Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It Has Come To This!

I am actually writing this article on the morning when the headline  on CNN.com says AMBUSH, in reference to six cops shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which comes on the heels of a brutal week when two unarmed African-American men were killed by cops, and then five cops were killed by a lone gunman in Dallas, with another seven injured.  Then throw in the crazed truck driver that mowed down hundreds of people in Nice, France, killing at least 80 and one has to ask “Have we all gone mad?”  Racism, terrorism, guns, religion, politics . . . all of these have played a role in  what is going on.  I was a very young boy and have little memory of the “hot summer of 1969” when cities in our country burned, primarily due to civil unrest.  I am worried about what is happening right now because just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Over the course of my 54+ years on this planet, I have seen unthinkable things happen, some of them to the extent that I have really questioned humanity and whether there is really any hope for the human race.  As I have gotten older it has been harder to accept the atrocities that man has been responsible for, yet I continue to believe that there is more good in this world than bad, though that belief is really getting a challenge here in the summer of 2016.  Toss in the incredibly mean-spirited and boorish campaign being led by our Republican candidate for President and my faith is really being tested.  With all of that said, I recently saw something that I never thought I would see.

Since I have been the principal at North Fayette Valley High School, one of the neatest things I have had the honor of being part of is the exchange with Uberlingen Gymnasium in Germany.  This is truly an incredible experience and in the three that I have been involved with, I have seen nothing but positive experiences and goodwill between people from two different cultures.  Yes, many of us in our community are of German ancestry and these folks really aren’t much different from us.  However, in the last two exchanges, because of world events there has been at least a little bit of trepidation about travel because of concerns of what is happening in other parts of the world.  From a more personal standpoint, my wife loves to travel and has been to Europe a handful of times in addition to a few other countries, and in recent years we have started paying attention to what the State Department has said about safe travel in other parts of the world.  In all honesty, along with my daughter, I was very concerned about traveling to Mexico last Christmas, even though we were headed to safer part of the country dominated by the tourist trade.  It is not uncommon for us to hear about “no travel” warnings because of unrest in various parts of the world. 

However, did you ever imagine that our country would be the one where warnings were given regarding travel?  Can you believe that other countries are warning their citizens that it is not safe to travel to the United States of America?  Well, it’s true.  On July 10, 2016, The Bahamas' Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration warned its citizens traveling to the United States of "recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.  The government of the majority-black Caribbean nation emphasized in a statement that its travelers should avoid crowds and demonstrations in the U.S. Young men, specifically, should "exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police ... Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”  That warning came ahead of the Bahamian Independence Day when many Bahamians travel to the United States.  Earlier this year, the United Kingdom cautioned its LGBT community to steer clear of North Carolina and Mississippi due to recent legislation passed in both states.  It seems that the shoe is on the other foot.

I have never had the courage that my wife has had when it comes to exploring new places.  She can tell you a number of embarrassing stories about my fears when we have traveled, even here in the United States!  But that said, I believe that most of us have a strong belief in the safety of our country.  No, there are places that many of us would not feel safe, but we have a choice of whether or not we go to those places.  However, it seems very strange for the United States to be lumped into a group of countries that includes Iraq, Syria, Mali, Bangladesh, Mali, Laos, and Venezuela as dangerous places for visitors.  It seems disheartening to me that we are included on the same list as those countries where one would have to fear for their safety.  Yes, it has some to this.