So! A few things.
But the things being born in America has done for me don't equate to the things America has done for me. That's the difference, to me. America isn't a country that sets out to do things specifically for its citizens anymore, except for a very few with money and those over the age of 65.
Not entirely sure what one might reasonably expect from the state in terms of services rendered. I mean, if you're waiting for the president or your local congressman to come and buy you a coffee, maybe rub your back, ask you how your day went... no, that's probably not going to happen. Not much your local or national government will actively "do" for you personally. But, I mean, there's plenty of stuff the American gov't attempts to do for its citizenry, right? Besides the examples I already listed, there's public works projects, there's health benefits for those who need them (and now there's the increasingly dubious addition of the ACA). There's workplace discrimination laws. There's airline subsidies that, sure, help Big Airplane insofar as it keeps airlines from being entirely unprofitable and therefore unsustainable. That's national infrastructure. There are farming subsidies that not only help Big MacDonald, but also keep milk and grain prices stable for you, Joe Shopper. There are divisions of government set up to make sure that monopolies don't give corporations unfair advantages, there are food stamp programs, WIC, social services, uh, public schools. And by security, I meant security on a national level, not a local level. I meant more along the lines of "when was the last time there was a home-grown, nation-wide splinter movement that specialized in kidnapping randoms off of the street for political gains or big profits on a daily basis" type thing. Or a "how often do car bombings happen in America" type thing. Or "When did the Aum Shinrikyo last unleash a deadly cloud of Sarin into American Subways" type thing. Not really a "how much crime is in your particular community and how does that correlate to that community's socioeconomic standing" thing. Which is really up to state/citywide funding, isn't it? And a problem inherent to most nations above a certain population level.
And I'm still gonna give a shout out to federal loans, which helped my wife, who came from a less financially stable background, get through college and post-grad. Now, you could argue that a lot of these government-funded programs are getting worse and worse, but ultimately that depends on whose ideologies are driving state policy, and I'm pretty sure that goes back to voting, and making sure those ideologies are balanced.
So what could the government do for you personally that would convince you that America is providing you opportunities rather than just being the place you were born? Or is your main quibble that you have to pay for those services?
As for your second point- interesting! Where are you thinking of moving? I think that this, ultimately, is the only way to follow through with the whole "I reject this state of affairs" mindset. That said, however, you haven't left yet, and so the onus of responsibility still lies on you to help determine and, yes, take ownership of our political narrative. And by that, I might not have been clear enough in my definition. I didn't just mean, "voting helps or hurts our national community and you need to own that." In that case, yeah, you could do some service work in a limited capacity and kind of take culpability that way. I meant more on a global scale. The decisions that have to be made every day on that level in terms of economic policy (trade deals, supply routes, sanctions, etc.), security (who do we drone today?), diplomacy- these are all executed with our national well-being in mind. Which doesn't always equal out to your or my personal well-being. But without the one, the other is much less guaranteed.
So let's say the state makes all these nasty decisions, and then we sit all cozy with our property rights and basic freedoms and, yes, relatively strong national security and we say: "I can't condone this, so I'm not voting." Do you see the problem with that? There are so many world actors that are hurt by America's self interest (although, if we're being fair, all actors are hurt by every other actor's self interest when you're talking about the superpowers), and there's fuckall we can do about it. You're not going to fly to Pakistan and help re-build their shelled communities. Or at least I'm not. So anyhow, by not voting, it's not that you're rejecting the system that makes all of this possible. You're just refusing to put your fingerprint on it. After all, you're not voting those offices or those bad decisions out of existence, or willing those offices and bad decisions out of existence by not voting- you're just refusing to choose the name of the guy who is going to make your decisions for you whether you like it or not. Meanwhile, you're still reaping the benefits of those decisions, right up to the point at which you leave. Which means you ought to pay for those decisions- not only in tax dollars and opportunity cost, but in moral culpability as well. In my mind, that equals out to voting, although I'm willing to grant that maybe there are workarounds.
the system that benefits me that you keep referring to ... I'm not seeing it, really. Everything in America has a cost
I mean, yeah, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a place where provided services don't have a cost. Just because you have to buy into national benefit doesn't mean that America is suddenly worse for your state of existence than, I dunno, Russia or Brazil or Saudi Arabia. You're not blessed to live here because you don't have to pay for services. You're blessed to live here because those services exist at all, and if you require them they'll work more or less as promised, and because if you don't like any part of it, you can complain about it and you won't disappear. We're so wealthy here that we don't even know how good we have it.
None of this is to say our system is perfect. In fact, my above philosophy on voting is based less on starry-eyed "you have it perfect and if you dont, gosh-darn-it yes you can change things" naivete and more on a deep, deep cynicism: "the state does horrible shit so you can live the way you do, so vote in order to help bear the moral brunt of those decisions."
If you're hung up on voting for one of the two yutzes on the ballot... that's not really a good reason to abstain from voting altogether. Write in. Hell, if you think somebody out there can do it better, jot their name down. Vote third party. I had a friend who tried to start a national movement wherein local liberals and conservatives could join up, go to the ballot box together, and verify that each of them voted third party, thereby depriving both large parties of an equal number of votes and doubling the third-party turnout. Neat idea, hasn't yet gained ground. Ultimately though, what I'm getting at is that it's not about validating the two cronies on the ballot, as you suggested- it's about taking ownership of the political infrastructure that makes it all possible, warts and all.
Does any of that make sense? Curse this little text box, so hard to review what I'm writing for consistency.