Collective psychotherapy – U.S. citizens outside U.S. – Not what they take from you, it’s what they leave you with

cross-posted from renounceuscitizenship blog

Going back to a general thread from a few weeks ago – on law and morality – this post speaks more to the effects of the law when it is not rooted in morality. On one level, an apologist might claim that “doing one’s duty” and “paying one’s share” is moral and is necessary to maintain funding and order in a society. However, when such a law is applied to those who live outside that society, as we all know from experience, unexpected conflicts, resulting punitive actions and penalties tend to denigrate the quality of life. We are not talking about “quality of life” amounting to physical comforts or financial wealth. By “quality of life, what is referred to is mental stability, emotional trustworthiness and the ability to move through difficulties with a sense of direction and confidence. When these parameters are stifled by confusion/lack of clarity of what is expected, and ridicule and negativity is directed toward those affected, the result is a not an issue of lack of compliance but rather, wrongly imposed requirements that simply make people anxious, immobilized by fear, depression and a general inability to adjust to the situation. How this can be justified when those same people ARE compliant in the society where they live, strikes many as simply being immoral.

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The Wisdom of Moe Levine Moe Levine (not that I ever met him) was considered to be one of America’s greatest trial lawyers. Although he died in 1974, his wisdom lives on his book (appropriate called) “Moe Levine on Trial Advocacy“. He (legend has it) was a master at delivering the closing statement in his jury trials. When arguing for a severely injured plaintiff he (according to the commentators of his time) would tell the jury (referring to a badly injured client):

“It’s not what you take from them it’s what you leave them with.”

In other words, the inability to live a normal life was worse than the injury itself. Leaving aside the financial costs, Obama/IRS tyranny has had a very serious effect on the lives of many U.S. expats. Few of them will ever forget the day they learned about these problems. One (of many) example is the story of Ambassador Jacobson’s 70 Year old grandmas” in Saskatchewan.

A recent post offered people the chance to describe how recent events have impacted on the lives of U.S. citizens outside the U.S. Check out the comments – there were plenty of them. Yesterday a post appeared on at the Isaac Brock Society called “Your Citizenship Personality“. The comments included a number of descriptions of how the recent Obama/IRS/Levin assault on U.S. citizens living abroad has damaged their lives. I encourage you to read all the comments, but I wanted to share the following two (the second of which is my own) in a separate post:

fullTurtle

March 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I’ve been a lurker on this site for over a month. I’ve never “blogged” before today. I am not a writer, nor as eloquent as most you and am woefully ignorant of all this tax and legal stuff. In these 30+ days, I have read every single thread on this site and have visited every link offered. I have read the entire “OVDI Drudgery for Minnows”, all of the personal stories, and have even printed out pages & pages of suggestions and opinions (thank you so much, JustMe!). But I can’t take it anymore… this being silent and feeling so estranged and “criminalized”. The only place I feel connected anymore is while I’m reading postings from all of you. After reading zucchero81?s comments on this thread (“…this whole FATCA issue has been more like going through the 5 stages of grief…”) I feel compelled to peek out of my seemingly safe lurker shadows. You have it right, usxcanada… I am one of those lurkers wondering if/how to transition past pure denial. I have yet to make a real decision (which would require real action) on what the heck to do. My gut reaction is to run fast, run far, hide deep. But the more I read, the more that is sounding impossible to accomplish. I have chosen “fullTurtle” as my alias because doing a “full ostrich” would leave far too much exposed at the surface. Since becoming aware just 6 weeks ago (and purely by accident) of my requirement for filing US taxes… then FATCA and all the rest, my whole life has turned upside down. I can think of little else. I’ve attended a free seminar on the subject of cross-border taxation given by a high-end legal accounting firm in town (can you say ca-CHING?) and have spent the vast majority of my waking hours researching the subject. All I seem to have done is become almost catatonic with dread. I swing wildly between the extremes of near homicidal rage and suicidal depression. Okay, I’m more in the homicidal phase today. To get back to the topic of this thread, I want to renounce my citizenship so bad I can taste it. And thanks renounceuscitizenship; I agree 100% with pretty much everything you’ve posted, and I visit your site regularly too. It would be so worth the $450 USD just to fling my passport & birth certificate down at the US Consolate and tell them exactly where to shove it. When the day comes that I can renounce (my Canadian citizenship application was mailed Feb.6th so it will be 18 mo’s to 2 years), I will write that cheque on a shirt, duly certified by the bank of course, and explain it to them thusly: “Seeing as the US Gov’t is taking the shirt off my back, I thought you might like to keep the shirt.” In ending this tirade, I am so grateful to ALL of you regular posters who have unknowingly kept me from jumping from a tall building (so far). And especially you, Petros, for creating this web site. You have no idea the number of people you are helping give voice. I hope someday to add my story to those of you who have survived this holocaust. Okay whew, if I can do this… the rest of you lurkers out there can do it too!

