We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown. – Teal Swan
The “cable guy” knocked on the door last week at our temporary home in Wellington, New Zealand. When he heard we had an accent and found out we were American, he said, “I would be afraid I would get shot if I knocked on your door in America. I would never go there!” Our kids were confused and asked many questions about his commentary of our home country that did not align at all with their experience.
We have met countless people since leaving on this journey in 2013 that never met an American before crossing our path. Many people have communicated their desire to travel to America over the course of our travels. Many people have also communicated that they refuse to go to the USA for fear of getting shot. In Italy, they would say, “E trope pericoloso, molte pistole,” meaning it is too dangerous, too many guns. In New Zealand, because we don’t have the language barrier, news flows freely and the comments about how dangerous it is in the USA are almost a daily occurrence. At first, we would laugh it off uncomfortably. Last week, after hearing the response several times, we couldn’t shake it.
Long before we left on this journey, we made an intentional decision to take in as little “news” as possible. The critics say, “That is irresponsible! You are uninformed!” We believe in doing just enough research to make informed choices but the rest is not healthy in our quest for understanding our world. Where many believe taking in news creates awareness, for us, it constructs barriers and fears about other cultures that do not serve us or our children.
The thing we love about travel is that these perceptions, when shared in conversation, give us an opening for which to offer a different perspective. Our replies are our effort to communicate first-hand accounts of a great country that for many will only ever be what they see on the news. Here are just a few of the things we have shared about the USA:
- The first time you drive into one of America’s 58 National Parks, you will feel a humility that will forever transform your relationship with nature.
- There is a feeling, when you drive on America’s scenic byways, and classic highways, that there is no ceiling on what you can accomplish. It is almost a feeling of invincibility, especially in a convertible!
- When you see a film on the big screen, whether you are in Hollywood or not, you realize the creative energy of the moving picture is part of the American psyche to dream big, and it is magnetic.
- The sheer expanse of such a large country gives you the sense that there are no borders and anything is possible.
- The vast cultural make-up in America means that resources, flavors, customs, and structures the world over can be found just outside many doorsteps.
- For whatever you believe, in America, you can find someone that agrees with you. The diversity of thought is inspiring.
- Yes, it is true, that gun violence is a real danger in the USA, but it is irresponsible to show only one side of such a robust country on the world media stage.
As Americans, who are now dual Italian-American citizens, forever working toward global citizenship, we can say we feel much less fear than many people we meet, not because we are sitting in the dark, ignorantly uninformed. We are informed not by the media, but by our experience.
We will continue to meet one person at a time as we traverse the globe, and hope our experience, as Americans, does something to dispel the fear. Conversely, when we are lucky enough to travel to places that the media wants us to fear, we will look forward to gathering first-hand accounts of people and places in order to build a story, albeit slowly, that is real.
This is an important time in America to question media motives and trust in each other and the strength of our country that has so much experience, abundance, and grace to contribute to the world. Embracing that majesty leaves us open to what the world has to teach us. Fear closes the borders.
Today’s Tweetable: We are informed, not by the media, but by our experience.