• Politics

Bummed About the Election? Finding a New Country Is a Lot Harder Than It Looks

5 minute read

My lovely wife Cassandra and I had very different emotional reactions on election night. Her fight-or-flight response leans heavily toward fight, whereas mine takes a third option wherein it gets sleepy and avoids talking. So when I got in bed at 10 p.m., I was surprised when Cassandra walked into our bedroom in full flight mode. “I know I’m being crazy, but just for me to be able to sleep tonight, I need to think about where we can go if things get really bad. I just need some sense of control, otherwise my brain won’t shut off,” she said. I mumbled something about checks and balances and Paul Ryan, but she cut me off: “You’d be one of those Jews who was put on a train and said, ‘Oh, fun! Camp!'”

Admittedly, I tend to dismiss doomsayers, which must be frustrating for someone named after a doomsayer everyone dismissed. So I told Cassandra that no matter what I thought, I would trust her if she ever said we had to abandon America. Then I explained Israel’s law of return for Jews and their spouses, which she found only slightly comforting. I went back to sleep even though it was hard to see my wife spending a night feeling like black people do all the time.

Then at 3 a.m. she woke me up. “Everybody is posting ‘New Zealand,'” she said, standing over me. “I don’t know what’s going on with New Zealand, but they’re going to be full. I need other options.” When she mentioned France, I told her they had a powerful far-right party. Italy and Germany too. Sweden, I vaguely remembered, has an anti-Muslim party. She started getting excited about Spain, but all I knew was that it hadn’t had a leader for a year, which seemed to provide dubious stability. “You’re not making this easier for me!” she said. “You’re supposed be the uplifting one. You’re supposed to tell me one of these countries will work out!”

I told her I’d call some experts the next day, which calmed her down. But when I woke up a few hours later, I had three emails from her listing various countries’ immigration policies. When Cassandra got up after a pill-fueled sleep, she wanted to go over our emergency emigration plans. I had found out that you had a good shot at living in Mexico if you buy a house that costs at least $172,000. We’d be with lots of Americans, more of whom have moved there in the past three years than vice versa. This seemed like a perfect safety net, since we would be protected from Trump by a giant beautiful wall.

But she rejected the option. “I want a first-world quality of life,” she said. Israel was out because of café bombings, though I thought if things were dire enough to expatriate, we could go without cappuccinos for a while. I suggested Canada, but she turned that down too. “After 10 years in L.A. there’s no way I’m moving there. It’s too cold,” she answered.

After a teacher at my son’s school was yelled at to move back to China and two actors from Silicon Valley were accosted at a bar near us by Trump supporters, Cassandra thought we should re-explore the Canada option, even if it meant buying coats. So I went to the country’s immigration website, which was back online after crashing from being deluged on the night of the election. I took the test to see if I had the 67 of 100 points required to be considered for a fast-track as a skilled worker. Unfortunately, I sucked at French in high school and I’m really old, so I only got 64. I could get 10 more points if an employer had a job for me. So I emailed Nancy Gibbs, the editor of this magazine, to ask if I could run the Vancouver bureau of TIME, which would be a desk inside a very small, well-heated apartment. She answered with an emoticon that did not look like it was taking applications in the Vancouver bureau.

Getting increasingly nervous, I called my friend Neil Strauss, who wrote Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, about how he became a survivalist and got dual citizenship in St. Kitts and Nevis, which has no income tax. If I paid $400,000 for a place in St. Kitts, I could sell it five years later but keep the passport, which I could use if there are worldwide travel restrictions against hordes of fleeing Americans. “The businesspeople and billionaires told me it makes sense to allocate a certain part of your income for insurance,” Strauss said. “This is insurance.”

Cassandra and I know that leaving your country is privileged, whiny and unhelpful, but in our defense, we are privileged, whiny and unhelpful. Still, we decided we’re staying. But we also have the name of a good real estate agent in St. Kitts.

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