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The Unpleasantness of Being Used

A week or so ago, a strange entry popped up in my search filter. I didn’t recognize the website URL, but its name caught my eye.

I clicked on the link and found myself reading an article about whether to become an expat, and my post Seven Reasons Not to Become an Expat was included.

Nothing surprising in that. We bloggers learn to get used to having our posts included on someone else’s website.

Usually the person linking to a post of ours is kind enough to alert us; they’ll often include the link to their post in a tweet, comment on our blogsite or on Facebook, even send an email.

If I write about someone else’s post or article, I always aim for attribution and letting them know I’ve written about their work, even for articles published in newspapers or magazines. The author may or may not respond, but at least I’ve made an honest effort to notify them.

In a perfect world they also give full attribution when writing about my work (e.g., ‘Over at Adventures in Expat Land, Linda wrote about fill-in-the-blank’). Seriously, if you take the time to link to someone else’s post/article, how tough is it to include their name and/or name of their site??

But I learned long ago that there is no such thing as a perfect world.

Sometimes the poster just doesn’t know – or care – about blogging etiquette, and they link back to your post without either attribution or letting you know.

Not optimal, but it happens. If you subscribe to the adage that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ (which, for the record, I do not), you figure that at least someone is sending their readers to your blog.

I suppose it beats having someone take parts of a post or even an entire post you’ve written and pass it off as their own work.

That happens far more often than any of us would care to think it would; I’m going on record here as saying I don’t always agree with the other adage that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,’ either. Sometimes imitation is lack of creativity, just plain laziness, even plagiarism.

As I skimmed the page, I had a sinking feeling.

It took me a couple minutes to read the full post and check the other two links included to get the full picture.

The situation I’m writing about today was not a case of plagiarism, but of not fully attributing.

And in this case, I didn’t mind one bit.

Why? The political nature of the website.

photo of crossed AK-47s on www.adventuresinexpatland.comI’m not talking about the typical back and forth of Republicans vs. Democrats, conservative vs. liberals here.

This blogger was a flat out beyond-the-pale extreme conservative, so far to the right that he was almost coming back around on the political spectrum.

His premise is that the world is ending and you’d better be prepared, an anti-government, uber-survivalist promoting a message along the lines of ‘the United States may be going to hell in a handbasket, but it sure beats any other place on the planet, so you’d better just hunker down with your guns and supplies and await Armageddon’.

There was nothing overtly racist, sexist, religiously intolerant, bigoted or xenophobic in his post, but you sensed that they were all there, quietly lurking below the surface. It was written in a calm, rational, matter-of-fact style, and the message was clear: it’s best to be here heavily armed, even in a screwed up US, than ‘out there’.

Whether he is a member of an anti-government militia, I’ll never know. I didn’t want to start clicking on any more posts to find out. I just wanted to get the h&LL off that site as quickly as possible.

In the course of his message of preparedness, the blogger’s first link was to a fellow believer. This guy was even more strident than the first, focusing on the need to arm oneself and be prepared to deal with advancing hordes coming over the borders when (not if) the time comes.

Note to advancing hordes thinking of coming over the US borders in event that the Apocalypse begins: in a word, DON’T. There are some crazy mothers out there, and you do NOT want to encounter them.

Interestingly enough, my link and the remaining link were identified only as being written by ‘non-political expats’.  It took me a minute to figure out what that meant.

He was signalling his readers that we were not members of the politically motivated brethren who have chosen to denounce the United States as a lost cause, fleeing the country in disgust to seek quieter places in the world to inhabit.

We’d both written candid posts about some of the challenges inherent in expat life, and now our words were being used to justify his extreme beliefs.

The irony is that I wrote Seven Reasons as a wake-up call to aspiring expats suffering from delusions that they’d head overseas without a plan and automatically live the high life. If you read the ending closely, you’d see that there are plenty of reasons to embrace expat life, just not necessarily the ones some people assume to be the case.

I believe you need to go into any situation with your eyes wide open, and living abroad is no different. I certainly have never been someone who advocates expatriating because they’re sick of their country, tired of paying taxes or rejecting its government, and I get uneasy reading about others who do.

I would never renounce my citizenship. I may not like much of what passes for political discourse in America these days, and I don’t always agree with policies from either political party.

I care deeply for my country and am proud to be American. Some people can’t understand that level of patriotism or commitment to bedrock democratic ideals no matter how skewed the implementation may be, and they have a good time making fun of it.

That’s okay. They were raised elsewhere, under different circumstances in places with different historical and cultural orientations. They may think they are being oh so witty with their anti-American remarks, but really they just reveal themselves to be as culturally intolerant as the next person.

Let me say right here that I have unwaivering support for freedom of speech and press. I don’t have a problem with the fact that in terms of political beliefs, the person citing my work and I are fairly far apart. Pretty much diametrically opposed, in fact.

I support his right to use my work to support his political arguments, even if I don’t share them. Even if I wish he wouldn’t. I just don’t have to like it.

And in this case, it feels downright icky.

[Image credit: anankkml, portfolio 1674, FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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