Being a citizen of the world
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain
Could the great Mark Twain have had the ability to look into the future? Specifically to June of last year when the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. Or on November 8 when the unthinkable happened here in the United States. Or when an executive order was signed on January 27 here in America that seemed painfully reminiscent of the events of 1942, post-Pearl Harbor. Don’t worry, that’s about as political as I’ll get here on the blog.
But the fact remains that no statement is more eerily true and haunting than the second line of Twain’s quote-“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Truer words have never been spoken. “Friends” on Facebook who post such appalling content it makes my stomach turn don’t travel and more importantly, don’t care to leave their “one little corner of the earth,” ever. I would never begrudge anyone who wants to travel but doesn’t have the means or ability to but you can still “travel” in other ways, whether through watching foreign cinema, going out to an ethnic restaurant, or simply reading a book. It’s the people that prefer to remain in their narrow minded and often prejudiced mindsets I take issue with.
People often make such a big (and unnecessary) to do over the whole traveler versus tourist claim. As I’ve said before, it’s rubbish. If you don’t live in a particular place and especially if you don’t speak the native language , you’re a tourist; don’t pretend otherwise. But for me and especially in today’s dark times, I think the question you should ask yourself is if you’re a citizen of your country, or a citizen of the world? I like to think I am and always will be the latter.
More than a decade later, one of my favorite things about my semester in Spain was learning all about and experiencing the remnants of the Moorish people. To think that at one time the Moorish Empire stretched from present day Iraq to the Iberian Peninsula is just mind-boggling. One of the things I loved the most was the architecture which is so prominent throughout the Andalusian region. Why? Because it was so different. Because it was like nothing my American WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) self had ever seen or known.
I’m proud of my nationality but am more proud of what I’ve seen and learned of the world we live in from being a global citizen. I’ve enjoyed traveling and seeing more in my native land but that doesn’t mean I’m ever going to want to stop stepping foot outside of my own country’s borders. While no trips are planned for the immediate future mainly due to time and distance, I still one day would love to visit countries like Egypt, Uzbekistan, Jordan, and Morocco (well, a re-visit for the last one) and of course a country that is still at the very top of my bucket list, Turkey. Did you notice a not so subtle theme here?
Different is good, different is healthy. Different is necessary for a future.