After a woman in Staten Island found herself the subject of death threats for wearing a hat declaring “America was never great” and a young man in Illinois was arrested for burning a U.S. flag, the most common refrain coming from the mouths of their detractors is, “If you hate America so much, then why don’t you just leave?!” This seemingly rhetorical question (or is it a demand) is one that is very familiar to anyone who has ever been critical of any aspect of the United States, be it the systemic racism that is an inherent part of the country’s institutions or its aggressive imperialistic foreign policy. This blogger is certainly no stranger to being told to pack his bags and leave as soon as possible for not being sufficiently appreciative of American “freedom” and “democracy.” (To be precise, I was instructed on my About section’s comments by one “tea party patriot” to “go join ISIS and see how long you last til they turn on YOU & behead you.”) And it’s because I and so many others like me who are living within the heart of the beast are so frequently told we ought to get out that I feel it necessary for once to seriously engage those who insist we emigrate simply because we are not beholden to the ideology of U.S. nationalism. This is my first and final rebuttal to this notion. Take it or leave it.
- First of all, if you’re implying someone should leave the country for being unpatriotic or insufficiently patriotic, are you willing to pick up the expenses necessary for emigration to the country of that person’s choice? Are you willing to pay the travel costs and the room expenses associated with this? After all, not everyone is economically fortunate or stable enough to be able to relocate somewhere within the United States, let alone across the world.
- There is literally nowhere on the planet earth that is free from U.S. interference and influence. The few countries that do seek an independent course draw the ire of Washington D.C. and are therefore subjected to arm-twisting, coercion and intimidation before they are ultimately sanctioned, invaded, occupied or targeted for regime change. In other words, just because one leaves the territory designated the United States doesn’t mean they are guaranteed safety from U.S. tyranny.
- Not everyone who’s critical of the United States recognizes the legitimacy of its government in the first place. Some see the U.S. as simply the current occupier of about 1/5 of the entire American continent, a land mass that existed long before the current regime was established or imagined by the “founding fathers” of myth. Therefore the U.S. doesn’t have some sort of naturally ordained right to demand respect for its legitimacy.
- This leads me to another point. It is never under any circumstances appropriate for these words – “Why don’t you just leave” – to be directed towards an Indigenous person, who had their country stolen from them, or a person of African descent whose ancestors had their very bodies stolen from their homeland in order to build a homeland for someone else. No one has put more work into building the modern-day U.S. than them, and for their back-breaking labor they and their kin have received not a penny’s worth of compensation. The empire that was built by them at the force of a gun and the lash of a whip is more theirs than it is anyone who insists they have no right to criticize it.
- And finally to the person who implored me to go to Iraq and “join ISIS you ungrateful & twisted idiot”, don’t tell me to go live somewhere the U.S. has actively worked for the past 30 years to make a living hell!
Responding to the much-deserved criticism of the racism, capitalism and imperialism that are intrinsic elements of the United States with, “If you don’t like it, leave” is nothing more than a method of shutting down conversation and deflecting from critical thinking. When one resorts to such tactics, they’re tacitly admitting that they are unable to invalidate what you’ve said.