Living in Indonesia for these past 19 months has been an incredible experience. One that I wouldn’t trade anything for. However, living in a still (now rapidly) developing country can be hard. And we’ve had our share of hardships over the time here. Of all the things I will bring with me back home from this experience, I think one of the most important will be the new (or better, renewed) perspective of how I view the United States.
As most of our readers know, before coming here Amy and I were both deeply involved in politics back home. We met working in the same Congressional office, we both have worked our share of campaigns and, prior to Peace Corps, we were both lobbyists for more than four years. Coming from that world, often the job requires concentrating on what’s wrong with our country. Pinpointing every single problem and maximizing it for the greatest political effect. Not that that’s inherently wrong—its still important to keep striving for improvement as a nation, and there is plenty to improve. But that’s just the way the job works.
And its not limited to those that share the professional background we do. I can’t skim Facebook without reading status updates and arguments lamenting the “end of America” and our “march toward socialism” over the smallest changes in government regulations. Talk about making mountains out of molehills.
Living here, I’ve truly realized the value of our progressive society and government at home. Regulations and laws that (at least try to) keep our food and water clean, our streets and transportation safe, our economy moving, our schools functioning, our air breathable…the list goes on.
Do you want to see an actual version of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and many other Tea Partiers’ vision of America where regulations are cast off and people and business can be “unbridled”? Come live in our village for a week.
Your neighbor can burn all the trash they want, regardless of how much of the suffocating smoke wafts into your house. You can build a house of worship anywhere and blare the sermons and calls to prayer throughout the village at a volume that renders all other conversation impossible. The village leader can mandate that each house be sprayed by a toxic (non-effective) anti-mosquito fog, regardless of your want or need for it. You can allow anyone, including children as young as 10 years old, to ride a motorcycle as fast as possible, without a helmet, without a license and definitely without insurance. You can create a society where many do not trust medical advice, police have an inability to act without “payment”, and government offices can decide to discriminate based on religion or ethnicity.
Is this is what people are talking about when they say we are “losing our freedoms”?
Indonesia will be okay. Its on the move and there are bright up and coming leaders that I think will make the necessary leaps ahead out of the developing world. However, it makes my head spin knowing that the many of the examples of “big government” at home are the things that my students and friends here only dream of this country having.
When the biggest national “crisis” at the moment is that the website that will bring millions of uninsured people healthcare is being delayed for a few months, from this perspective, I think that we have a lot to be thankful for.