renounceuscitizenship

March 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

@Fullturtle A warm welcome to the Isaac Brock Society. It’s a great place – with a lot of great people. It’s interesting how the comments often move the intent of a post in a different direction. What struck me about these comments is that one can feel the excruciating pain, the agony, the fear, the uncertainty, the despair, the anger, the rage, the sense of betrayal, and in some cases the unbelievably intense hatred of the U.S. government. I do believe that many people on this board have never experienced the range and intensity of emotions they are feeling today. As noted by Pacifica777: “This horrible gamut of emotions and mood swings seems to be universal, and statistically, I would guess that few of us have ever had to deal with such extreme feelings before, so it’s so unfamiliar that it’s scary. I have never felt such intensity of emotions and such a bizarre range of them, nothing close to it, ever. This US mess just takes over one’s life, feeling like caught in a complex trap, that it will never end. Though it’s not over yet, I have found as time went on, while I still feel an amazing range of emotions, they don’t seem to be so intense and overpowering. For a couple of months, it overtook all of my life — with such an overpowering complex confusing situation, it was hard to focus on anything else. Eight months on, it is still, unfortunately, a big part of my life, but slowly I’ve found more and more of my normal life, and my normal personality, returning. It’s still a big problem but not overwhelming everything else.” Blaze reiterates: “I’m hoping you are just joking in your comment about wanting to jump from a tall building, but I fear you may be serious. Another person has expressed similar disturbing thoughts. Many of us have had sleepless nights, health challenges, strained marriages and personal relationships, expensive accountants and lawyers who are draining retirement savings, difficulties at work, worry about Canadian born children, etc.” JustMe (in his infinite wisdom) has said that it is important to not hate. It will only destroy the person doing the hating. You need to be focused, methodical, purposeful and committed to achieving whatever course of action you decide is best for you. You said that you felt “criminalized”. I understand. If you are not careful, and if you allow yourself to feel “criminalized” long enough, you may actually believe that you have done something wrong. You have done NOTHING wrong (and chances are that you have done a lot right). You are on the receiving end of a vicious assault by an unprincipled vicious debt-ridden thug – The United States of America. I want to add one more thought to this moment of “collective psychotherapy”. There is good news and bad news. First, the good news. You do NOT live in the U.S. You live in Canada. You are in a situation that any sane person would dream to be in. Sure, Canada has its problems. But, lurking beneath all the problems is a basic assumption of fairness, justice and decency. I repeat you live in Canada. In addition to the good things I just mentioned, you have the benefit of the tax treaty. Canada will not collect FBAR penalties. Furthermore, (I don’t have stats on this), but I suspect that a large number of U.S. citizens here are also Canadian citizens (giving them political power). Second, the bad news. As horrible as this situation is (and it is a nightmare for most), you must go on with your life. At least in my case (and I suspect most of you) that life is a life shared with non-U.S. citizens. This is a very important point. The Obama/IRS/Levin assault cannot be understood by anybody unless they are a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S. To be specific, they cannot understand your rage and anger. They cannot understand your feeling of injustice. They cannot understand the intensity of your emotions. They cannot understand your sense of betrayal. They cannot possibly understand these things because they are not experiencing it (and probably will never experience anything like it). So, don’t expect the understanding from them that you really need. My point: You need to be very careful to not allow any of this to damage the valuable relationships in your life – friends, marriage, work, extended family, etc. We are in a situation where we are in a sense forced to protect ourselves from a repressive government. This is has gone on throughout history. Never did I believe, that government would be, (according to Margaret Thatcher) the United States –that “Great Citadel of Freedom and Justice”. But, that’s what is happening. I once met a man who had escaped from another repressive government. He wanted his children to be well educated – commenting that, the only thing that a government couldn’t take from you was your knowledge/education. It’s not the only thing they can’t take. They can’t take your attitude, or your capacity to tell right from wrong. Unless of course you let them (and we wouldn’t let than happen, now would we)! Take the weekend off from your worry. You deserve it. Renounce and rejoice!

