My wound is geography

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“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage and port of call.”


So begins one of my favorite books – “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy.

There are many ways in which I can relate to the novel on a biographical level. The first time I read the book: the words “My wound is geography” had little meaning. They have now defined what is left of my life.

I was born in the United States during a different time and during a different era. I left the U.S. before I became a teenager and never returned. Although I was very young I did spend a few years in the public schools. I remember starting the day with the National Anthem. I remember being taught a certain version of history. That version of history depicted the United States of America as a land of opportunity, as a land of freedom and of justice. The American Revolution was necessary and heroic. The British were evil. The Colonists were oppressed but good people. Were it not for people like Paul Revere, we would have been slaves to the British and North America would have been a concentration camp. I learned that the Russians and Chinese were evil. I learned that the Europeans were primitive. To give you an approximate indication of my age, I remember the day that Kennedy was shot. I also remember my classmates crying. (I thought the tears were a bit much.) But, I did understand that Kennedy represented a period of idealism in America that ended with his death and probably never returned. Of course nobody could measure up to President Kennedy (including President Kennedy). After Kennedy died, President Johnson continued the escalation into Viet Nam. I lived in the U.S. during this period. Interestingly it was NOT until I left the United States that it was clear to me that the U.S. really was at war. (But I was young. What did I know?)

I learned that the United States was the center of  the universe, the greatest country in the world, the most modern country in the world (did Canada have electricity?), the greatest and perhaps the only true democracy in the world. It was true then and it is true now that U.S. “Homelanders” have very little capacity for objective analysis and that U.S. Patriotism depends on that lack of capacity.

Sometimes you have to leave a place to really understand it. For me, this occurred  years later while standing in the War Museum in Beijing, China. Like most countries/people  of the world, the Chinese hate the United States. (Message to Homelanders: “Hatred” for the U.S. is NOT based on any kind of resentment of U.S. success. It is based on resentment of the U.S. involving itself in the affairs of others and infringing the sovereignty of other nations.) But what China and the United States have in common is the tremendous ability to mobilize their residents into a force of “blind patriotism”.

As a good “homelander” I believed all of this. I worked hard, studied hard (well not really but I managed to get good grades), was upwardly mobile in Scouts and played many sports. My life revolved around swimming, basketball and baseball. I was ambitious. I had a paper route. I was the “All American” person.

We all go through “rites of passage” in life. My first “rite of passage” was when I moved from the United States.

It was not my choice to be born in the U.S. It was also not my choice to leave the U.S. at a young age (who wants to move, much less move from the “greatest country in the history of the world”). Basically, I had no choice. I was thrown into a moving van and that was that. I was part of what I would call the third group to leave the United States for Canada. Interestingly, I have come to see that most people who are born in the United States and leave the United States (in one way or another) become exiled from the United States. There are four identifiable groups of U.S. citizens who have been exiled from the U.S. In all cases they were forced to leave. I was part of the “third group” to leave physically and part of the “fourth group” to leave mentally.

The first group were the Loyalists in the American Revolution. As Maya Jasonoff documents in her book “Liberty’s Exiles”, those who were not loyal to “The Patriots” could no longer live in post-revolutionary America. In fact there are many parts of Canada (particularly Ontario and Nova Scotia) that welcomed large numbers of Loyalists. This group was exiled from the United States. Like many things, this was both good news and bad news.

The bad news was that they were exiled from the United States.

The good news was that they were exiled from the United States.

History has proven that  many countries are at least as free and (in many cases) much more free than the United States.

The second group was the slaves. The U.S. is  full of hypocrisy. But, one of the most hypocritical examples was how the U.S.  tolerated institutionalized slavery as long as it did. It is amazing that it took a war to free the slaves from their physical bondage. It is said that “Habit is the prison of the mind”. It would take many more years to free the slaves from the prison of their minds. Interestingly, Canada was a beacon of liberty for U.S. slaves wanting to escape. The freedom crossing in Lewiston, New York is a monument to the second group of Americans who escaped U.S. slavery by moving to Canada.

The third group was largely composed of the “draft dodgers” – those who did not want to participate in the Vietnam (it wasn’t a war, but young men were drafted and sent to their deaths).

