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The Flag Controversy and the Meaning of Travel

Somehow I have gotten sucked into the thankless and unpopular task of shaming reforming the travel blogosphere. After a thousand-and-one microscopic how-to details, somebody needs to ask What is the Point of travel? What does it mean? What are the fundamental benefits?

In fact it has long been recognized that 'travel broadens your perspective.' That's an interesting word, perspective.

So let's light one candle rather than curse the darkness when it comes to the Confederate flag controversy that has been raging the last couple weeks.  As a young man I spent some time in the South. My background was that of a typical, smug, brainwashed yankee -- from the Land of Lincoln, no less.

I had a part-time job at a Holiday Inn as a bus boy. Many of the cooks and waitresses were negroes, the first negroes that I had ever been around. One night, a pretty young negro waitress pulled me over with "...kaBLOOnie, I have a friend who would be just perfect for you..."  Actually she gave a pretty good sales pitch, but a young buck is usually suspicious of hearing about somebody's friend with a 'wonderful personality', and all that.

After running through all the girl's attractions, she rather matter-of-factly concluded "...and she is white." The way she said that made an impression on me that I still remember. She was slightly embarrassed, but not much. She sounded so natural, low-key, and common-sensical.

I came away from this experience, and others, wondering if I had been fed a pile of crap about race relations in the South, about the "Civil" War, Father Abraham, righteous freedom-loving yankees, etc. At the very least, my smug yankee moral superiority was taken down a notch.

Looking back on it, this was a travel experience at its best. No matter how many terabytes of "information" we absorb from our surroundings, and no matter how books we read by the winners of a war, our perspective is freakishly narrow, and yet we don't even know it.

I am skeptical about reading and political generalities and slogans. There is nothing that keeps your mental "feet" on the ground like actual experience. And travel experiences can be the best kind because they are outside your own milieu: they make you ask questions you never asked before.

Unfortunately most of the noise about the Confederate flag is the usual cant and catchphrases. Once again the blogosphere has missed an opportunity to contribute something that traditional media couldn't succeed at.


John V said…
If you had married the "pretty young negro waaitress" instead who knows how joyous aand multi-faceted your life would have turned out. Ah yes, in our travels the road not taken is usually the most intriguing. :-)
I dunno... maybe I would still be working in the Holiday Inn.
Steve said…
I cannot believe what my eyes are seeing on this blog. You have done what most of the blog world has done this year along with most sports and news sites ... you've changed your background to a light gray and white. That seems to be the theme in 2015. I will continue to hold out on that kind of change.
I change the template a couple times per year, just for fun. This template makes my marginalia easier to read.
Ed said…
Marginalia! Thanks for my word for the day, where do you find these words?

You have dubbed me the Quote Meister but you are the Wordsmith par excellence.

It beats saying "That which lives in the margins."