America’s freshly-implemented ban on people from 6 different countries traveling to the United Starts marks a new era and historic low for America, one where being from certain Muslim-majority nations alone is enough to take away the ability to travel freely to and from the 3rd largest country on the planet.
It matters that people from these countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) may no longer be able to visit the United States. And because travel rights are usually reciprocal, it matters that United States citizens will likely be unable to visit any of these countries.
Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying,
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating on a little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Travel is, at its core, the exchange of people. Although places can’t move, people can, and when they do they bring their experiences, values, worldview, thoughts, and culture. Not only do people themselves grow and change from the experience of travel, but an increase in travelers can change places as well, often (though not always) for the better.
As a gay man, I purposely travel to countries that aren’t tolerant of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Singapore, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Morocco. Why? Well, I don’t (always) travel to get laid and some of these places have amazing sights, I want to expand my horizons, and I also want people in these countries to know that LGBTQIA+ people are out there and we’re awesome. To the same end, by cutting off our ability to interact with citizens from other countries, we are creating a larger divide between our cultures.
I was especially sad to see Iran on the list of countries subject to the travel ban, as I would love to travel there one day. My Persian friends speak so highly of it, the landscape looks stunning, and I bet the food is amazing. I even follow a few people living there on Instagram, so I can get idea of places to visit. When I tell friends I’d like to visit, they often think I’m crazy; but, in my experience, people are the same almost anywhere you go, and most people you’ll run into actually care very little about what America or Americans do.
By treating citizens from entire nations as harmful, scary, and unworthy of entry into our country, we all lose. The exchange of people, ideas, and experience is essential to our growth as humans – and while there are people who should be banned from entering America, it should be based on screenings that specifically show that they are a risk to the safety and security of our country.
I don’t believe the ban makes America any safer and, if made permanent, it will seriously hamper the ability for people from those countries and Americans to interact and find common ground with each other.