Posted on July 22, 2018
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.
We’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.
We’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.
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.
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.