Although this is a bit of an “aside” I have visited Viet Nam. I have seen the holes and tunnels that were used to attack American soldiers. I have seen the “Hanoi Hilton” which was home to John McCain. I have seen what is left of the prisons in Viet Ham that were used to house American soldiers. The prisons exhibit a level of brutality that is beyond what a U.S. homelander can imagine. They were (for the most part) built by the French and not by the Vietnamese. The point of the Viet Nam conflict is completely beyond me. Basically what happened was that the French tried to occupy Viet Nam and got their asses kicked. For completely inexplicable reasons the U.S. replaced the French and the result was the same – they got their asses kicked. If you want to see why – just visit Viet Nam.

Compulsory military duty is a form of slavery – perhaps a more socially accepted form of slavery – but slavery nonetheless. By accepting U.S. draft dodgers, Canada was once again providing “freedom” for U.S. slaves. After arriving in Canada, many of these newly freed slaves became Canadian citizens. By so doing they lost their U.S. citizenship (this was the law of citizenship of the time). I doubt that many of them cared. In fact, for many, obtaining Canadian citizenship was the last step in their journey to freedom.

I moved to Canada, not as a “draft dodger” but as a young kid who just happened to be part of a family that moved to Canada. My move was during the same time period that the “draft dodgers” sought their freedom.

The fourth group are U.S. citizens living abroad who have been and are being forced to renounce their citizenship. The “Obama Witch Hunt” has made it impossible for them to live a normal life abroad. Their treatment at the  hands of the U.S. government has resulted in their having to renounce their citizenship in order to protect themselves from threats of fines, penalties, imprisonment and more.

During most of my life I have had to endure a tremendous amount of “anti-Americanism”. As a patriotic American I resented the resentment that non-Americans have for America. The more I experienced anti-Americanism the more Patriotic I became. In 2011 my life (like the lives of many U.S. citizens abroad) was turned “upside down”. I began to experience the United States the way the rest of the world does. The most painful realization for me is the realization that those who were “anti-American” were/are right. The United States of America is not – as Margaret Thatcher would say – “that great citadel of freedom and justice”. It is the opposite. Maybe it never was the nation we were taught (as school children) that it was. Maybe, it has evolved into the narcissistic nation that it is.

Regardless of the reason I am a U.S. person no more.

These thoughts are really my reflections on one year of blogging and healing.   I hope that it will assist others who are sure to endure what is coming. The fastest growing source of anti-Americanism is being nurtured by “U.S. Citizens Abroad”.

It’s unbelievable and unconscionable, in 2013, how much of your life is determined not by who you are, but by where you are born!

I was born in the United States of America. Therefore:

“My Wound Is Geography”.

I hope you find this blog, in some small way, helpful. It is now close to 250 posts. I am certain that there is something here to help you come to terms with the practical and emotional decisions that lie before you!

25 thoughts on “My wound is geography

  1. calgary411

    It’s not in a small way; it is in a huge way that ALL of your close to 250 posts have been helpful to me and to many others.

    For how many of us is what you say here our reality as well? :

    In 2011 my life (like the lives of many U.S. citizens abroad) was turned “upside down”. I began to experience the United States the way the rest of the world does. The most painful realization for me is the realization that those who were “anti-American” were/are right. The United States of America is not – as Margaret Thatcher would say – “that great citadel of freedom and justice”. It is the opposite. Maybe it never was the nation we were taught (as school children) that it was. Maybe, it has evolved into the narcissistic nation that it is.

    Regardless of the reason I am a U.S. person no more.

  2. Gronsky

    Fantastic essay! My own thinking has evolved on the same time scale as yours. Including the experience of becoming more patriotic as the result of hearing so much biased anti-Americanism while living overseas in Australia and then being overwhelmed by the octopus tentacles of the American Empire with FATCA requiring every financial institution in the world to kowtow to US laws. Definitely not what the “founding fathers” had in mind.

  3. AtticusinCanada

    I experienced the exact same thing. I wasn’t what you would call patriotic when I came to Canada due to marriage in 1980. My mother had been part of the civil rights movement in the south. My great grandmother was a suffragette and my grandfather had been part of the Green Corn Rebellion…yes a wobbly. My idea of patriotism was to stand up to wrongs in order to make the country better. I had grown up on activism. I grieved at the things I saw happening to the US. and deeply cared about those things. I believed deeply though in the fundamental goodness of Americans.

