As the founder of Best Places in the World to Retire, I’ve spoken with more than a thousand expats, many of whom have told me of instances where they were told that because they lived outside the US, they were no longer entitled to be called “an American,” that they were unpatriotic, or in extreme cases, that they were traitors.
Not only do I reject these charges, but I believe that those making them don’t understand what it means to be “an American.”
There is no better statement of what it means to be an American than the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This brilliant, elegant, and universal statement is the foundation of what it is to be an American, irrespective of geography. To the Founders, the country they were founding and the culture they were recognizing in its nascent state and fostering the growth of was based on a revolutionary world-view. This world-view was an all-encompassing way to understand the nature of unalienable rights—that these rights were from the Creator as opposed to from a government and as such, these rights could not be taken away by a government. Where in this statement or anywhere else in the Founding Documents is there anything about unalienable rights being dependent on where one lives? Also, is there more than one Creator?
The Founders’ assertions as stated in the Declaration of Independence, and more importantly, the implementation of these assertions and the culture that grew from these universal principles, are what made America the most powerful force for good on the planet, and a beacon for those in other countries to come to the US who were less fortunate than those born in the US. In my view, those who many times risked everything to come to America to work hard, to live by the rules, and who loved and supported these principles where already “American” in their values before they arrived on US shores.
Of course, if one can have American values without being born in the US or even living in the US, the converse can be true; there can be those who live in the US and who legally are citizens of the US who are not “American,” at least not in the sense that they hold the American values of the Declaration of Independence.
The same holds true for American expats– those who are citizens of the US who choose to live outside the US. If they hold American values, they are just as American as those living in the US who hold the same values and more American than those who live in the US who do not hold these values.
Of course, there is a flip-side to the Creator and not the government not being the source of unalienable rights, which is that in order to not take away rights from others, government actions need to be restrained, so it is left to the people sans-government to do for themselves what government does not and to provide help where needed to others who need it without the government forcing them to.
As the locals will tell you in the countries we cover, the majority of American expats who live amongst them act differently than the majority of locals in some fundamental ways, all owing to the American perspective infused by the Founders and given tangible form in the actions that come from it.
Just like the barn raising of the American past, these American expats don’t wait for or rely on government. Instead, they organize, consciously or not, from a higher calling, without government, and they do so in order to make the lives of those around them better.
Examples include creating and operating spay and neuter clinics in Boquete, Panama; building and funding libraries in Granada, Nicaragua and health clinics in Managua, Nicaragua; providing no charge dental services in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, etc. The list is virtually endless and giving much needed help this way is a big part of the lives of many, many American expats.
In short, they act like good Americans.
Because they are.
Chuck Bolotin is the founder of Best Places in the World to Retire(click on: https://bestplacesintheworldtoretire.com/), a website that provides credible information to those researching moving, visiting, or doing business abroad. Prior to that, Chuck founded, funded, ran and sold two companies. He is a frequent guest lecturer at the Eller College of Management MBA Program, mentored at the Arizona Center for Innovation, and frequently sat on the Desert Angels Screening Panel in Tucson, Arizona. After selling his home in Arizona and completing a one year road trip through Mexico, Chuck now lives in Ajijic, Mexico, with his wife, Jet, and their two dogs.