By Digby Jones
No other government on the face of this Earth wants to make it’s citizens more ill-at-ease, deathly afraid, or made to feel so guilty for stepping outside of it’s national boundaries as the United States of America. Rather than encouraging Americans to embrace overseas travel as one of the most educational, enjoyable, and emotionally and spiritually satisfying endeavors that people can undertake in the course of our painfully short lives, U.S. government departments and institutions are notorious for wanting to make even just the IDEA of pursuing international travel as unpleasant and unsettling as they can possibly muster.
You must look no further than the U.S. State Department’s “Global Travel Alert” issued this past Friday (August 2nd 2013) to grasp the sheer ridiculousness and paranoia of the U.S. governments stance on it’s citizens travelling abroad. The alert, which is based upon the “most specific, credible threat information in years” (but of course lacking any actual date or timing), warned of the potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, to be carried out by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates.
It came less than a day after the department announced that it was closing U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere through the weekend because of a (of course) ‘unspecified’ terrorism threat. The global travel alert if effective through the end of August.
So going by the State Department’s advice and logic on this “global” travel alert, we’re all supposed to reconsider our travel plans to ANYWHERE outside the United States? Or at least for the remainder of August? Even if I just want to camp out at Uluru in the middle of Australia, the Islamic bad guys are going to be out for my blood? Yep, the whole concept of a United States issued “global travel alert” is just….that….LAME.
Let’s just flip the coin here for a moment. Have you noticed there is no such thing as a “domestic travel alert” issued by the United States Department of State? I mean if you really think about it there SHOULD be. The United States literally has all of the most dangerous cities in the world under the umbrella of the term “First World”. Comparing U.S. cities like Camden, New Orleans, Detroit, Memphis, or South Side Chicago with the likes of European cities such as Vienna, Zurich, Helsinki, Munich, or Copenhagen is somewhat akin to contrasting Hell with Heaven, at least certainly from a safety standpoint.
Yet the host countries of those cities don’t issue “global travel alerts” specifically pointing out the United States as an area of greater safety concern (which it plainly is). They realize that the world is not perfect, and some safety risks which can theoretically happen anywhere are not going to be allowed to ruin their holiday plans.
You wanna talk about forces at work which are trying to ruin your holiday plans? Just take a look at the U.S. State Department’s website, particularly if you direct yourself to the “threats to safety and security” section under ‘country specific information’. A lot of the stuff you will read in this area of the website is absolutely horrifying. Seriously, just what sort of coffin-sized box do they want Americans to live in? Here are some direct quotations from a number of countries we would otherwise consider among the safest places in the world to visit.
AUSTRALIA – Australia has an alert system for possible terrorist attacks. The threat levels range from “low” to “high.” The Australian Attorney General’s Office web site has up-to-date information regarding the current terrorism threat level. Depending on the alert, you should maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase your security awareness. (Threats To Safety And Security)
NEW ZEALAND – Violent crime against tourists is rare; however, if you are traveling alone, you should be especially vigilant and avoid isolated areas. (Crime)
NORWAY – Like other countries in the Schengen area, Norway’s open borders with its Western European neighbors also allow the possibility of terrorists entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Be vigilant with regard to your personal security. (Threats To Safety And Security)
FINLAND – Finland remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Finland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups anonymously entering and exiting the country. (Threats to Safety And Security)
Notice how the State Department clearly is not a fan of Europe’s open borders policy? They would much prefer to have the personal freedoms and civil liberties of Europeans be squandered, and have a T.S.A. equivalent for Europe rule over the continent with an iron fist in order to catch those pesky “terrorists” who must be freely crossing the border between Germany and Denmark on a daily basis.
As for countries like Cuba, it is interesting to point out how the U.S. State Departments description of the country is frighteningly comparable to the modern day United States, though they want to pretend to remain oblivious to this fact. Also, in a bizarre twist to readers expectations (especially if the department is actually telling solo travelers in New Zealand to ‘avoid isolated areas’ which is exactly what most travelers to the country hope to spend a lot of time doing) they actually give a rare display of praise for North Korea.
