Advocating for change in your expat country

Advocating for Change in your Expat Country

Last night more than 55 people were shot dead and 400 injured while attending a music festival near the Mandalay Bay Resort.

It’s America’s deadliest mass shooting to date and the shooter was found dead in his hotel room with at least ten guns.

When a tragedy of this magnitude strikes, it’s shocking and numbing. It’s easy to feel completely helpless in your own country, but as an expat, agitating for change can sometimes feel impossible.

Today I’m talking about feeling like you have no power or leverage, through the prism of gun violence in the US. But it can be applied to anything you wish was different or better – medical care, women’s reproductive rights, worker’s rights. The list can, unfortunately, be endless.

GUN VIOLENCE

Expats in the US, at least, aren’t able to vote in elections. This includes those in the country on Green Cards. So their biggest bargaining chip with politicians is taken away.

And yet we still live in the country where guns are prevalent and easy to buy. A country where 15,079 people were killed* as a result of being shot in 2016. Where 671 children aged between 0-11 were shot dead last year alone.

Shootings in the US in 2017
Map courtesy of the Gun Violence Archive.

This map shows the number of shooting incidents resulting in death and injury since January 1, 2017. In the past nine months alone there were 368 instances across the country, many with multiple people killed and injured.

Private gun sellers (those without a license) don’t have to perform background checks before selling a firearm in the US. State laws include gaping loopholes that allow those convicted of domestic violence on someone other than a child or live-in partner, to buy and own guns.

Assault weapons (semi-automatics) are often the firearm of choice for mass-shootings. While it was “unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer of possess” a semi-automatic for a decade from 1994, the law was not renewed.

Only seven states+ – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – have changed their laws to ban these weapons as a result.

These issues are just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to firearms in the US: there’s still the issue of concealed and open carry in many states, the lack of vetting gun owners, laws on proper storage of firearms and guns in schools.

NO RESULTS

Despite what feels like an endless list of mass shootings – Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pulse Nightclub, the seemingly endless gun murders in Chicago, and Virginia Tech – no Federal action to change gun laws has been made.

During the 2016 Federal Election, the National Rifle Association donated $1.1 million to Republicans and $10,600 to Democrats.

It’s that kind of money that allows politicians such as Donald Trump to make statements like this:

 

A speech like that doesn’t leave much hope for change or tightening gun laws. And without the power to vote in my expat country, what can I do to agitate for change?

EDUCATE FRIENDS

You don’t have to become “that person” who’s constantly talking about healthcare, gun control or whatever else you’re passionate about.

But you can use facts to argue your opinions when the subject comes around. Educating yourself is the first step. Visit and read websites like the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Study your state’s scorecard before making sweeping claims.

Be measured and respect other people’s point of view because yelling and demeaning others is never going to turn people to your way of thinking.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

Just because you can’t vote, doesn’t mean that you’re completely powerless in your expat country of choice.

Support the organisations that champion the cause that is close to your heart. If I’ve learned one thing from living in the US it’s that money talks. Big time. Just look at the NRA splashing cash around.

Get behind groups such as the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Planned Parenthood or a myriad of other different charities and lobby groups.

Use the Charity Navigator website to check that your money is legitimately going to the cause and is spent where you’d like it to be.

JOIN RALLIES AND PROTEST

There’s still something to be said for peaceful protest in numbers. Just because you can’t vote doesn’t mean you can’t lend your voice to the crowd.

There’s power in numbers and since a picture is worth a thousand words, images of huge crowds peacefully advocating for change will show much more support than not.

Unfortunately, violence can detract from the message a protest or rally is trying to get across. So don’t be goaded into petty name calling or violence.

PETITIONS AND YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE

Frankly, they don’t know that you can’t vote, thanks to America’s trusty non-compulsory voting system.

All they know is that you’re a resident of their district and you have an opinion that they should listen to. So sign petitions and call or write to your local representative and ask for your voice to be heard.

Use the Find Your Representative website to pinpoint exactly who you should be calling and writing to (that can be tricky otherwise).

Don’t feel like a second class citizen because you can’t vote. Your expat country is your home and your voice is as important as anyone else’s.

THE ‘LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT’ MENTALITY

You’ll hear this a lot from people. You’re an expat, you chose to live in this country, so why don’t you just go home, where gun laws or healthcare are more to your liking?

Honestly, in my humble opinion, that’s a massive cop out. Not being “allowed” to advocate for change because you moved to a country is such a nonsense argument.

Why wouldn’t you want your expat country, or in fact any country, to change for the better?

* Statistics were taken from the Gun Violence Archive.
+ Stastics were taken from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Protest | gun control | healthcare | Universal healthcare | rally | petition | USA | expats in America | expat life in the US | expat life

10 thoughts on “Advocating for change in your expat country

  1. I actually can’t get my head around this horror at all. It makes me feel so powerless here on the other side of the world, so I can’t even begin to imagine how you must be feeling. These are such sensible and practical tips and show that whatever one’s visa status, together we can make a difference. We can’t change what happened in Vegas but maybe we can help bring about change so that it never happens again.

    1. I’ve been putting off responding to this for days because… well I don’t know what else to say really. I know people who live there, who have family who work at that casino/hotel. On the one hand I feel like it’s hopeless because they’ve been through so many mass shootings before and have only weakened laws since. But then giving up isn’t an option either.

    1. Thanks Vanessa. I think it’s such a one dimensional thing to say. There’s always room for discussion on other opinions and ways of doing things.

  2. Thank you for writing such a balanced piece about gun control (or lack of it) and it’s harrowing consequences. I also appreciate the things we can actually do to make a difference.

    SSG xxx

    1. Thank you. I hate feeling helpless about things like this, at least this helped me see a way forward at a time where people are going on about “this not being the time to talk about gun control”.

  3. Oh wow. It is just mind-boggling isnt it? We who do not live there or are citizens there just shake our heads in both sadness and anger. I see you have quoted a Michelle aka Mamabook tweet and I met her when she was in Aus selling up and packing to take the kids to Palo Alto to join her husband there. She has always been a social justice advocate and worked in or for Unions here (its a while back now so I cant recall). What I do know is like you, she wants to have a voice and help make change. We live in scary times for sure. Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 39/52. Next week: Letter to My 20 year old Self.

    1. It really is mind-boggling. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why they are so adamant about holding onto such dangerous things. Although I suppose if I were Australian and not American, I’d have a different point of view. I thought of Michelle while writing the post I’m so glad that you introduced me to her.
      As for next week’s post prompt… I’m halfway through and struggling. I still feel like my 20-year-old self!

  4. Kat, I freaking LOVE LOVE this post! It’s completely mind blowing how much this country loves guns. Being Japanese and American citizen, I’m always like, it’s POSSIBLE to be a ‘developed’ country without guns and shit. Literally the only people in Japan that have guns are police officers and the military. It blows my mind and as positive as I try to stay, it makes me sick daily that Trump is our President.

  5. Thank you for this incredibly thoughtful piece, Kat! I think it’s fantastic that you’ve listed out practical and effective measures that expats can take to make a difference – any difference is a step in the right direction.

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