A little while back, the Huffington Post contacted me and asked if I would like to join a panel of American expats around the world for a live broadcast.
The live interview was to be conducted through Skype and aired online as well as recorded for later viewing. Now, I am not a Huff Post reader in any way shape or form, but I thought: “Why not? I’ll get to blab about where I live and they’ll announce and publish my blog address (spainexpatblog.com), which my advertisers would like very much.” So I replied in the affirmative, provided my phone number and received a call almost immediately.
A young and caffeinated assistant (coordinator? intern?) introduced herself and thanked me for my willingness to participate. I could hear newsroom noise in the near background as she supplied me with the basics of the broadcast–time, theme, number of panel members, length, etc. She was chirpy and cheerful and made small talk between firing off questions that would verify my depth of expatdom.
Satisfying all her initial questions, she moved into some directed questions, beginning with what did I like about Spain, what does a normal day look like for me, and then she asked why I left the US. This was the first tip off as to what this expat panel was to be about. Usually, people don’t ask me why I left the US. The (more logical) question is always why did I move to Spain?
It then continued down a predictable Huffpost path. This hyper fresh journalist (junior editor? screener?) trying to steer me into the answers she was expecting to hear, needing to hear to fit the panel’s agenda. What did I think about public healthcare in Spain? Did I have health insurance in the US before? What about the unemployed here, did they suffer like they do in the US? How about retirees, are they properly looked after? I answered all of her questions, elaborating on ungodly wait times for appointments and procedures through public healthcare–throwing in a few (true) stories of bloodstained sheets and lack of basic provisions like water for patients in hospitals–the reasons for the 50% unemployment rate among under 25s (indefinite welfare from the government and the cultural belief that children and young people should not work), ridiculous pensions, the unproductive and archaic manner most businesses are run (nepotism, zero recognition or reward for performance, the high value given to the appearance of business), in short, all of my usual complaints.
I finished my rant–I wanted to make a point by going against her assumptions–and listened to the chirpiness in her “mm-hmms” fade away and even produced some long pauses, in which the newsroom bluster behind her rose loud and clear through the mouthpiece of her phone. I attempted to then bow out, explaining I’m not the driod (ehrm, representative) they were looking for, but the clever little trainee (apprentice? indentured servant?) saw her angle and dug in her heels.The cadence of her speech quickened and her twittery tone returned as she explained that a variety of experiences would provide a great forum, and that I would give contrast to the panel. I considered it for a moment, and, still with a “what the heck, I like new experiences” attitude and of course thinking of the exposure my blog might receive, said OK. Chirpy was ecstatic. She told me I would be hearing from so-and-so and would receive emails the next day in preparation.
Sometime during the following day, I realized that what I would be getting myself into was not going to be a fun new experience, but an annoying debate against expats who left because, in a nutshell, the US government doesn’t support them and their families enough. I thought about what an asshole I would come across as, and the snarky comments I would receive on my website and have to respond to. I’m not a (total) asshole–I donate a percentage of my income to good causes, I recycle, I pay taxes (in both countries)–but there are certain things I appreciate about my country and don’t take for granted, and get really annoyed dealing with those who do. So I canceled my participation.
While on one hand it might have been satisfying to share my experience and point of view, I realized there is no debating with super liberals (I know, I was one!!!) especially in the form a major media outlet like the Huffpost.