So what am I trying to say? 1. There is no way the IRS can understand the effect of their conduct on honest, hard working people, who just happen to live outside the United States. They cannot understand it and never will. 2. Your job is to get through this and have the life you deserve.

7 thoughts on “Collective psychotherapy – U.S. citizens outside U.S. – Not what they take from you, it’s what they leave you with

  1. Ginny

    Thanks, Badger. The three of us try to support each other and keep our spirits up. The rhythm is hard to adjust to. Somedays there are a flurry of emails and phone calls from the lawyers and committee members and all hands need to be on deck. Then we deal with radio silence for a while. Not sure which is worse.
    But we fall back on the knowledge of what a privilege it is to be able to represent so many people who need this law suit. And we will always be grateful for the generosity of donors who enabled us to do this.

    In the meantime around casa Ginny, we are ripping our kitchen apart and somehow that helps. Every nail I pound into anything has the Feds’ name attached to it. I am finding that quite therapeutic these days.

    Reply
  2. Ginny Hillis

    I am with Lynne. My anger is directed at my country of citizenship. I know I cannot change any American laws. But I will keep fighting, through my anger, to uphold the Constitutional and Charter rights of Canadians by challenging the Federal Government who is abusing our fundamental rights.

    Ironically, my anger, which I like to think I have held at bay for some time, is increasing daily due to the trial delays. Our court decision has the potential to impact other countries and citizens living in them. How many more stories will we hear about the impact of those living abroad before enough is enough?
    What individual or family can live their lives this way?

    Reply
    1. Lynne Swanson

      The way the Canadian government is treating you, Gwen and Kazia makes me even angrier than I already was. I can only imagine how you feel.

    2. Ginny Hillis

      Sorry, Lynne. Yes, the way we three plaintiffs, who are only trying to stick up for the rights of others, are being treated with these delays is getting me down lately. Thus far, I have managed to keep my equilibrium and stress levels low since we first filed our claim.
      Not so anymore. There is something about the psychological wear and tear to this process that I cannot adequately describe.
      It’s just that we are so ready and have been ready for some time now. Also, it is becoming very clear that we need to improve access to justice within the court system to move cases along in a more timely fashion. We are quite behind in the appointment of the required number of judges on the bench to be adequately staffed. That’s another failure of both Harper and Trudeau governments. The way to deter people, and diminish the number of people who launch law suits against the government, is to understaff. Simples.

  3. Lynne Swanson

    My anger and feelings of betrayal are for the Canadian government refusing to protect Canadian citizens and residents. It began with the Con Cons but is greater with the Lib Cons because (except for Flaherty in the early days of FATCA) the Con Cons never pretended to care.

    The Lib Cons vehemently claimed to care about Canadian citizens, residents, laws, rights and the Charter. Then the Lib Cons Flip Flopped.

    My friends who are not affected by this cannot understand why this has affected me so deeply and profoundly. They do not understand how my beliefs of what it meant to be a patriotic Canadian citizen for 43 years have been assaulted. They do not understand how this has affected my feelings about my own identity.

    I will not go anywhere near a U.S. Consulate. Worse than not trusting the American government is not being able to trust the Canadian government. I will never think of Canada the same way again.

    Reply
    1. badger

      How is it that the Canadian government which has a duty of care to its citizens and residents can’t see that they are not holding to their part in the social contract which the act of issuing and swearing out and documenting citizenship represents?

      Those of us who naturalized swore an oath to Canada and the Queen. And were understandably under the impression that “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” and that Canada would uphold that. And those automatically born into Canadian citizenship via birthplace or parentage were never told that they would not be treated as full citizens on Canadian soil if the US hegemon also laid claim to them, whereupon Canada would gladly (and with insulting references rename them as; “Americans abiding in Canada”) and blithely throw them to the wolves out of expedience – and as an act of appeasement – to spare Banksters who respect no national boundaries and pursue crossborder global profits.

      Their previous position on FATCA is on record. I hope to enjoy their hypocrisy coming back to bite and haunt them.

      In no way can they ever justify their maltreatment of Kazia, Gwen and Ginny, as well as all those nameless others they sold down the river to the south under FATCA. I am sorry that you 3 are suffering so at the hands of our own federal government, and am every day thankful and grateful for your sacrifice.

      We cannot know what you are going through, but you are on our minds.

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