Mark Twain’s full of shit regarding travel

Now that’s a shocking, click-baity, title for an article. How can anybody find something… problematic from the father of American Literature? Well, it all starts with this picture that a former grad school acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook:


When taken at face value, I guess that’s true. Travel DOES open you to new people, ideas, and venues of charity. However, based on my experience I’m hard pressed to be enthusiastic over this quote, even if I’ve traveled my fair share in life. This article does an interesting job trying to dismantle the quote by way of positing that if it is the case, then the rich would be the least bigoted people on Earth and the poor would be the most. Of course in an age of budget air travel (especially in Europe) and hostel culture, the point kinda drops like a lead balloon. Yet the author hits on something when he talks of how despite all the culture those rich acquire from going to places like Lisbon or Barcelona, won’t extend to kindness of whoever is in ‘flyover country’.

That’s exactly what I think happened to my cohorts in my graduate school programme.

Like me, these people took the risk of traveling to an unknown country to learn new things, meet new people, and acquire new experiences. However, as time winded down and people were preparing for their return stateside, I had a conversation with one of my classmates. We opined about the rather magical (for youth at times is very magical) year behind us, and lamented we would have to leave where we were. Then, I stated that it would be a pity really, because after all this time learning to be more open towards other people different from us, they would resume the prejudices they already had of America once they hit the tarmac.

They would resume what I would call their: “Petty Little Bigotries”.

That’s the tragedy of it all. You travel the world, you do all these things, you meet these new people, get these new ideas, and then you go back and resume business as usual holding contempt for a good portion of your home country.  It’s even worse since we all majored in CONFLICT RESOLUTION, and what better way to apply what was taught to how you interact with people back home. But nope, let’s go to DC and take jobs there, advocate and enact policies we know is good for the masses even if we dare not to go out into the world of commoners. The only time we would deign to interact with them is if we have to drive through them on our road trips.

If I didn’t know any better, that kind of travel doesn’t destroy bigotry, it inverts it. The other is no longer the foreigner on a distant shore, but the neighbor at home. What I would assume to be feelings of alienation and melancholy of domestic life (I know the feeling), is ameliorated by the excitement only travel can bring, leading people to wonder why home cannot be like somewhere else. It doesn’t only happen with well-to-do 20-something college students studying abroad, but also people like these guys:


Remember them? That’s Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who murdered fourteen people last December. That’s a picture of them moving through customs at Chicago O’Hare after traveling to Saudi Arabia in 2014. Clearly such travel to Saudi Arabia, a country which won’t even let Christians, Jews, or any non-Muslim enter into it, must’ve slaughtered their bigotry. Yet it didn’t, it just inverted and allowed them enough gumption to plan what they planned and killed who they killed. Then there are those who participated in slaughtering Parisians last November too.  A good number of them did some traveling too, and their bigotry? Clearly still there, and again inverted to inflict harm on their neighbours. Spare me the alienation bullcrap, because I don’t remember any Honky who studied abroad invert their bigotry enough to shoot at their fellow Americans.

I COULD say that’s an extreme version of what I saw in my cohorts, but I think their version brings forth much more sinister undertones. You know those European countries that no doubt contributed to the destruction of their bigotry? Well… they are currently being overrun by individuals who indulge in magical pastimes like Taharrush and murder.  In turn, it’s compelling local governments to tell their citizens to dress appropriately, fine those who defend themselves, set up safe zones at festivities, and national governments to censor news online. Those individuals I speak of? Well, they’re pretty goddamn silent about all of those things, and invert their bigotry once again. Now the migrants are the others they shouldn’t be prejudiced to, but the locals in those countries. Yes, those very locals that have paid into those systems and societies are now the ones they must be bigoted towards. Any grievances on social media will be looked at, any protests will be dispersed, and towns no matter how small must deal with the influx of migrants. Do they honestly think that these developments will allow them the same exhilarating experience their first time? What of future progeny? They may not have that luxury; in fact it may even be worse. It may not do anything to destroy their bigotry.

