shading on the leaves and the colors are stunning.  Ashley is a gifted artist and I cannot recommend her highly enough.  The shop is up on Capitol Hill on Pike Street.

Is a tattoo for you?  Maybe, maybe not.

But consider this:  It would give those of you traveling to my fair city something to do that's far more interesting than going up the Space Needle.

Bon weekend, everyone.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Your Ideas for a Flophouse American Diaspora Reading List

Since I posted  A Few Good Books about the American Diaspora on Tuesday,  the "few" have become the "many."  Feeling a bit foolish here - I had no idea.

What to do with such bounty?  Well, I'd say we should start a list.  I'll start searching in all the usual places and I would deeply appreciate you (yes, you) sending in the titles you've read or heard about.

I think together we can come up with something useful and we can learn something about each other at the same time.  (Americans in Brazil meet Americans in Germany...)

We'll divide it into two categories:  General books about Americans Abroad (and books about diasporas that mention us) and Country-specific ones (Americans in Brazil, for example).

Here are the ones that readers added in the comments section of my last post:

The Unknown Ambassadors:  A Saga of Citizenship by Phyllis Michaux (thank you to DAvS).

The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris by David McCullough (thank you to Janet).

I will get copies ASAP so I can review them.  I should mention that I am also reading right now:

American Exbrat in Sao Paulo by Maggie Foxhole (very good read so far)

And I found this one via Goodreads search:

Nightmare Abroad: Stories of Americans Imprisoned in Foreign Lands by Peter Laufer.

Here is the book description from Goodreads:

"You're a law-abiding citizen, so you won't be arrested on your overseas vacation. You're a U.S. citizen, so even if you are arrested, your government will come to your aid. Peter Laufer explodes these common misconceptions in his eye-opening study of how Americans end up imprisoned abroad, why our government helps so little, and how to avoid disaster in foreign travel."

Oh my, I think this one will be rather unpleasant but it's probably stuff we should all know.

Have a lovely day everyone.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finally A Few Good Books about the American Diaspora

There is precious little research into the 6 million U.S. citizens and their progeny living outside of the United States of America.  Americans abroad are not part of the US census so they are not counted as part of the U.S. population.  We have no direct representation in American politics and are often overlooked by American lawmakers even though many of us do vote.  Few people in the homeland know who we are and what we are up to (and let's be honest some of us like it that way).

What I have learned in my twenty years abroad is that we are delightfully diverse.  Americans abroad reflect the homeland population - they come in all colors and creeds and work in a variety of occupations.  In my time I've had the honor of meeting:  retired military, professors, English teachers, writers, musicians, journalists, psychologists, laborers, small business owners, and IT professionals in Europe, Asia and North America.  I can only guess at what I would find in Australia or South America but I bet  you would find the same mix there too.

Back in 2011 I started asking myself if American abroad constituted a diaspora or not and I wrote this post An American Diaspora?  Two years later I am even more convinced that there is one that has been quietly sleeping abroad outside of the consciousness of the American homeland.

Today that diaspora is waking up and organizing because of the challenges we are facing today with FATCA and citizenship-based taxation (and not just those things - there is a long list of issues we care about and we are learning to be vigilant when it comes to the homeland government and its wacky ideas).

I don't think it is a coincidence that we are now becoming the object of some serious research.  Two books are coming out at the end of this year that I plan on reading as soon as they hit the shelves (or are available for download).

Migrants or Expatriates?: Americans in Europe (Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship) by Dr. Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels.  Many of us participated on her on-line survey and some of her findings have already been published.   According to Amazon this book will be out on January 24, 2014.

The Citizenship of Americans Living Abroad: Democracy and Those Who Leave by Dr. Katya Long.
I have no other information about this one but it looks fascinating and I am eager to get a copy when it comes out on January 15, 2014.

Americans Abroad, How Can We Count Them?  I found this one purely by chance and I've a copy to be delivered to my mother's house here in Seattle.  This book which came out in 2010 to little fanfare is a discussion about how to count Americans abroad by the U.S. Congress House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Sub-committee on the Census.  I am hoping for insight into why exactly the U.S. government makes no attempt to count (or contact) its "Domestic Abroad."

And finally this is a good place to mention once again a study that was published back in 1992.  The authors spoke with Americans in Australia and Israel and did a comparative analysis.  They asked and got answers to questions like:  Why did they leave?  Did they intend to stay when they arrived?  Did they plan on coming back to the U.S. ?   

