Today, UK citizens go to the polls to elect a new government - or, more likely, the same government.
I am neither proud nor ashamed to be an American. It's part of my identity, but I don't feel any patriotic fervor or antipathy. I often turn apologist when I speak to British citizens who are largely infuriated by the actions of my government, particularly if I don't know the person well enough to engage in rational debate. I begin every conversation at a disadvantage. As soon as I open my mouth, my alien status is clear. My accent feels like a brand, and one that carries more negative connotations than positive. I approach everyone gingerly, cautiously, trying hear their concerns about my country and their scorn for its citizens, to let their anger wash over me and respond with respect and compassion. I'm sure this is character-building, but it's also exhausting.
It's a peculiar day to be an expat. For the first time in my adult life, I'm watching an election in which I'm unable to participate take place in my country of residence. It's disquieting. I am, after all, in a precarious position. I am here because of the latitude of this country's laws. The ones that permit domestic partners of two years' standing to obtain identical visas, a level of leniency that my own government doesn't allow. I can't select government officials and by extension, I can't influence the creation or revision of the law. I'm not arguing for the right to do so - I don't believe I have it. I've only lived here for seven months. I'm simply remarking on my own powerlessness.
I love the act of voting. Despite wavering between cynicism and idealism, despite the microscopic scale of my influence, despite my ignorance of the particulars of much of the political system, I have my principles and I leap at the chance to express them in this way, to cast them into the great body of variable beliefs that composes the sluggish bureaucratic giant of government. But today, I can only stand aside and watch.