And in the meanwhile, the Frontier everybody from the political establishment and the media neglected and never took seriously? It’s pushing back. It’ll be an unfortunate battle between ne’er do wells who have vegetated in one corner of the Earth all their lifetime.

When it comes to travel, Mark Twain? You’re wrong and full of shit.


A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Retroaction

Originally wrote this in light of the events of Colorado Springs, but then San Bernardino happened. However, given this wonderful article from New York Daily News on how one victim was just as hateful as his murderers, I think my piece needs to be brought out. Same principles apply, especially with regards to how people mourned the Colorado Springs cop. For on a regular day, he’d be considered just as hateful as his murderer. Aside from some alterations, this is what I wrote.

I said somewhere (possibly on a social media format that involves a limit of 140 characters), that with regards to the Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado Springs, nothing of value was lost. Now granted there were three deaths, including that of a police officer who was also a Christian pastor and ardent pro-lifer, but they are not the ones of value. No, the ones of value are the Planned Parenthood staff and customers who escaped shaken but unscathed after this weekend’s attacks. Thus, an event that was expected to be a Bataclan turned out… not to be much of such at all.

Now such a statement is naturally derided, and it was done so with much vim and vigour, and that I was dehumanizing the victims. One asked me, would I honestly tell that to the policeman’s grieving family that his life was of no value? My answer to this should not be your cause for concern.

Your cause for concern is why exactly that person, or you for that matter if you’re not pro-life, care?

I ask this because in any other situation, had he not ever died, he’d be the kind of person Planned Parenthood supporters would deride with a joyful relish. They’d have accused him of following a delusion and would’ve indoctrinated his kids with poisonous anti-woman propaganda that would have to be fixed once they enter into public school or university. If anything, they should be THANKING the gunman that he extinguished his life because that allows them to fix any potential ‘errors of thought’ in those young, impressionable, minds. Hell, if he were to chime in that the gunman was not a representative of Christianity based on his life you he would’ve been laughed at and told a number of colourful things. The fact that he was a cop (AT A UNIVERSITY NO LESS) makes this even more delicious, for he was also a representative of a system steeped in systemic racism, employed by a location also steeped in systemic racism. Imagine all the fun he would’ve had once the contagion of Mizzou, Dartmouth, Yale, and so forth swept onto UCCS.

The only reason he is mourned by people like them is because he died protecting Planned Parenthood. He isn’t a martyr for the glory of God, but the glory of Margaret Sanger. He died protecting life that would eventually terminate other life, and nobody seems to have ever ruminated on the fact that he was a pro-life Christian. Pro-lifers are supposed to be incredibly anti-woman and hateful towards those who believe a woman has a right to choose. Then that schmuck comes barreling in with his Christian belief of the value of life and now he’s dead. Why would somebody who hates women so much and would’ve passed those hateful ideas to his children jump into that fray? Is he a hypocrite? Or is he actually following the tenets of his faith and loving those who disagree with him? Has any cognitive dissonance set in that allows such people to question what exactly does it mean to be pro-life? More importantly, would they lay down their life for those who disagree with them?

On that last question I doubt it. I don’t think they’ve ever publicly condemned Mireille Miller-Young for her assault on teenage girls, destruction of their pro-life sign, and calling them ‘terrorists’. Did they ever condemn how displays like these are vandalized, even ran over with a car? Hell, have they even thought that these kinds may eventually compel a person to snap and go off and kill somebody at Planned Parenthood? After all, Bernie said it best: bitter rhetoric can have unintentional consequences. So if the next shooter decides to cite events similar to those as sources for his or her call to murder, you’ve no reason to complain. Tit for tat, tit for tat, tit for tat, all the way down.

“BUT NOBODY DIED THERE. THAT’S NO REASON TO MURDER OTHERS!” I guess so, if you wish to appeal (NOW for some reason) on the basis of good faith regarding this heady topic.

But we don’t live in a society of good faith anymore… do we?