I got home yesterday evening from visiting my dad and stepmother in Florida, where they’re spending the winter. I was conflicted about the trip, which I booked post the election of He Who Shall Not Be Named, but before his travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries. I debated cancelling, but in the end, I went, for a host of reasons that have to do with things like family and the majority of voters in the states who did not vote Republican and my sense that it might be important or at least useful (or is that useful but at least important?) to support progressive, inclusive, Americans and their businesses and communities. I’m not defending or justifying my trip, but setting it in some context.
Being in the States, I started thinking about ways in which Canadians could (more rather than less) ethically travel there. There are no easy answers or perfect solutions or courses of action, but here are some of my ideas:
1. Acknowledge that being able to make the “choice” of whether or not to travel to the United States (or anywhere else, for that matter) automatically confers a certain amount of privilege on you. It means that you have the time and money to travel. And it also means that you’re likely white- or light-skinned, likely not Muslim, likely not a refugee, and likely not born or currently residing in a country currently torn apart by war. You can’t shed that privilege, but you can acknowledge it. And use it to others' advantage.
2. Further to that, if you’re a straight white man, acknowledge that EVEN THOUGH you look an awful lot like the demographic most likely to kill another American, you’ll be seen as less of a threat than any of the people blocked by the ban.
3. In the States, support the arts: visit a museum or gallery, see a play, go to a dance performance. See a Meryl Streep movie. I found the above photograph by David Parise, commemorating the Women’s Marches, at a gallery on NW 2nd Street in Miami, near the Wynwood Walls.
4. Join a protest or attend a demonstration.
5. Call or visit the local mosque in the community you're visiting. Express your support for Islam as a peaceful faith, and your dismay at Islamophobia. Make a donation.
7. Support businesses that support progressive causes
8. Visit a national park.
9. Acknowledge that we in Canada are not perfect, either: we’ve got a bunch of stuff to work on in our own backyard, not least of which are issues around our First Nations peoples and the ghastly Conservative party leadership race.
10. Talk to people. Tell them you’re Canadian. Say things like, “I’m really thrilled that my country has been so welcoming to Syrian refugees,” or, “It really gives me peace of mind to know that if I get sick or break my arm, I’m covered under our universal healthcare policy,” or, “It was a little unsettling to find the Fort Lauderdale airport just a few weeks after the mass shooting there. I like living in a country with gun control.” Not to put too fine a point on it.
11. Support actual, real, facts distributed by responsible media. Listen to NPR, buy a copy of the New York Times or Mother Jones.
I’m not telling you to go to the States, or not go to the States. I’m not justifying my trip or disavowing it. What I am saying is that if you go, consider your trip in context. There are hundreds of ways to have a positive impact: so, pick a few and make one.