This month’s guest post comes from my good friend and indie author Joel R. Dennstedt. When I asked Joel if he would like to write a guest post for my blog, I told him it could be anything from fiction, to an opinion piece, as long as it was somewhat along the lines of my glorious outsiders theme. If you don’t already know what a glorious outsider is, think about the kind of person who doesn’t fit in and never tried to. Someone who turns their back on the mainstream in order to think for themselves. Someone who speaks their mind and stands up for what they believe in, even if this makes them unpopular or ignored. Joel wrote me this fantastic and emotive piece, and with the US election about to take place, this seemed the perfect time to post it. Note, these are Joel’s opinions from his own experiences in life. I admire him greatly as an author and as a person. Thank you, Joel.
As I write this from my hostel in Rancagua, Chile, the United States is but a fading memory.
I grew up in the States. I was born there. I was an American.
Although my passport says differently, I am no longer a U.S. Citizen.
I claim the world as my place to be; I claim to be a man-at-large within the world.
I have no home.
Everything I own I carry with me in a backpack and a duffel.
How did this situation come to be? Why did it come to be? Why am I to die while traveling across this vast and awesome globe called Earth? Why am I – at sixty-seven – finally a contented man?
In the fall of 2011, my older brother came to me and said, “I am leaving the United States to live in Merida, Mexico.” He was recently retired and not-so-coincidentally divorced. He is a traveler at heart, with the soul of a 19th Century explorer. He was off to see the world. “After Merida,” he said, “I am going everywhere.”
“Take me with you,” I said.
We both worked for a bank. The worst of banks. The one perhaps most responsible for the huge financial meltdown of 2008. The one resulting from the most egregious and criminal corruption I had witnessed in a lifetime.
In the spring of 2012, we left.
More than 4 years later here we sit in Chile, waiting to make our next move – a foray into Argentina. He has made himself into a superb photographer; I have made myself into a writer. We have no intention of returning to the States to live. Ever. That is not a country to make me proud. That is not a country where I can afford to live. That is not a country for an old writer. If you read the news, you know that ignorance and corporate power now rule a country once proud to be most free and democratic. You know that an entire generation is mind-locked to its phones. You know that a national philosophy rests on pre-emptive war-making and virulent anti-immigration. Self-indulgence, self-assertion, and selfies rule the day. My oldest friends have become monsters. Not one person in a thousand could tell you where Merida, Mexico is located; I did not know, until we left to go there. Americans – as they arrogantly call themselves – do not know much about other cultures. They do not know the histories of the world, much less their own. They do not believe they come from genocidal forebears. They live in a fantasy of someone else’s making, which very few resist. Simply, I cannot be with them anymore.
That does not make me a better man than they.
That does, however, make of me a most contented one.
When I was a young child, almost in prophetic foresight of the man I would become, I refused to say the obligatory pledge of allegiance to our flag. I like to believe I felt the country had to earn my allegiance, not demand it. And if I ever had it, I left it far behind. The country has certainly not earned such blind allegiance, if ever it had the right to claim it. And those who now claim to be patriots disguise their lack of insight and discrimination (not the kind they act out) with shallow phrases, mindless affirmations, and aggression as a virtue in itself.
That is not a country meant for me.
And so, tetherless in a world defined by rampant nationalistic pride, where every unit of humanity defines itself by origin and would hope to rid the world of every other, I move about with conscious non-allegiance to anyone but myself – a severely selfish act of vanity and pride; no better than the rest.
Except … the country I am looking for is nowhere special.
A world as witnessed by early humans – the indigenous people.
And maybe by long-term travelers.
And especially by those who read a lot.
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Thank you Joel! Don’t forget, The Glorious Outsiders is open to submissions for guest posts! I am looking for anything to do with writing or reading, or opinion/blog style pieces as well as stories/poems etc on the theme of being an outsider!