Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
– Mark Twain
I feel incredibly grateful that I possess the means to eradicate some of my own ignorance about other nations, but I most regret that many Americans will never experience similar opportunities. While I agree that traveling opens ones eyes to new possibilities and better policies (enter: healthcare reform), I struggle to damn my fellow citizens for never leaving their country. And if you know me, you know that I generally have no problem damning Americans. Or, rather, the forces that have created us.
At this point, most people have heard the miserable statistics about how only approximately 30% of Americans have passports, although I can’t seem to find a government Web site that specifically confirms or denies this claim. Americans simply do a lot less transnational traveling than other westerners.
This article in The Missourian, I think, succinctly sums up why Americans do not tend to leave the U.S. Our money funds different priorities. Twain and I share the belief that these priorities are not necessarily the ones to which we assign the most value, but we also share a similar WASPy cultural background (sans the Protestantism in both our cases) that has allowed us education and at least a little capital to pursue our dreams.
I hope that the United States can find a way to provide that education and capital for all citizens. Without going into a long diatribe about poor policy decisions and allowing money to essentially create those policies, I will close with my enduring hope that our country, in its entirety, will eventually recognize the need for offering equal opportunities to all. To allude to another mid-to-late 19th century writer, the proverbial bootstrap doctrine won’t cut it when so many people are lacking shoes.