"If You Don't Like It Then Just Leave"
Being Told to Leave My Country
I’m getting tired of all the people who tell me to leave my country if I don’t like the way it is. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to leave, but I’ve never heard it from the mouth of a thoughtful person. There’s certain things thoughtful, intelligent people almost never say. “If you don’t like it, just leave” is one of those things.
Minorities in particular get told to leave their country a lot. Although they’re usually met with a slightly different phrase. Rather than “If you don’t like it, then leave”, they get “Go back to your country”. I’m sure it’s more common for them than it is for me as a white American male. The articles I see in the search results for “If you don’t like it then leave” are all related to minorities. But I just want to say I also exist. I also get told to leave. Why? Because I disagree with the way things are done here.
It’s very telling that nobody ever tells me to go back to my country, as minorities are often told. Because in their mind, America is my country (because I’m white) and minorities are just here on sufferance. It’s such a hateful thing to tell someone they don’t belong in their birth country. So I’d like to unpack why telling people to leave their own country, or to go back to their country, is not only hateful, but also dumb.
Leave and Go Where?
For one, I don’t own a private island. I’m not a citizen of any other country. If I did move to another country, it would require quite a bit of effort. My American passport pretty well allows me to go anywhere in the world. But that doesn’t mean I can stay. I’d have to obtain a visa. I’d have to figure out what to do with all the stuff I’ve accumulated. I’d have to figure out my finances. And what about my family that still lives here? It’s not as simple as packing up and “just leaving”.
Second, there’s things I disagree with in every country. This is not to say all countries are equal. Saying that all countries are equal because they all have problems is idiotic. In countries more civilized than the United States, I might be generally quite satisfied with how things are going. But there is always progress to be made.
So being told to leave seems to amount to nationalistic NIMBYism. I’m allowed to want things to be different, just not things within my own country. I can just as easily reverse the script and say “If you don’t like me pointing out flaws in my country then why don’t you leave?” and it would be equally ridiculous. There’s no civilized country free from citizens’ complaints either.
If dissent is such big problem, why do these people not take their own advice and “just move” someplace where open dissent isn’t tolerated? Someplace like North Korea or China. Then they wouldn’t have to listen to pesky activists trying to improve their country.
Why is it Always the Country?
Third, why is it always the “country” I should leave? I find it peculiar that I’ve never been told to go to a different state, or a different county. There are political differences between separate regions within the same country. I could certainly live in a state or county where I’m more aligned with local politics. Why has no one ever suggested me to move there instead? It would certainly be easier than moving to a different country.
I also never get told to move to a different continent even though that would put me farther away.
Fixing Problems vs Running Away
Fourth, why should I flee my country instead of doing things to solve its problems? I can vote. I can sign petitions. I can go to protests and practice civil disobedience. I can join like-minded organizations. Suggesting as the first option that I should just flee isn’t very patriotic. Not that I think patriotism is important, but the people who tell me to leave always claim to be patriots. In my opinion, a true patriot wouldn’t suggest to others to flee upon sight of problems. Can you imagine if every historical social reformer had just packed their bags and left instead of doing something?
This is not to say fleeing is the wrong choice. As far as I know, moving from one country to another is morally neutral. But to claim to love your country while telling people who notice its problems to leave seems to be a contradiction. Isn’t it important to have people in the population who can recognize the country’s problems?
Conflating Constructive Criticism and Hate
Another thing people say to me is “If you hate it so much here, why don’t you just leave?”. This also gets really tiring. Why is it that I can’t have constructive criticism without hating America? I’m tired of Faux-news-watching nutbags saying young people are being taught to hate America just because we have critical thinking skills. Give me a break.
Some of the people who tell me to leave level just as much criticism towards the United States as I do. But because they don’t agree with my criticism, they conclude I must hate my country. The hypocrisy is palpable. People criticize all sorts of things, yet that doesn’t mean they hate those things.
I’ve probably given such a dumb phrase more rebuttal than it ever deserves. I’m not going to leave my country unless I decide that’s what’s best for me. I have just as much right to be here as other citizens. I’ll never be convinced to leave by ignoramuses who get distressed when I don’t agree with their blind jingoism.
I think I’ve said everything that I can say about this. To wrap up, just know that if someone tells you that you should leave your country or that you don’t belong, they’re not worth your time.