On Friday, January 27, 2017, just seven days after being inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump signed an executive order into action banning nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. The countires are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The ban barred entry of these nationals and refugees for 90 days and has since faced considerable criticism and push back.
In fact, on January 28th, a federal judge in New York blocked part of the order, citing that the order “violates [rights] to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” The following day, another federal judge in Massachusetts blocked part of the order, ruling that the government had no right to “detain or remove” legal travelers from these seven countries. The victory provided by the two judges proved to be short-lived, however, when the Department of Homeland Security decided to ignore the stays issued on the ban and proceed with aggressive adherence to the initial ban order.
Back and forth continued daily, and on February 3rd, US District Court Judge James Robert blocked the ban nationwide, which led to the Trump Administration seeking an appeal to the ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thankfully, the appeal was denied, and as of now, the ban remains blocked.
But, here’s the thing, on a national level, it appears that protesters and defenders of the law are doing everything in their power to fight the ban and the Trump Administration in the process, which is awesome. Unfortunately, when we trickle down that trail of justified outrage, we find every day American travelers hearing or making no mention of the ban.
When news of the ban broke in the days leading up to February, I saw multiple postings of concern and fear slain across the pages of my Facebook groups. I was relieved to see that the outrage was presumably stronger than the support, but I was saddened to see moderators of these groups, in particular, the moderators of travel groups, remove the postings out of “respect for others in the group” or “adherence to the rules of posting”.
In Facebook groups dedicated to travelers and nomads, discussing a ban that affected, quite frankly, everyone, was taboo. Some members questioned the decision to remove and censor the posts, and because of them a few of the posts have remained up. But regardless, that led to me ask myself: in a world of political correctness and constant censorship, where do we draw the line between offending the feelings of those who wish to remain sheltered and having much needed, open discussions about current events? I don’t believe that we can, and I honestly don’t think that we should.
I saw this censorship in real life, too. I encountered a few old high school classmates who, when catching up with me about life, refused to engage in a discussion about the current state of affairs. They didn’t want to talk about it because it didn’t affect them directly, and according to them, there was nothing they could do to help. In the world we are living in, it is not a privilege to keep yourself aware of the happenings around you, it is a responsibility. Keeping your head out of politics doesn’t make you a martyr, it makes you foolish, selfish, and arrogant. And, having a discussion might be a more passive form of help, but it still helps.
As human beings in general, we need to have these discussions. As travelers, it’s simply not an option to avoid them. We need to have conversations, friendly or not, and we absolutely cannot sit back and pretend everything is fine when the lives of millions of people are being affected. We have to talk about what’s going on, and that starts with the travel ban.