We are different. We are the same.

At one point in our trip, we were discussing the current political situation in the US with some Germans, and the woman cautioned her husband to watch his choice of words–they didn’t know exactly how we stood on things. The man replied something along the lines of, “Honey, these are traveling Americans!” He expected us to have a broad perspective, and not embrace the current xenophobia that seems to have taken hold of so much of the US.

Traveling Americans, hanging out with the locals
Traveling Americans, hanging out with the locals

DSC_2521We’ve avoided talking politics in this little sailing blog, but of course, as we’ve returned to the States, we’ve been discussing it more and more in our real lives. And while we won’t get into a dissection of immigration policy here, we will say that one of the reasons we took this trip with our kids was for them to really understand the common bonds of humanity.

DSCF3599We’ve been excited to explore cultural differences, but at the same time, our kids know that their teachers in Guatemala are just regular people, like their parents–even if they live in a country with machine guns outside the Taco Bell. They know that kids in Guna Yala like sugary Zuko drinks, just like they do. They know for sure that not understanding a language, or speaking it poorly, does not mean you’re stupid. And I’d like to see you try to convince them that Mexicans are lazy–I’ve heard the rebuttal straight from my daughter’s mouth, and you’re going to lose. Demonizing an entire group of people based on their nationality or the color of their skin is never going to fly with my kids; that’s a permanent lesson that can’t be unlearned.

Not everyone in our family speaks English.
Not everyone in our family speaks English.

Calling groups of people animals, denying desperate people the right to apply for sanctuary, and separating families at the border is not ok with our family, and deserves to be said out loud, in this space.DSC_1952

At the same time, we’ve been surprised by some of the folks we’ve traveled with in the cruising community. When we made our plans, and thought about the people we’d meet, we didn’t account for the different politics of fellow sailors. We’ve traveled companionably with people at the far opposite end of both the religious and political spectrum from us. What we’ve found are people whom we genuinely like. We’ve also found a great deal of fear, a torrent of misinformation, and feelings of disenfranchisement. Traveling by sailboat can expose you to not just the different cultures of foreign countries, but the different cultures of your own. It’s helpful, as we reenter the current civic scrum, to remember the human nature of our friends on the other side of the fence.

5 Comments on “We are different. We are the same.

  1. Very well written! Your kids are so fortunate to get this view of the world. They will be the ones to change this mess we are in.

  2. Amen. What kills me when travelling is the knowledge that I’m free and able to visit these places and that that freedom is not reciprocal, and the reason for that is US laws and policies. A few years ago, my dentist in La Paz, Mexico, showed me pictures of herself smiling on the Great Wall, having just returned from her vacation in China. While talking I asked whether she ever vacationed in the States. She said no, that it was too difficult. She had to wait in lines at the US consulate 2 hours away, fill out too much paperwork months in advance of a visit, and then risk getting denied. Contrast that with any US citizen who can buy a ticket in the morning and be in Mexico City by dinner time with a 6-month tourist visa, just for filling in a stupid form on the plane.

    • For sure. When we checked into the Bahamas, we asked the lady at customs which were her favorite islands; she said she never got to go anywhere–it was too expensive for her to travel within her own country. It’s an unusual point in history, for us to have the economic and political freedom to travel like this.

  3. This is such an excellent post. I feel like travel should be a requirement of the privilege that comes with living in a country like ours. Nothing opens minds like traveling. People are so very insular and comfortable in their own little assumptions about others. It must be very sweet to live in such a black and white world, where you get to broad brush paint entire groups of people with pejoratives and believe they are actually true. What’s happening in our country is, I hope, a symptom of growth and development and I can only hope that we grow out of this phase in my lifetime. We are proud of both of our kids for being world citizens and travelers. I know you are proud of yours as well for being the same. We will have left this world a better place by bringing our kids into it.

    • When I get really bummed about it, I try to remember Howard Zinn’s comment about how every era of progress is marked by a time of backlash, but the general trend is still positive. And then I remember the comments about people who did not, in fact, survive the Reagan era (see: SF Gay Men’s Chorus), and I sink right back down into depression. Some people will not survive the time of Trump.

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