NORTH KOREA – North Korea does not release crime statistics. Violent crime is rare, and street crime against foreigners is uncommon in Pyongyang. (In truth, crime against travelers to North Korea is almost non-existent).
Beyond the endless scaremongering, there is another major reason why the U.S. government doesn’t want you to travel abroad. In the 21st century, they desperately want to avoid having you see for yourself just HOW FAR BEHIND our country has fallen. Our government has an incredibly fragile ego, and desperately wants to continue to tout that the United States is the “greatest country on Earth”, which many of us are now aware is a totally false exclamation.
It is an embarrassment for the U.S. government when Americans visit South Korea, Germany, France, Italy, and even Turkey and witness first-hand just how wonderful, efficient, and fast the domestic intercity train systems run. It is an embarrassment for Americans to witness how the streets are kept cleaner and the highways better maintained in countries across Europe, and even in parts of Mexico. It is an embarrassment when they visit Australia, and drop their jaws at the revelation many of the locals are working jobs earning the annual equivalent of anywhere between $70,000 – $120,000 U.S. dollars, which do not require any university education (and therefore no crippling student loan debt-slavery).
It is an embarrassment when Americans talk with university students in Scandinavia and realize it is not costing them a penny. It is an embarrassment when they walk the streets of Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro and safely come to the conclusion that the locals are more health conscious, better dressed, self-confident, and consistently attractive than pretty much anywhere at home. It is an embarrassment coming to the realization that Santiago, the capital of Chile and among the most populous cities in “dangerous” Latin America, is actually a safer city than any U.S. metropolitan area of comparable size.
Basically, the U.S. government does not want you to become aware about a lot of really, really, good things that are available to people in other parts of the world that are severely lacking at home. They do not want you coming back to the United States and raving to your friends about how wonderful your destination was, having ideas of moving abroad to a country with better employment opportunities and/or financial rewards (Australia, Germany, Norway, etc.), or planning on early retirement to a country with wonderful year-round weather and a low cost-of-living in Latin America or Southeast Asia.
They don’t want you to figure out that it is possible to have a rich and full life without automobile dependency, which is a reality in many other countries. They don’t want you to visit a country that actually learns how to get along with the planet and requires only a token military budget, and where discretionary government funds can be spent on much more constructive or life-affirming pursuits.
NO. They want you to STAY in the United States and forever remain a dutiful U.S. taxpayer, slave to big oil and student loans, and to sit down and shut up as drones and bombs obliterate yet another country that has never harmed the United States in any way (it was Yemen this week right?). Traveling abroad, spending your money elsewhere, having a wonderful time, and then perhaps ultimately wanting to move yourself and your assets away, will make them very, very, grumpy indeed.
After all, it is easy for a population to be brainwashed into thinking that their country is the “best in the world” when they have absolutely no frame of reference to any of the other 200+ sovereign states which exist in the world today. It’s easy to get a large segment of the population to actually believe countries like Iran are hostile when Hollywood propaganda films like “Argo” portray every local as a bloodthirsty zealot out to claim an American scalp. Unfortunately for them, the reality is that Iranians are without doubt some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on this Earth, and embrace American travelers with cheerful gusto and sincere smiles.
Of course, you can simply ignore the government propaganda campaigns and societal warnings all you want. There is nothing stopping a U.S. citizen from taking off overseas, provided you have a valid passport, sufficient funds, and a thirst for adventure. What cannot be stopped is the end game, the dreaded T.S.A. “Chat Down” when you return to the U.S.A. But I’ll leave that for another article.
So in the meantime, whatever you do, even though the risk of a supposed ‘terrorist’ attack is the most elevated in the Middle East and North Africa, pay heed to the State Department’s “global travel alert” and cancel that trip you had planned to Norway or New Zealand later next week. Those countries are far too dangerous right now (maybe forever) and you’re going to be KILLED! Stay right here at home in the United States and spend your tourist dollars in New Orleans, Memphis, Camden, and the south side of Chicago instead. You’ll be 100% totally safe and secure!
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