Nowadays, though, the unthinkable seems newly thinkable for a growing number of people, including myself. Consider the following: While the federal government doesn’t track how many citizens leave the U.S. for an extended period of time, if not forever, an estimate by the Association of Americans Resident Overseas, which tracks the comings and goings of expatriates, or “expats,” put the number at nearly nine million. That is more than double of the 1999 figure, which means the number of people leaving the country is growing faster than the growth rate of the United States itself…

The thought of leaving for me would have seemed utterly out of the question until recently, given my family history. My maternal grandfather, Henry, decided to leave his homeland, Germany, in 1934 to come to the U.S. and lived the American dream as an insurance executive until his death in 1996. As a result of his experience, I saw, and generally continue to see, America as a safe harbor: a place you run to, not a place you run from.

But it’s hard to ignore the parallels to pre-war Germany: apparently increasing amounts of violence, growing intolerance, a challenging economy, a leader who embraces authoritarian ways, not to mention voicing contempt for various minority groups. No question, there are significant differences too, but the parallel between then and now doesn’t have to be perfect for one to recognize that it exists. I think this might be what Mark Twain was getting at when he wrote: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”