World Travel Opens Minds

GUEST BLOGGER: ROB GREELEY

 

If your car starts making a pinging and a grinding sound every time you accelerate, and you know something is definitely wrong and could become worse, would you ask your neighbor who has been a mechanic for 10 years to take a look at it, or would you ask your other neighbor who is a brain surgeon to look at it?

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Now it doesn’t mean that your brain surgeon neighbor isn’t extremely intelligent, but there is a good chance that he knows nothing about cars. So naturally, we would want to take advice from someone who may know more about the subject at hand. Make sense? Ok…follow me now…

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As someone who has had the good fortune to travel and meet people from around the world, I would venture to say that a large majority of my inner circle of friends are from other countries. I can assure you citizens from around the world have to jump through many hoops, just to obtain a visitors visa, and even more hoops for a temporary or permanent residency. The cost alone is prohibitive for millions of people who would love to visit our beautiful country. In order to even apply for a visa, there is usually a large application fee ranging from $300 and up, and if their application is denied, which most of them are, that money is non-refundable, and the applicant knows that upfront, which deters many from even applying.

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The U.S. government does not have a policy of “do you want to come live here in the land of opportunity? You do? Well then come on in.” There has always been a lengthy vetting process, which explains our many years without an organized terrorist attack. And…the “what about San Bernadino” examples are blown WAY out of proportion. There are people murdered every day in America, by Americans. There always has been and there always will be. Letting someone buy a gun who has had an extensive background check does not guarantee that this person won’t at some time in the future decide to take the lives of others (regardless of where they are from) and we’ve seen this time and time again. Neither will extreme vetting. Ask yourself this: If a recent immigrant from Israel shot up a mall, do you think for one second that Israel would fall into this ban? You know they wouldn’t. Nor would Spain, or Italy, or Germany, or France. Why? Because every day when Americans kill other Americans, we don’t stop and say “OK…what is this guys heritage? Where is he from? Let’s add his country of origin to the list. The media on both sides of the aisle cherry pick examples for their side.

robgRob chilling in Brazil in 2016

I hear all of the time “if these people are going to come to our country and live in our country, they need to learn the goddamn language.” I used to say that myself when I was younger. It’s amazing how world travel is such a wonderful educational experience. Over 8 million American non military citizens live outside of the United States. And yes, they live in Iran, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Yemen. But we don’t call them immigrants, we call them “expatriates” or “expats”.

Here is what I know about expats: They tend to live in areas of a foreign city with other expats (just like foreigners do here in the U.S.) And if they wore jeans with holes in them, flip flops, and tank tops here in the U.S., that’s exactly what they wear in the country that they are living. They don’t change how they dress or try to conform to that countries attire. And while some of them take the time to learn the language of the country they are living, many do not, because they are surrounded in a community of English-speaking expats, so there is no real need to learn that language (sound familiar?).

Maybe they are just too old to want to learn another language. Maybe they tried and they’re just not quick at picking up a second language. So if Americans are allowed to dress the way they always have, pray the way they always have, speak the language they always have while living in these other countries, why do we insist that immigrants living in our communities change these things? These countries are not intimidated about allowing Americans to live in their communities…fearing that their people will begin wearing holes in their jeans etc… We think it’s so cool that Europeans speak multiple languages, but cry at the thought of learning a second language in our own country. Europeans learn multiple languages so they can communicate easily with their neighboring countries and members from those countries living and working in their country, as so they can go and work and live in those neighboring countries.

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I have many Muslim friends, so let me tell you a little bit about them. They love to drink coffee in the mornings just like we do. They like to watch Big Bang Theory just like we do. They get excited over a BOGO just like we do. They like to go to the beach just like we do. They love to go to the movie theater just like we do. They love to take their families to the park just like we do. They cram for their exams just like we do. They love to scroll through Facebook and upload photos of their dinner just like we do. They love to drink craft beers just like we do. They get sad when they see wrong in the world, just like we do. And here’s another thing – they get angry and upset with terrorist activities – anywhere in the world, just like we do. I’ve lived with Muslims, I’ve drank with them, I’ve worked with them, I’ve traveled with them. They are not trying to change us or our way of life.

