I was explaining ex-patriation to my son the other day. I commented about how their textbooks paint the picture like those ancestors just got an urge to uproot and go find Disneyland, or "find themselves". Always the contemporary rationalized view of historic rationale.
But the reality was that those places sucked ass back then. Plague, famine, drought, serfdom, indentured servitude, heavy taxation, repression, religious persecution, etc. They were escaping, not exploring. I don't wax nostalgic about that situation at all. I figure that if we could ask them, "hey, want to go back?" They'd say "fuck off!" in their native language or dialect.
Why we still look back on it with wonder is very confusing to me. They hated their surroundings so bad that they risked everything to make a long (very long) trip to a place they only heard about. No brochures, web sites or Travel Channel exposes. Emphasis on "hate". They hated the fuck out of it. That's why they left. Think about what it takes to make you want to move. Not just thinking about moving, or considering a move, but actually moving. And I'm not talking to another neighborhood, another city or even another state. I'm talking about moving to another country. Now, add to that notion not having any real perception of the new land. No pictures, videos, nothing. Just stories from other people about it. Now, pack your stuff and get on a steamer and sail for six months to this new place. Still sound nostalgic? I didn't think so.
We need to keep that in the back of our heads whenever the subject comes up.