Bonne lecture!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Where Do You Come From?

I found this wonderful Ted video through Ken's site, ExpatAmericans.net.  

I used to hate the question, "Where are you from?" because there was no short simple answer.  Like Pico Iyer no one answer was satisfactory.  There was the place I was born (Seattle, USA), the places I sojourned (Tokyo, Japan), the places I worked (USA, China, Korea, Germany, Canada, UK), the places I pay taxes (France and the US), and finally the place I have lived in for nearly 20 years (France).

The problem wasn't the question - the problem was me.  I couldn't decide what I was and what place I could legitimately claim as "home."  I was born in Seattle but hadn't lived there for 20 years.  Did that mean I was no longer a Seattleite?  But Seattle is where I vote and have family (and let's not forget that I pay taxes to the US).

For most of those 20 years I've lived in France but I'm not a citizen and I wasn't born in the Hexagon.  So could I claim France as "home"?  I own a house in Versailles, I have family in at least three French regions, I worked for mostly French companies, I pay French taxes, I go to a French church and I spend most of my days speaking French.  About the only thing I can't do there is vote.

My error was in thinking that "home" can only be one place or that there can only be one definitive answer to the question, "Where are you from?"  On the contrary, it is entirely legitimate to answer "France and the United States."

Because I am "home" in Seattle and I am "home" in Versailles and the two are not (and never will be) mutually exclusive.

Enjoy the video.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tales from the Homeland: The Smiths and the Amans

Earlier this year I wrote a bit about our family history in a post called The Flophouse French Canadian Connection.  Taking advantage of my vacation here in Seattle, I've been going through my mother's archives which are far my extensive than my own - adding to my knowledge about the Amans and learning something about my great-grandfather's family, the Smiths.  Turns out there is a French connection there, too.

On the living room wall of my mother's house in Seattle is an old 19th century painting of a farm.  It came down to my mother from her mother (my grandmother) Rachel Heath.  The painting, which was probably done by an itinerant artist, was brought to Seattle from Wisconsin by my great-great aunt Georgeanne Amans.

This was the farm on the Red Cedar River in Barron County Wisconsin homesteaded by my ancestor Charles Amans (my great-great-great-grandfather) after he came down from Quebec in about 1870.


The picture was passed down to his son Charles and his wife Delia Rainville who also farmed in the area and came to my mother through one of their daughters, my mother's great-aunt Georgeanne. According to one source I found, this farm (her grand-father's homestead) was where she was born in 1880 through it appears that Charles and Delia left around 1896 to start their own farm and Georgeanne's siblings were born at that farm (S 1/2, SE 1/4, Section 5, Stanfold (Doyle) Township, Barron, Wisconsin).

 A letter from a family member in my mother's archives describes how they lived in that French Canadian settlement in Wisconsin in the late 19th century.

"In those days the economic conditions were also so different.  There were no railroads and no market for anything you raised on a farm.  They [Charles and Delia] raised a few sheep for wool to spin into yarn, a couple of cows for milk, and hay and grain for the horses.  For money the men worked in the woods in the winter for the lumber barons.  The womenfolks stayed home with all the kids."

What happened to the farm in the picture?  According to this 20th century news clipping the farm (or part of it) was sold in 1896 to Helen Kellogg for 2,063.86 USD.
It later became the Adolph Buregi farm  and one of the log cabins, the original home of the Amans family, served as chicken coop until it was burned down.

Charles Aman's son Charles-Francois was also born in Quebec and came to the US with his family when he was 9 years old.  He married Delia Renville (another French-Canadian immigrant) in 1879 and they had 11 children. He died in 1930 and is buried in Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery in Dobie, WI.  His obituary says that he was survived by his wife and the following children:  "Georgianna of Ashland, Mrs. Sarah Mireau of Rice Lake, George of Angus, Nap of Birchwood, Mrs. Ross Smith of Naches, Wash., Henry of West Allis, Arthur and John of the state of Washington, and  Clifford, at home. "

The Mrs. Ross Smith mentioned in the obituary was my great-grandmother Celeste (or Celestine) Amans who was born in 1897 at her parent's farm near Rice Lake.

Now I had always believed that my great-grandmother had been scooped up and married by some n'er- do-well boy from the East who then dragged her off to Naches in the state of Washington, far far away from her family, her religion and her original language.  It turns out that this is a gross misconception on my part and yet another lesson about making judgements without investigation.

