THE SKEWED VIEW: I want to feel safe while traveling, President Bush
This summer I was reading a book my roommate from Spain recommended to me while I was abroad there last semester. Titled "Stupid White Men," by Michael Moore - whom many of us know as the filmmaker of "Bowling for Columbine," - he blatantly and sarcastically criticizes many aspects of America and the world. He particularly devalues our very own leader, President George W. Bush. He goes on to talk about how many parts of the world are unsafe. One sentence in particular really struck me, compelling me to read it several times. He writes, "Clinton gave us such a good cover that for a few years Americans could travel safely in most countries without the threat of a mob chasing us down and beating the Ho-Ho's out of us."
This sentence especially struck me because while I was in Madrid, I often thought twice before traveling to certain countries - specifically at the end of March when the United States went to war with Iraq. In fact, when the war broke out, the director of my program held a mandatory meeting for all of us in which he addressed issues of safety. For example, he suggested that Americans keep a low profile and be careful of war protests in Madrid.
I personally never felt threatened in Spain. The closest I came to feeling unsafe was during a huge protest right outside my university. But instead of getting in the middle, I just walked by it.
My director also suggested some necessary things to bring when traveling, such as a passport to serve as a valid form of ID. But even with a passport, there were some places we were specifically told not to travel to, such as Morocco and Israel. This effectively ruined my plans to travel to Israel, a trip I had been excitingly awaiting.
After thinking about my experience abroad, I realized Moore is right. Since President Bush was inaugurated into the Oval Office in January 2001, Americans have often had to rethink their travel plans.
For Example, Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq damaged relations between the United States and France, since French President Jacques Chirac and his cabinet were - for the most part - against the war. As a result, Americans were discouraged from traveling there, and the tourism industry in Paris went into a notable slump this past summer. It must have been difficult for Parisians involved in the industry, considering Paris is called the "tourism capital of Europe." Also, according to CNN, before the conflict with Iraq, Americans served as the greatest source of revenue there.
Consequently, Parisian hotel and caf owners were in desperate need of revenue, so they went out of their way to make Americans feel welcome in the "city of lights." In fact, CNN reported that some caf owners gave American travelers free food as a way to show their desire for better relations between these two countries.
While I was abroad, I went to San Sebastian, a beach city in Northern Spain right next to France. While there, my friend and I decided to take a ferry to France for the day. Surprisingly, the language barrier turned out to be more of a problem than anti-American sentiments.
In addition to France, the tourism industry in Morocco has also been damaged. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Moroccan Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi made a special effort to encourage Americans to continue to travel there, even though he worried they would be threatened by his subjects.
Even today, two years after Sept. 11, Bush's efforts to mend relations with Morocco have failed. This is evident by the terrorist attacks which recently occurred in a synagogue and nightclub in Casablanca, killing about 40 people.
It's a good thing that many Americans have decided against going to Morocco, as one of my friends had a very bad experience there. Although he was studying abroad in Sevilla, a city located in the southern region of Spain, he decided to visit a friend studying in Morocco.
At the end of his visit, as he waited by himself for the ferry to take him to the airport, a local Moroccan began to verbally harass him, tauntingly calling him an American. My friend tried to walk away from him, but the local followed and pushed him. He was a clear target for attacks, being that he looked like a typical American and also, the fact that he was carrying a big bag on his back, making him look like a typical American tourist.
It is unfortunate that since Bush became president, Americans have been scared to travel to many other countries because the threat of being killed or harassed looms over them. America is a country that prides itself on giving its citizens freedom of doing what they want to do. Americans - just like other people all over the world - have one life to live.
I think that if Bush opened "Stupid White Men," and read it, he would hopefully make a change in his agenda for the last year of his term in office. Maybe instead of just going around campaigning and asking for money, he will re-focus on improving foreign policy and American foreign relations so that we, the citizens, may again have the freedom to travel around without living in fear.