Living in the Prairie Provinces (Saskatchewan & Manitoba) in many ways isolates us from the daily trials of the rest of the world. Comfortable in our rural-rooted lifestyle, hidden away from the crime and uncertainty of larger centers, we live our lives with a sense of security and safety.
Or at least we did. I do not think anyone, anywhere, lives in security and safety anymore. The horrific events of September 11th, 2001, have taught us here that we are not immune from the issues that plague the planet. Many of us either knew a victim of the terrorist attacks, or knows someone who did. One of my best friend’s husband is a pilot for American Airlines who occasionally flies the Boston-LA route, and my neighbor’s son-in-law works at the Pentagon. Geographically we may be removed, but emotionally we are tied in to the tragedy in a way that shatters our illusion of separation and security.
Someone I know, who hasn’t done any traveling beyond the all-inclusive, asked me why I was still planning my upcoming backpacking trip to Thailand. After all, the world is now a strange and dangerous place, full of people we don’t understand. It is better that we stick to ourselves, she said, to what and who we know, and leave those other people alone. That friend, in her sheltered way, has separated the world into an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.
It is the mark of the afraid and uninformed to turn to their exclusionary, tribal groups in a time like this. It is the mark of the ignorant to turn to their tribal roots in a violent way. We have seen this within the terrorists, people so far removed from hope and emerged in hate that life at any level has lost its value. We see this as well in the people who are letting their anger loose on minorities, who fail to realize that many Arab-Americans have lost as much as any blond-haired, blue-eyed person. Tribalism is not recognition of a common humanity; it is a cluster of hate that refuses to recognize outsiders in anyway except as ‘the others’.
So, my refusal to stop traveling in ‘foreign’ countries is my own way to combat the separation that tribalism calls for. At its soul, travel is so much more than a holiday. Travel, in the purest form, makes ambassadors of us all. It forces us to look beyond surfaces, to understand beyond an academic level, to identify citizens of this earth as in essence giving, loving entities that have families and joy and pain, no matter where they come from. If you accept this, except that we are all, in body and soul, basically the same, then tribalism and hate fail.
So we must not give up on the journeys. We should instead cherish them more. It is only by getting to know each other, to see the commonalities between all cultures as well as the idiosyncrasies, that we can begin to approach creating a global tribe. And the best way to achieve this is through the face-to-face contact that true travel allows. When I go to Thailand in a couple of months, I’ll be much more aware of the people that I meet, and I’ll take away more than just a few photographs; hopefully, I’ll come back with a renewed hope in mankind.
The hearts of everyone in the Prairie Provinces are with the victims and the families of this unbelievable tragedy in the US. Our love and support are with you, with all Americans, and with all the citizens of the world who support peace.