    When I came to Canada I experienced daily a lot of anti Americanism. It really didn’t bother too much until my son was born and he had to listen to many of the comments I had just tried to brush off. Over time I became a lot more patriotic than I ever would have been had I stayed inside the U.S. I think this is an almost universal U.S. expat experience. I remember often feeling rather silly when I crossed the border back “home” to visit because it was a relief to see the flag, to know I was back in the U.S. and at least for that time of visiting I wouldn’t have to listen to all the complaining about everything wrong with America. It does get tiresome as you don’t feel yourself in a position to fix everything wrong with the U.S. government for the complainer.

    However, since I found out about FATCA my view and idea of what the U.S. is quickly and sharply came into focus. I too experienced the U.S. the way everyone else has for all this time. Not a nice thing to face up to but, the truth. I’m in line to renounce because my family cannot comply with the onerous requirements of FATCA and continue to live a normal life here in Canada where I have been for over thirty years. Before FATCA I probably would not have renounced. But my family does come first and I won’t put my spouse and child through all this reporting, and the cost of such. The invasion into their lives, privacy and funds is too much to ask just because they are related to an American.

  4. renounceuscitizenship Post author


    Yes, it’s so interesting that living outside the United States made Americans more patriotic. Now the fastest growing source of anti-Americanism is from Americans abroad. How do you like your freedom now?

  5. AtticusinCanada

    The only freedom I will be seeking is freedom from the U.S. Great reference to “The Prince of Tides” The last place I lived in the U.S. was the low country outside of Savannah. Much rings true here.

  6. badger

    It is impossible to ignore the grossly hypocritical and unethical US activities – for example, in Afghanistan coupled with the extraterritorial tax and financial reporting aggression against those the US deems to be ‘US taxable persons’ abroad that make it impossible to choose to remain a US citizen living abroad. What would be the probability that the FATCA reporting from the Bank of Kabul would be accurate, or that the US would impose any withholding ? I am interested to see that Afghanistan has not signed an IGA. And would it be strictly enforced by the US and the Afghan government if it did? And what would be the quality of the reporting?

    Yet the US maintains the disingenuous fiction that those living in Canada and the rest of the globe require its direct oversight via FATCA – on the thin pretext that our (Canadian) savings, insurance, pensions, etc. are equally likely to be criminal accounts belonging to moneylaunderingdruglordterrorfundingUStaxevaders (including legal local accounts holding mostly post tax wages, or savings registered with the CRA, or accounts where there can be no distribution until some future contingent event).

    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author


      Thanks for your comment. You are giving too much credit to the U.S. when you say:

      “Yet the US maintains the disingenuous fiction that those living in Canada and the rest of the globe require its direct oversight via FATCA – on the thin pretext that our (Canadian) savings, insurance, pensions, etc. are equally likely to be criminal accounts belonging to moneylaunderingdruglordterrorfundingUStaxevaders (including legal local accounts holding mostly post tax wages, or savings registered with the CRA, or accounts where there can be no distribution until some future contingent event).”

      They don’t maintain any fiction that the “after tax and legal accounts” of U.S. citizens in Canada are related to money-laundering. These accounts are simply low hanging fruit in their quest to confiscate the assets of U.S. citizens abroad. Remember that the only valuable FBAR is an unfiled FBAR. Form 8938 is valuable whether filed or unfiled.

      If filed, one is registering assets for future confiscation.

      If unfiled, they can levy penalties.

      Evil is as evil does.

  7. Jayne

    Thank you for this post! While reading it, I had the feeling that you were writing about my life, except that I went to France instead of Canada. It is good not to feel alone. I haven’t been refused a bank account and am careful to separate my non-American spouse’s finances from mine. Yet somehow I have the feeling that renunciation of US passport is only a matter of time.

    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author


      Thanks for your comment – much appreciated.

      Yes, U.S. citizenship abroad is becoming extinct. Just be happy you are not in Switzerland right now where the banks are being punished only because U.S. citizens may be clients. It won’t be long before no country will even allow a U.S. citizen in it’s borders!

  8. mjh49783

    Well, really the only way that one could retain US citizenship while abroad, and make the tax obligations to be not too onerous, is to be a pauper for the rest of your life.

    Clearly, this is no way to live.

    Meanwhile, if you do have assets, then your assets are always under threat from confiscation from overly burdensome, and byzantine tax obligations, and that you’re paying taxes to a society you derive no benefit from, on top of the taxes you pay to another society that you do benefit from.

    Clearly, this is no way to live, either.

    So, there is really only two things to do. Go back to the US and enjoy the lovely police state paranoia, or renounce, and be grateful that you have the option to leave for good, because who knows if future disaffected US citizens will even have the option to emigrate, and what nation will even want them if they could?

