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Transitions Abroad—and at Home

Moving from Aggression to Peacemaking, from Consumption to Fair Sharing

“Well I’ve got a hammer
And I’ve got a bell
And I’ve got a song to sing
All over this land.
It’s the hammer of justice
It’s the bell of freedom
It’s the song about love between my
brothers and my sisters
All over this land.”

Pete Seeger & Lee Hays, The Weavers

Clay Hubbs had a vision, one so powerful it’s already propelled more than a million words “all over this land”—and many others. The magazine he founded, Transitions Abroad, has been the hammer and the bell, and we who’ve been fortunate to write on its pages have been entrusted with singing the song.

We travelers are no less a tribe than the Dogon in Mali and the Araucanian in Chile. We recognize one another; we share beliefs and experiences. We seek excitement, thrive on challenges, and search for knowledge of space and of our fellow humans. We travel not as conquerors, missionaries, or merchants, but to discover cultures and myths and caves. And our song will continue to be heard so long as we in the travelers’ tribe meet our responsibilities.

Bringing It Home

Picture a traveler as someone standing on a step stool with the advantage of seeing farther into the distance than stay-at-homes with their feet solidly on the ground. That advantage carries the responsibility of reporting back honestly what we have seen and sensed about the realities of life in the rest of the world. The many wonders we see are the high notes in our song, but there must also be laments about famine, refugees, exploitation, and failing resources. We must sing out loud and clear about places such as Myanmar, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We live in a world in transition, abroad and at home. As resources dwindle, xenophobia grows. It’s as if the Statue of Liberty plaque bearing the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .” has been turned to the wall.

At home, because of what we’ve seen on our travels, our song should demand transitions away from dependence on carbon-based fuel to sustainable energy, from aggression to peacemaking, from out of control consumption to fair sharing. We needn’t be dominated by fear, including that of terrorism, and must stop conversion of our national treasure into national debt that prevents us from addressing desperate needs. It’s time to replace the politics of fear with a song of hope and opportunity.

Possibilities

Elections in 2008 can be a major transition for America, creating an opportunity not seen since just after 9/11. If the incoming president and Congress bring fresh attitudes and commitment to humane and peaceful objectives, perhaps people around the world may be willing to believe that America is evolving and some goodwill can be recaptured.

The attitudes toward America, and Americans, have changed in recent years—not for the better. Among all major countries, only in the United States has incoming travel volume decreased. Since 2000, there has been an 11 percent overall decline in visitors from overseas. The United States is a safe place for travelers, and the weak U.S. dollar makes visiting here a bargain. But that’s not enough for millions of prospective travelers who simply prefer not to visit the United States. It’s time to earn back our good reputation. And, by the way, how long can we ignore how ultramodern airports from Zurich to Kuala Lumpur compare with decrepit U.S. ports of entry such as LaGuardia? Let’s stop building walls along our borders and start investing in infrastructure.

Frogs Become Canaries

We travelers have sometimes been like a frog coming to a slow boil in a pot on the stove, not sufficiently alarmed by the slow transitions around him to leap out and save himself. Before it’s too late, all good frogs need to wake up and take action. Better yet, let’s change that simile and become like the canary in the coal mine. It’s time to sound the alarm on behalf of justice and love between our brothers and our sisters.

Clay Hubbs would like that because he was very much a member of the tribe.

 
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