Why we’re leaving U.S.
My wife, 3-year-old son and I are moving to New Zealand. After an exhaustive application process, we were recently granted visas that give us the right to live and work in New Zealand. For the past month or so, those words have elicited raised eyebrows, looks of disbelief and the eternal question: Why? For the adventure? Yes. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. There are countless places within our borders that offer an adventure-filled change of pace from life in Washington, D.C. Why New Zealand? Well, other than the fact that English is spoken in New Zealand, no developed democracy on earth could be more different than today’s United States in so many important ways. Those differences are a powerful lure:– In New Zealand, health care is regarded as a basic human right. That claim can’t be made in our home country, the world’s richest. — In our new home, my son will grow up largely beyond the reach of the marketers of beer, tobacco and grand theft auto-type video games who target young children in their never-ending efforts to achieve brand loyalty.– Church and state are far apart in New Zealand. In the U.S., the increasing influence of the religious right leaves us with the feeling that our country is being hijacked by the self-righteous. That’s not the country in which I grew up.– Air and water quality continue to be compromised in the U.S. The slow death of the Chesapeake Bay and the decaying state of a small bay on Cape Cod that my family has called home for most of the past 100 years are just two examples of the drastic decline of aquatic habitats nationwide. New Zealand, on the other hand, has undertaken aggressive water quality management initiatives to sustain its waterways.– Our public schools, with few exceptions, are woefully under-funded. In most cities, pitifully so. The alternative, private schools, now cost as much as $25,000 per year, beginning in elementary school. That’s no alternative for most people. New Zealand’s public schools are adequately funded and generally well regarded, and its private school tuition rates are closer to $3,000 annually.– According to the Centers for Disease Control, the United States has by far the highest rate of gun deaths (14.24 per 100,000 population) – including murders, suicides and accidents – among the world’s 36 richest nations. New Zealand’s rate, according to the same study, is just 2.38. Violent crime in New Zealand, on a per capita basis, is less than one-quarter the U.S. rate. — The war in Iraq has slowly but surely morphed into the war on terrorism. The justifications touted for sending our troops to Iraq have become lost in the smokescreen of the war on terror. The New Zealand government has distanced itself from this debacle.– In the past five years alone, the number of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., has doubled, creating a feeding frenzy for special interests that dwarfs the average individual’s ability to have a say in the workings of our federal government, and contributes to the increasing graft and corruption of our elected officials. New Zealand ranks fourth among the world’s least corrupt governments.– No matter how frequently and vociferously the mainstream media point out the shortcomings of many of today’s national programs and policies, the average American seems either too busy or too detached to care. Our nation’s most respected publications, which at one time served as trusted watchdogs, are today being drowned out by the onslaught of new media bloggers and the screaming taunts of television and radio talk show hosts whose rhetoric inflames, rather than frames. This reinforces a feeling of helplessness when it comes to effecting meaningful change.– In the U.S., short-term corporate profits continue to be placed ahead of practical long-term strategies when it comes to energy, transportation, agriculture, the environment and a whole host of industries hamstrung by a system that demands short-term results. In this arena, our nation’s priorities are badly misplaced.– Many of the elderly in our nation, the so-called Greatest Generation, are finding it increasingly difficult to survive and prosper in a confusing web of entitlement programs that seem to leave more people behind than they actually help.– Consumerism has reached a fever pitch in the U.S. It seems everyone simply must have the latest $60,000 car, the newest cell phone and high-definition, plasma TV. The ethic of making do with what you have has been lost in America.– Robust economic growth has become our government’s Holy Grail. If we’re not meeting aggressive growth targets, we must be sliding into a recession, or so it goes. Conversely, our new home in New Zealand offers a reprieve from many of the economic, job-related and societal pressures we face as typical Americans. It provides a daily living environment that is less stressful and more focused on sustaining the country for future generations.And to those who would say, “Why not stay and rage against the machine?” We simply respond that we’d rather live someplace where there’s a little less rage.Needless to say, we are both excited and apprehensive about our impending move. But we’re also sad because we’re leaving behind family, friends and many wonderful places and memories. So, in some sense, we leave with heavy hearts, feeling as though, in today’s parlance, we’ve been voted off – or, in this case, onto – the island.Former Minturn resident and local political campaign consultant Ross Palmer and his family now live in New Zealand. Vail, Colorado