I feel pretty confident that those Americans who feel so strong about keeping them out of our country have never had a Muslim friend or even as much as had a conversation with one, and have never seen a visa application to enter the U.S., or the extreme lines at our airports at customs and immigration as visitors from around the world are interrogated for sometimes hours as they enter our country, and fall victim to the unrealistic fear that they are here and determined to change our way of life, when nothing could be further from the truth.

So take it from someone who knows a little about the subject matter. Take a little time to educate yourself, and those around you. Both side of the political aisle play us against each other…but knowledge is power, and the truth will set you free.

Rob Greeley has traveled extensively. 

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Temple of Heaven

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The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, dates back to 1420. It is one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in China. I have made several visits to this temple and the grounds, which is a huge space that has been used as a park with the demise of the imperials in 1911.

Emperors would travel from the Forbidden City to the Temple of Heaven to fast, sacrifice and pray for a good harvest. As long as your subjects have full bellies they were happy and thus not thinking about storming the castle with torches. In the world of modern-day politics, isn’t that true today? The people have jobs, have a roof over their heads and food on the table they keep the leaders in power. Usually.

The Temple of Heaven is definitely worth a visit if you come to China. It’s one of the largest wooden and circular temples in China and one built without nails. Try to go in early spring or after early autumn to avoid the immense crowds. The entrance fee is also reduced for low season.

 

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‘This Should Never Happen Again’

“I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear (Donald Trump’s plan).”

— Former Governor of Massachusetts William (Bill) Weld

More than three years ago I sat in a friend’s apartment in Krakow, Poland, after visits to various places in and outside the city where people by the thousands were pulled from their homes with brute force in the middle of the night, their belongings thrown onto the street, some of them who dared to resist thrown out of windows to their deaths, their modest storefront businesses destroyed, simply because of their ethnic or religious background. Human hate run amuck.

The dreadful period came to be known as “Kristallnacht”, in English, “Night of Broken Glass”, when windows were smashed and broken glass littered the streets and squares along with people’s possessions and family heirlooms. All for hate.

I was moved to tears as I walked through Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi concentration camps, where the history of what happened to European Jews is preserved. So moved that I returned to my friend’s flat and made a video impromptu.

In that vein, this is an impromptu writing. What has led me to write this? Last night I watched a live New York Times broadcast on Facebook, in which a young woman named Abril took questions from viewers as she told the story of how at 11 years old she came to the United States from Mexico with her parents, crossing the border illegally. She was a child. She had no say in the matter. Her parents made that decision. Today, Abril is still in the United States by executive order from the White House that has allowed 11 million undocumented migrants to remain in the Unites States. Many of them, like Abril, have gone to school, work, pay their taxes and have become productive members of society. But during the live broadcast, before Abril had even had a chance to utter a single word, the haters turned up in great numbers, spewing some of the most vile, hateful words I’ve not heard lobbed so freely in the United States in decades.

Abril remained calm and answered some tough questions, showing herself to be a poised young woman. Yet, the hate continued. Then my mind wandered back to Poland, and the people in the United States were sounding very much like the people of Nazi Germany. And the events that followed, “Kristallnacht”, began to ring like Donald Trump’s plan, “to build a wall”, keep Muslims out, “round-up” 11 million people like Abril in the United States, breaking apart families – some of those individuals who came to the United States illegally now have children who were born in the United States – driven by hate, not humanity.

I know it doesn’t matter what I say to Donald Trump supporters. It doesn’t matter what anybody says to a Trump supporter. Their love for him is undying, unshakeable. He can do and say anything and their love for him will remain unchanged. I know this now. This is to appeal to the rest of you who aren’t quite onboard as Trump fanboys or fangirls. To the rest of you fellow Americans who are not parrots and instead rightly question the actions and words of anyone seeking high office.

So I go back to my words from more than three years ago, the video, as someone concerned about history repeating, and in all places, the professed land of the free and home of the brave. Do we stop with Mexicans and Muslims? Who among us do we go after next? I think we’re better than that.

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