David Cogswell | August 19, 2016 12:30 PM ET
Be Careful When You Come Back
The shoe is on the other foot.
According to USA Today a couple of days ago: “A growing number of countries are warning their citizens about taking trips to the United States.
“The United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among those urging caution to U.S.-bound travelers. The concerns include mass shootings, police violence, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.”
For something like forever we’ve been seeing travel warnings, travel advisories telling us of the dangers that await us in various places in the world. Sometimes we even see “worldwide travel alerts” warning us no matter where we are. It sounds like we are at war with everyone.
If you follow that train of thought you will eventually be thinking we are at war with everyone everywhere, and everyone you see, especially anyone who looks different from you, is a potential enemy.
I’m sorry, but I’ve just had it with that whole way of thinking. Things have finally reached the reductio ad absurdum, the point at which the whole system of logic falls in on itself.
Now we are seeing travel warnings against our own country. And not without reason. The travel advisories are citing real dangers based on actual incidents. We hear about them every day.
It isn’t even safe to stay at home anymore. If you really take these things to heart, you will have to come to the conclusion that you can’t even walk out the door anymore without being thrown into a cauldron of violence and savagery.
For any places that have been left out of previous travel advisories, let’s just declare an all-time worldwide travel alert forever, and be done with it. There is nowhere further to go down that rabbit hole. Every place is now officially too dangerous to be in.
It’s a strange situation because everyone has to be somewhere. What do you do when there is nowhere to be anymore?
A couple of days ago an old friend sent me a Facebook message asking my opinion based on the fact that I had just been in Mexico City. She said she had been wanting to go there but she had read something that said it was one of the most dangerous places in the world to travel.
I told her, “Well, you couldn’t prove it by me. I never experienced anything remotely like what that statement refers to. I never once felt unsafe. I never felt threatened. I was never menaced in any way. I never even experienced an incidence of bad vibes.”
Even when I was being an annoying customer, I was treated with the greatest courtesy. All my failures as a foreign tourist, effectively illiterate, were accommodated cheerfully. If I had read the assertion that Mexico City was one of the most dangerous places to travel before I went, perhaps I would have seen it differently. But I had never heard that and nothing about my trip violated my innocence.
I was able to go there, have a thrilling experience, leave in an enchanted state that still hasn’t worn off – and never once was I introduced to the concept that Mexico City is dangerous. Gee, I guess I missed out. I could have gone around the city looking over my shoulder everywhere, afraid of everything that moved.
Statistics are strange little items and must always be looked at with a great deal of skepticism. That’s a giant subject in itself, but I like Mark Twain’s illustration of the snares of interpreting “averages.”
He said if my foot is in a block of ice and my hair is on fire my average temperature is just fine.
I don’t know how the numbers were produced that allegedly establish that Mexico City is one of the most dangerous places to travel, but I would not come to any conclusions without knowing that. Where did those numbers come from and how were they arrived at? And how are they being interpreted?
There may be some explanation as to why those statistics came out the way they did. But however they are being interpreted, the result bore no resemblance to my personal experience. What is the truth?
I often find it curious that when we are talking about all these dangers we are always talking about somewhere else. We can be sitting in New York discussing whether it’s safe to go to Paris because of a recent incident. But why Paris and not New York? What is stopping it from happening right here right now, not in Paris, but right here where we are now?
If a mass killing can erupt in Orlando or San Bernardino, then obviously it could happen anywhere. There is nothing that distinguishes the places where it happens from other places.
There is nowhere further to take that logic. Meanwhile you can have a wonderful time and enjoy the place where you are, or you can cower in fear and worry, and either way your chances of being the victim of some horrible incident are the same, which is not very much, by the way.
You worry about traveling to Paris when you are at home on your couch. When you are actually in Paris, the danger of a random incident is the farthest thing from your mind. You are swept up in what is going on around you, the great procession of life. At whatever time fate decides it is time for you to take your exit, you will.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy your life to the utmost.
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