The Peace Dividend
Linda Johnston, MD, DHt
one way or another most of us are unhappy about changes in our airports.
The result of this unhappiness differs from person to person, but
overall, the result is the potential loss of one of our country’s
great assets – the Peace Dividend of Travel.
is no dispute that air travel has turned from a commonplace aspect
of our lives that we all take for granted into an onerous and singularly
unpleasant experience. The flight itself is not the problem, it
is the experience of getting on the plane that is so bad. How has
people, like myself, have always enjoyed airports. There has always
been that excited, I-am-going-on-a-trip feeling. Being around others
who are anticipating the adventure of travel or the reuniting of
loved ones at the end of the flight made for a wonderful atmosphere
to be in. In recent years, the new restaurants, shops and services
in the airport added to the interest and enjoyment of waiting for
your flight. How often my ride to the airport and I made a fun experience
of my send-off by having a meal or browsing in shops. No longer
was the airport merely a way-station, it was a place to be in its
of that is a distant memory. First came the closing of the terminals
to extraneous non-passengers. No more leisurely meals and shared
shopping trips. No more pleasant good-bys in the lounges. Hello
to the hasty drop-off at the curb under the strict eye of the parking
police. All that extra time you need to arrive before your flight
cannot be spent in a friend’s company because they are closed from
accompanying you past the security check point. All those insufferable
hours in lines or, if you are lucky enough to make it past the security
in a timely manner, warming the chairs in the waiting areas must
be spent in some other way. Just bring a good book – a very long
has horror stories about the airport security. Maybe it is a coincidence
but since the Feds took over, they seem to be getting worse and
not better. Grandmothers being frisked, the modesty of young girls
violated, belts, shoes, coats, shirts and other clothing removed
in public, innocent people arrested because they grimace at the
wrong person, delays, searches and missed flights. I once was subjected
to having my bare ankles fondled by a guard before being allowed
on a plane. I guess looking at them was not enough. To this day
I wonder how he thought I had imbedded some weapon under the skin
and how I planned to have such a weapon removed for use.
surly and obstreperous agents with their officious, intolerant bullying
behavior create a general atmosphere of oppression and fear. One
small thing to annoy these new masters of the airport will ruin
your trip, have you arrested, thrown out of the airport or have
you marked for life. There is no room for error, no room for explanation
and no room for understanding and common sense. The attitude seems
to be to treat the travelers as criminals until proved otherwise,
which never seems to be proven to their satisfaction.
you will not even be able to lock your own suitcase to prevent petty
theft. We are assured that not one of the new 50,000 federal employees
that will paw through your luggage behind closed doors will take
anything. Right! Even if that were credible, what about that unlocked
luggage when it shows up in an airport not under the jurisdiction
of our scrupulously honest security luggage searchers. Who is responsible
the small luggage locks we have used until now are not thief-proof
but they do help keep honest people honest. They remove from an
otherwise normal person the temptation of quickly unzipping that
bag and having a look-see at what is worth taking. I have had my
baggage robbed three times – twice when there was no lock and once
when the lock was removed by the ticket agent. Otherwise my locked
luggage has been left alone, even in very poor countries with a
reputation for theft and dishonesty.
it seems that travel also entails the very real chance of showing
up at your destination without some of your packed items. That suit
you had ready for your business meeting or your handmade Italian
shoes or simply your favorite dress, belt, tie or cosmetics – all
have disappeared into the great open market that our luggage rooms
have turned into.
experience in airports has gone from a fun shopping mall and the
first step on an exciting journey to the waiting room of a prison
that oozes a police state mentality. Are you going to Hawaii for
a suntan or jail? To add insult to injury, we are expected to pay
for all of this whether we like it or not.
all agree at the very least that there are certain problems and
inconveniences at the airports these days, many simply excuse it
all as necessary to "fight terrorism" and "make air
travel safe." Do you feel safer? This mental slight of hand
extends to excuse the ever-increasing complaints of abuse by claiming
that these are unfortunate events but still only anomalies. I never
have understood how that makes them any more acceptable.
the rest of us, airports have turned into an intolerable experience
of the police state, where individual rights are non-existent. Many
of us know full well that all of this expense, effort, time and
disruption has nothing to do with airport security and in fact does
nothing to make air travel any safer or another terrorist act any
less likely. The sheer waste of effort and money and the sacrifice
of common human respect and dignity is all for naught. We are exchanging
our inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
for something of no value.
is the result of this change in our airport experiences? It is self-evident
that it is a drastic reduction in the amount of air travel taken
by Americans. The official numbers don’t really reflect the amount
of aversion that is growing among many as their tolerance is exhausted
for the increasingly encroaching restrictions and oppression. Jumping
on a local air carrier for that weekend trip just won’t be happening
as it is more of an ordeal than pleasure to get there.
business trips will be replaced by other means of doing the deals.