My great-grandfather Ross B. "Pete" Smith was a local Rice Lake resident.  He was born in 1901 in  Minnesota but his parents, Jay Frank Smith and and Cora Everna Brossard, were born and married in Minnesota.  Around 1907 they moved to Rice Lake where Pete's siblings were born.

Jay Frank Smith was the son of Ozias P. Smith (born in New York in 1830) and Eugenia Brossard (born in 1837 in Richland, Massachusetts).  Eugenia (my great-great-great grandmother) was the daughter of Augustus Brossard from Switzerland and Agatha Bensonson from France.  I had no idea that there were any Swiss in my family tree.  I suspect they were French Protestants and that would certainly explain my great-grandfather Pete's hostility to the Roman Catholic Church.

And yet in 1924 Ross B. "Pete" Smith married Celeste Amans in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Rice Lake.  Here is the original copy of their marriage certificate:


It looks like they left Wisconsin right after getting married on January 17, 1924 since their daughter, my grandmother Rachel, was born 9 months later in Naches, Washington on October 30 of the same year.

What pushed or pulled them to move out to this very rural region of Washington state?  The answer is  because there was work to be had in Naches:
Naches is as far west as the railroad extends, and has been the jump off point for several large water control projects. All of the materials for the Bumping Lake Dam (completed in 1910), and the larger Rimrock Dam and Reservoir project (completed in 1925), were taken off the train at Naches and hauled by teams and wagons approximately thirty-five miles west to the building sites. The original historic depot still stands in Naches (SW comer of Naches Avenue and Railroad Street), and serves as a Visitor Center and Community meeting place. In addition, a Federal Building was constructed in Naches to oversee the Reclamation projects. The Federal Building, now known as the Starkey Building, still stands at 609 2nd Street. Both the railroad and dam projects encouraged population growth in the area.
Furthermore Pete and Celeste weren't alone.  Two of Celeste's brothers, John and Arthur, had already come out to Washington state though no one in the family knows what happened to them.  But when Celeste and Pete moved out West, at least two of Pete's brothers, Ray and Percy came with them and they all settled in the same area around Naches.  We know that they worked as laborers (sometimes as lumberjacks or in construction) and they farmed.  In fact my great-grandparent's were still farming when I was born in 1965 though they retired soon after (and thank goodness for Social Security which allowed them to rest after over 40 years of hard labor).

This picture which was probably taken in the late 1930's or early 1940's shows the Smith family (and one Amans) at the time.  From left to right are:  Percy Smith, Ross B. "Pete" Smith (my great-grandfather), Rachel Smith (my grandmother wearing a scarf), Celeste Smith (my great-grandmother and, wow, was she a good looking lady), Viviane (Ray Smith's wife from the Potawatomi tribe in Wisconsin), Jay Smith's second wife (Cora died in 1929), the patriarch Jay Smith himself (they must have been visiting from Wisconsin ) and Ray Smith.  As for the little girl holding my great-grandmother's hand - no one knows who she was but we know that she wasn't one of Pete and Celeste's children.  They did have two more after Rachel was born but they both (a boy and a girl) died very young.


I knew both my grand-parents quite well and have many memories of them.  I was born in Seattle in 1965.  Celeste passed away in 1977 when I was 12 and Pete followed her a few years later in 1980.

When I was a child we would pick a place in the mountains to camp and the family would gather there:  my grand-parents from Seattle, my mom and dad from Olympia and my great-grandparents from Naches.  The men would drink, play poker and pinochle and go hunting or fishing.  The women would cook, chat, watch the kids, and go on long hikes.  Those memories remind me of the line in the letter I quoted from my mother's archives describing life in the late 19th century, "The womenfolks stayed home with all the kids."    Believe me, in my youth in the 1970's, not all that much had changed.

I'll end this post with this picture taken sometime in the mid-1970's.  Here is Grandma Celeste making her delicious pancakes.  To her right is my grandfather (her son-in-law Arthur Heath).  On the other side of the table is:  my father Thomas Reslock, my great-grandfather Pete Smith and my grandmother Rachel Heath.


These are the things I still miss about the U.S.  Not the places - the houses I lived in, the malls I shopped in, the schools I went to or the jobs I reluctantly showed up for - but the people.  Alas, there's no going back to find them as they were or that once familiar world which has changed so much.

"Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”
Flannery O'Connor