Saturday, April 16, 2016

Boycott The World!

If you look hard enough into the politics of any country, you'll find a reason to boycott it. For an obsessed traveler, being conscientious is hard. Plain hard. When does it make sense to say No, No, I won't go? Recent events in Turkey have got me thinking about this a lot. With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish President, filing lawsuits against anyone who dares to criticize or satirize him--apparently he has filed a lot of these against private citizens, but he has also tried to silence the media in Turkey as well--it's hard, maybe even dangerous, to explain here why it might be a good idea not to travel to Turkey.

The fact that I love Turkey--the food, the people, the landscape, the fresh pomegranate juice from street vendors--makes it even harder to consider boycotting the country. And why should I?

A decade ago, some of my friends and students here in Germany said they'd never visit the USA while George W. Bush was President (and I applauded them). A few years ago, some of my US-American friends said they'd never visit France, let well alone Russia during its Olympics of Hate. Of course everyone loves Canada and Italy--but even they aren't safe from criticism. Canada gets flack for its treatment of indigenous people; Italy, rightfully so, gets flack for serving tourists awful, overpriced food. And then of course there's the blight of Berlusconi and the scandals of the Vatican (technically not Italy, but try getting there without going through Italy; I guess you could parachute in).

There are at least 50 reasons to boycott travel to the US--one, I suppose, for each state starting with Mississippi (boo!) and North Carolina (boo!). Our gun laws, the death penalty, fracking, pollution, Kanye West, our foreign policy, and our police brutality, our (often for-profit) prison system that incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world. We gave the world Monsanto and Two Broke Girls (I'm not sure which one is worse).

If you want to see Africa, you have to leave your conscience at the door. Corruption is rampant. Tiny islands of opulence are surrounded by seas of poverty. If you want to visit Israel, you might also want to do some research into the Palestine issue and accusations of human rights violations. If you're enamored of Thailand--where I was in November--and think it's a happy paradise of smiling, gentle people, you might want to dig a little deeper. There's quite a big movement out there to boycott Siam. Planning a trip to Australia? You may want to look at this. And there are dozens of reasons to boycott Spain (where I just came back from, oops): the running of the bulls, bullfighting, and a horrible record of cruelty to animals. Romania kills dogs. South Africa allows hunting of endangered animals, so why do we go there? For the wine. Brazil, China, India, Sweden--wait, Sweden? What on earth has Sweden done wrong?

To the Swedes' credit, the boycott against Sweden is sponsored by its own people. I love the Swedes. Human rights abuses, the sale of arms, "involvement in CIA kidnappings and renditions." OK, I get it. If even Sweden has its skeletons, am I wasting my time trying to find a destination without blame or blemish? Is there any place on earth where I can go without coming back with a bruised conscience?

Chile? I've been there. The Chileans have lots of reasons to dislike the US, but we're good the other way round. I'm sure there are Chilean boycotts against the US, but if you can endure a bit of criticism, Chile is a beautiful place. Iceland? Can you believe it, Iceland and Norway defy the 1986 moratorium on whale hunting. Iceland, why? Now I have to boycott you--of course until I book a trip. I can find a babysitter for my conscience.

Are you boycotting a country? Why? Would you boycott the US if Trump became President?

I must be off,
Christopher

Have you entered the 2016 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition? It's free. Read the guidelines HERE

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Eclectica Magazine's 20th-Anniversary Best of Speculative anthology, Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.