American Fragility Could Heal the World

Tribute to John Lennon in Central Park, NYC. Photo by Twenty20

Today, Americans observe the terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of 2,996 Americans on September 11, 2001. We will read news articles. Politicians will give speeches. Everyone has an opinion and a story. In a very American way of doing things, we’ve even created a marketing term for this tragedy. It’s “9/11.”

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How We Can Help

Virginia, Maryland Say They'll Be A Safe Harbor For Afghan Refugees : NPR
Photo by NPR

The drama unfolding in Afghanistan is a humanitarian crisis and it’s not going to get better. There is little doubt that the execution of the withdrawal after 20 years of war and corruption has been a disaster. Politicians talk about getting our “friends” out. But, even if that’s possible, our “friends” apparently don’t include the tens of thousands of people who aligned themselves with the US in unofficial ways. The families of my refugee friends in Europe have relatives in Kabul who have almost no chance of getting help from the US, even those who worked for US contractors or government agencies. Like so many others, they are in grave danger.

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The Mojigangas Are Back, Baby!

Mojigangas are the giant puppets that prowl the San Miguel streets

I am back in San Miguel de Allende for awhile in spite of my wanderlust. And, poco a poco, things are getting back to normal in this magical town. After a challenging year, the mariachi bands are playing in the main square, and Chillangos (tourists from Mexico City) are standing in line for churros and street tacos, almost like the good old days. It feels strangely safe here. Masks are not optional, tests are cheap and easy to get, and so much of life in San Miguel takes place outside in the nearly-perfect summer weather.

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I’ve Done Some Dumb Things in My Travels. Glad.

Looked scary. Wasn’t.

People ask me whether I feel safe when I travel. Maybe I could be kidnapped in Nairobi or mugged in Mexico City. But I have always felt safe, partly because life is full of risks, whether we’re sky diving or sitting on the couch eating processed foods. And, well, my enthusiasm sometimes clouds my thinking. I am mostly careful but looking back on my 5 years as a nomad, I’ve done a few dumb things. They weren’t risky like living in a war zone, but maybe I wouldn’t do them again. Anyway, they were worth it! You know why? Because they gave me more evidence that people are good.

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Puerto Rico: Not What I Had Planned

San Juan musician in front of Puerto Rico’s flag

Ok so I was in Louisiana for a month, where I felt like I was in a book I should write (haha, I am writing it) and then I went home for a week and from there to Puerto Rico. Y’all know that Puerto Rico is the United States right? Incredible beaches and jungles, paper towels to mop up the hurricane damage, and everything else that comes with colonization. It’s shameful what the US has taken from Puerto Rico, which is an actual book — Naomi Klein’s The Battle for Paradise. PR is also a destination place for throngs of 20-something mainland Americans who want to party. I didn’t know this when I decided to spend six weeks in PR in an apartment on the beach….And I would have stayed for six weeks if the water and power in my apartment hadn’t mysteriously gone out two hours after I arrived.

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Clarksdale to Lafayette

Mural of blues artists, Jackson, MS

I left Clarksdale lacking the enthusiasm I’d felt traveling through the Southwest and the Ozarks. Driving south toward Jackson, the expanse of farmland was like my mood — flat. I’m getting less exercise and eating for entertainment. My mind keeps returning to issues of race and justice. I’m not sure whether all of this is a little bit of road trip burn-out or just feeling lonely, but it’s happened before and I know it will pass. So I focus on ignoring it. There were still places I wanted to see, free from the fog of my transient feelings.

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Cruising the Delta

Clarksdale

On Easter morning, I regrettably left Carol at the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock, and headed east out of the Ozarks. From Little Rock, the highway transects flat farmland, occasionally taking a wide turn around more flat farmland, maybe to recognize property lines or county borders or someone’s sense of whimsy. I’ve driven this road before, about a dozen years ago. Even though I don’t remember much about it, I notice one way it’s changed. Low-end corporate franchises now dominate highway stops and the perimeters of small towns — mostly junk food, Walmarts, and Dollar Stores.

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More Surprises in Arkansas

After leaving the friendly, well-heeled, art patrons of Bentonville, we drove east through the glorious Ozarks. The Ozarks aren’t mountains by California standards, more like large hills, and spread out over 47,000 square miles, mostly in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Spring is a great time in the Ozarks. The red bud trees are blooming in the understory, and the white oaks and sycamores are starting to get tiny leaves. On our hikes, we saw a lot of wildflowers and evidence that lots more are on the way in the coming weeks.

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