  9. allanmadan2014

    FATCA is ridiculous in the first place. The United States should be adopting a residence-based tax system as opposed to a citizenship based system like 99 percent of the rest of the world. This legislation will only further impede on the national sovereignty of other nations and further fuel American resentment. FATCA has potential implications extending beyond ‘American persons’, this is an extremely expensive compliance program to enforce and customers of these banking institutions will most likely have to bear the weight of this in increase banking fees.
    Offshore banking is a serious issue, but the American governments need to target the real culprits, increase corporate taxation and those that have complex methods to divert income reporting.
    There are many Americans in Canada who have no ties other then its their place of birth. Is it really fair to tax them for economic productivity that was not generated in the United States? absolutely medieval thinking from the United States government.

  10. LM

    I thought you might want to know that a formal Human Rights Complaint, focusing on the damaging world-wide effects of Citizen-Based-Taxation is about to be submitted to a major international organization.
    This document is incredibly well articulated with links to further documentation.
    It can be read, and “signed” by anyone (US citizen or not)

    Other than the pirate state of Eritrea, which has been widely condemned for their practice of a mere 2% expat tax, the US is the only other country in the world which still practices Citizen-Based Taxation. Given the realities of the 21st century world, is it not time for this taxation approach to be re-considered in it’s entirety?

    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author

      Yes, when it comes to the issue of taxation specifically, the U.S. is far worse than Eritrea. The U.S. loves to be number 1. Here are two areas where it is clearly number 1:

      1. It has the highest corporate taxes in the world.

      2. It is the number one violator of human rights under the guise of “taxation” which is really a form of “Place of birth based life control”.

      Thanks for letting me know about this.

      1. LM

        You’re welcome & I hope you (and others who follow this blog) have had a chance to read the document. Go forth and spread the word – – there are already quite a number of signers from a 8 different countries. :)

  11. Madamarcati

    I have spent today pacing the floor of my house weeping and raging and wondering whether my recently
    deceased father will forgive me for what I am realising I have now to do for my living non US family.
    RENOUNCE my native land’s right of citizenship.
    My wound is indeed geography. It runs deep and is at present bleeding.
    Thank you so much for this posting for it is giving me the emotional courage I need right now.

    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author

      Courage is the willingness to proceed in the face of fear. Congratulations on your willingness to move forward and renounce. The policies of the Obama administration have left you with no choice. Those who doubt that don’t understand the situation!

    2. UShatesfreedom

      Forgive you for what? Expatriation is a right guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the laws of the United States itself refer to expatriation as “a natural and inherent right of all people”. So why would your father be against the right to expatriate? Was he anti-American?

  12. David Lohrmann

    Thank you so much for your wonderful article.
    It certainly rings true for many of us

    I also was born and raised in the United States.

    As a German-American, I learned of the disgraceful treatment suffered by my American-born grandfather during and before the two World Wars. His crime was being a German-speaking Lutheran preacher.

    After serving for 3 years in the US Army due to a war that I opposed, I left America forever.

    Later, as a German-American father of a fine young man, I saw how my son’s love of everything American gradually turned to hatred of the United States due to the attrocious behavior exhibited by many of his American classmates when he attended college on the East Coast. He thus became the fourth consecutive generation of my family to suffer for his cultural identity.

    My ancestors lived as German-Americans for over 100 years. They founded their own towns and school systems on the American frontier.
    Most of them stayed there after being forced to surrender their identity to American jingoism, but I have no idea why.

    Having lived some 40 years here in Germany, I feel that this has become the country that America always claimed to be and never really was.

    I hope that every single “US person abroad” manages to find as much happiness as I have experienced here. Good luck to all of you!

    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author


      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s reached the point where “US persons abroad” will find happiness once they shed their U.S. citizenship.

      “Fourth generation” to suffer due to cultural identity. America never changes does it.

      Thanks again!

  13. Jett

    Very nice essay. I am one of the “indefensibles”. I was born into the lower middle class in a small coal mining town. I served in the US Marines. Luckily God gave me the strength, determination and the will of a dozen men. I fear nothing. I have fought battles great and small. I built my fortune overseas. I am a free man and I will not bend to tyranny. I have exercised my right to emigrate and live with my family in the country of my choice. In January I will renounce my citizenship. Life is bigger than the petty rules of one country’s imperial overreach.


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