Driving places and simply not going are more likely to be the choice
as time goes on. Yes, some will get used to the new regulations
but an increasing number of others will choose to opt out rather
than be such a "willing" participant in the unnecessary,
oppressive violation of their constitutional rights and their dignity.
are already seeing the obvious results of these kinds of personal
decisions. United Airlines has declared bankruptcy, other airlines
are going out of business and others are losing unprecedented amounts
of money. All of this, of course, affects the entire economy which
affects each and every one of us – whether we fly or not. The economic
consequences of these changes are well known. What should disturb
us all is that this reduction in travel has an even more dire consequence.
and social intercourse is the best way to build bridges of friendship
and peace. Isolation feeds fear, xenophobia and hate. A country
that closes it borders to travelers and goods is likely to foment
and then fester hatred and anger in others. History is replete with
examples of this.
is well known that free trade and business associations across borders
promote peace. In the 1700s, philosopher economist, Frederic Bastiat,
said that, "If goods don¹t cross borders, then armies will." Been
to North Korea or Iraq lately? Thomas Friedman states that no two
countries that each had McDonald¹s had subsequently been at war
with each other. Businesses often start with personal contacts and
experiences and certainly are maintained by good relationships.
Cross border business promotes peace, and personal travel is instrumental
to that end.
benefits of travel for all concerned have been known for years.
In Victorian England, no young gentleman’s education was complete
without The Grand Tour, up to a yearlong excursion through Western
and Eastern Europe. This was considered indispensable for his development,
understanding and advancement in the world of government or business.
Americans have had their own version of it in the past decades as
many young people donned a backpack and went to Europe with a train
pass and youth hostel card in hand.
my own five-month trip to Europe at the age of 17, I remember thinking
of the oft-quoted quip, "Travel now before every place looks
alike." Little could I have known that a few decades later
that would have to be changed to "Travel now before you can’t."
of us who have traveled to other countries have learned tolerance,
understanding and an appreciation of people different from ourselves.
Through travel we learn that people are people everywhere and that
most share basic values of peace, family, prosperity and wanting
to be left alone to live their own lives in their own way. We learn
that the government and media rendering of events are not necessarily
the actual places, seeing the situation and talking to the people
involved often gives a very different view of events. In a word,
it is much harder to vilify a group or country when there are lots
of people traveling there. Further, people from other counties traveling
here can defuse the hate mongering their own governments and media
do to us.
millions of Americans who travel internationally inadvertently serve
as ad hoc Ambassadors of Peace simply by voluntarily following their
own choices for travel, social relationships and business and making
friends in other countries. They speak for America much better than
the government, the media or the State Department. The Peace Dividend
of Travel is a priceless asset and indispensable to the maintenance
of friendly relations with other countries and the maintenance of
public pressure on government to avoid hostilities.
getting through an airport becoming so disagreeable and expensive
in time and emotion and carrying with it the risk of arrest, imprisonment
or a criminal record, people just won’t travel. We will loose our
Peace Dividend. At a time when cordial relations between people
are more important than ever, travel should be encouraged in every
way possible and not strangled in red tape, handcuffs, threats and
WWII, Winston Churchill noted that an Iron Curtain had fallen dividing
Europe and we all realize the horrible consequence of that. It seems
that we are allowing a Plexiglas Curtain to fall between the airport
parking lot and the runways. It looks clear and penetrable, but
just try it. It is proving to be just as impassible as any other
wall. Lets pull it down before this insidious barrier contributes
even more divisiveness in the world.
Johnston, MD, DHt (send her
mail), a graduate of the University of Washington School of
Medicine and certified in Homeopathy by the American Board of Homeotherapeutics,
is in private practice in Los Angeles. She is the author of Everyday
Miracles: Homeopathy in Action.
© 2003 by Linda Johnston, MD, DHt