Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Define Dangerous Travel Spots

Paris, France had a horrible set of terrorist attacks last week.  We've all heard about it.  I applaud the French for going after the camps of the terrorists who took credit for the attacks.  I think anyone would be right to do that.  Since then I've seen a plethora of advisories and such that are warning travelers about this area.  I just have to say that I'm not sure that's fair.  Lest we forget that there are many dangerous places to travel and Paris has rarely been one of them.  In the past we have told travelers to avoid South Africa, Venezuela, Georgia, Russia, China, Chad, Nigeria, Liberia, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Egypt, Greece, Mexico, Columbia, Grenada, Northern Ireland, Mali, Bali, the Philippines, Borneo, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Malaysia, Indonesia, North Korea, and the entire Middle East; just to name a few.  My theory is that you have to go somewhere if you intend to travel at all.

I once traveled to Russia at a rough time.  It was the end of the Soviet Union.  It was January, and you figure nothing will happen because it's bloody cold.  Well, they opened the churches for the first time in the Baltic States and invited the Pope to preside over several of the services and it turned into a bit of a fiasco.  There was an uprising in Vilnius, Lithuania and we just happened to be passing through there.  It was inconvenient to say the least.  A week or so later, we were trying to come home from Germany, or West Germany at the time, and the first Gulf War started that day leaving us stranded.  Was it stressful?  Yes.  We weren't sure that we were even going to be able to go home, because Europe shut down its airports that day.  But let me tell you something.  I have great stories to tell today.  Was it dangerous?  Yes.

I would like to think that there are safer places to go.  There should be a place to take the kids to that doesn't run risk.  We all love our families and want that to be true.  I wish it were.  I once took my mom to Iceland to go hiking.  What could go wrong?  Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world for women to travel in.  They don't have many people and they have virtually zero terrorist risk.  Great.  Everything did go just fine and we had a great time.  However, shortly after we left, a volcano erupted and the area that we were hiking in all but washed away.

I know, you can't fight mother nature, but it's scary.  I mean, would you travel to a place if you knew that it was about to erupt?  But, let's talk about those damn terrorists.  Back in 1993 came the first attack on the World Trade Center.  In those days I used to drive to the city to go shopping.  The parking garage at the World Trade Center was great and open to the public.  That's where I used to park, and the day before that attack, I was parked there.  Did that stop me from going to New York?  No, and 9/11 didn't either.  Am I foolish?  Probably.

In the winter of 1991-92 I was on a train to Budapest and as we passed the airport on our way into town, there was an explosion.  One of the terminals had been bombed by terrorists.  It was Al Qaeda.  No surprise, not even all the way back in those days.  What did we do?  A few days later we went to that airport and flew to Russia.  It was our itinerary.  Never mess with a history professor's itinerary.

I've been on trains that wrecked days later.  I've shown up to a Native American reservation inside the Grand Canyon the day after a flash flood ravaged the area.  I've lived through tornadoes, car wrecks, and having the Measles at age 25.  Do I have a purpose for telling you all of this?  Yes.

Over 33,000 people die in car crashes each year in the US.  We all still drive.  Gas leaks, extreme weather, disease, starvation, and accidents in general kill more people each year than terrorists do.  What is it about the terrorists that make us think that we can just avoid it?  What makes us think that if we don't go where the terrorism is, we won't have to be involved in it.  There are more people in this world scared of terrorism than are scared of ghosts, clowns, and nuns put together.  Do you know that old saying that you could get hit by a bus tomorrow?  Well, in New York there have been a record number of pedestrians being hit by vehicles lately, so apparently you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

So what should we do when faced with the terrorist threat?  A couple of years ago I planned a trip to southern Spain, Gibraltar, and Morocco.  It was a great trip, but I didn't take it.  There was an uprising of the people of some kind in Morocco, and I switched all of my plans to go to a safer place, because I didn't want to put my son at risk.  We went to Switzerland, and it was a great trip, but I still want to go to Gibraltar and vicinity.  Now I may never get to, and that was my second trip to Switzerland.  Did I miss out on something?  Probably, and all because I was scared of terrorists for the sake of my son's safety.

The world is a crazy place, and terrorists are some of the crazies.  They scare the hell out of us, and in case no one knew, that is the purpose of terrorism.  It's meant to scare the whole world into doing what some group of nuts wants us to do.  They are cowards, hiding in caves and deserts.  They pray on the weak and the young.  They treat women like disrespected animals and animals better than women.  They take a beautiful religion and bastardize it so that they can do whatever they want to others and still have a clean conscience.  They like to see us scurry for cover.  They like to drive us out of the cities.  It makes them feel strong.

There was a movie called War Games back in 1985 or so, and it was about a computer that could learn that was running our military.  It almost started World War III.  In the end it made a discovery.  It said, "Strange Game.  The only way to win is not to play."  I only wish we had that choice.  We have tried that, but it isn't working.  Negotiating doesn't work.  So what does?

I believe in solidarity.  Has anyone besides me noticed what's happened since these attacks in Paris?  The whole world is standing with Paris.  I think the world has had enough.  I hope that the time for terrorists is finally coming to an end.  If everyone stands against it.  If everyone fights against them.   "We can't be consumed by our petty differences any more." Said the President in Independence Day,  "We will be united in our common will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to exist...We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on, we're going to survive."

So, I say to all the terrorists out there, be careful what you wish for.  Jihad is your way, but you may just find yourself with more than you bargained for.  Have the terrorists seen what I have?  The world is standing up in one united voice and saying that we are tired of being terrorized.  We are tired of being afraid to take a train with our children.  We are tired of worrying when we go to the city.  We are tired of checking for dangers before booking a vacation.  We are tired, and we want a peaceful world full of free people who can move about freely whether they are of a specific gender or religion or not.  We are all equal and we are all done.

 So, urge your leaders to work together.  This stunning show of solidarity says that the citizens are ready.  Let's try and get our governments and leaders ready.  It's time to take back our world.  It's time to remove the vermin from the shadows.  It's time to rebuild and redesign.  It's time to agree to disagree about religion and culture.  It's time to learn instead of shut down.  Don't ban it, teach it.  Don't take away celebrations, add them.  Don't shelter, teach.

Will we ever get to be one world?  I would like to think so.  Wouldn't it be nice if the people who died in Paris didn't die in vain?  I say let's get some good out of the bad.  Let's make our world one to be proud of.  We have a good start.  The voice of the people is speaking.  Now all we need to do is listen to it.

And what about Paris?  I say we should all go to Paris.  We should state in one united voice that we are done being afraid and we are all ready to fight to end this era of unknown terror skulking about in the dark alleys of our minds and cities.  Stand together.  Stand united.  Stand with Paris and change the world.  If we can do that then we can live and let live.  If we can do that then we can learn to respect differences.  If we do that then maybe we can truly travel and enjoy.

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