Why is Trump murdering my travel plans?

OK, so this isn’t specific to the current US president, but he’s certainly the most recent major contributor. Queue story time….

This started early last week when I met someone from Iran. He’s awesome! We talked about many things including how most people understand that the people of the US and Iran have absolutely zero problems with each other, and that it’s the governments of said countries that are constantly antagonizing each other. After a while, we exchanged Instagram details, and he told me when I was ready to visit Iran to let him know and he’d coordinate.

Wait, what? I was pretty sure the Iranian government wasn’t granting visas to US citizens. However, he assured me that he’d seen many US people in Iran, and that it was possible to go. I suspected these were people with second passports, but I kindly nodded and made a mental note to research this further.

A few hours of research later, I had discovered that US citizens can get visas to visit Iran if the Iranian government decides they don’t have a problem with the applicant. This was a welcome surprise as I’d love to experience the culture first hand of a place where so few westerners go.

As part of my continuing research, I decided to check the news for any pertinent information. That’s when I discovered that guy in the White House decided to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Still worse, there was talk of sanctioning European companies that did business with Iran. Upon reading that, my heart sank for several reasons.

The most important one being that sanctions do not work. They’re intended to pressure governments to change their behavior. However, governments typically have enough money that they remain largely unaffected; while the increased prices on imports (which could be anything from medicine to food) goes through the roof, and causes a lot of poor people to not be able to afford those products any longer.

A notable exception to this is a few years ago when the price of food (which was already a huge portion of people’s income) got a lot more expensive in northern Africa. Queue the Arab Spring. So then, a few government were toppled. But are things really better now in those places? That depends on the country, and even when taking specific examples is highly debatable.

In most cases though, all sanctions do is make things more expensive. Still worse, they enable the government of one country to blame the other for causing all their problems. Sure, foreign governments are responsible for some (or even a lot in some cases) of the issues, but certainly not all of them. And let’s not forget the old saying “borders that goods do not cross are often breached by armies”.

So I primarily felt sad. Sad for all the Iranian people (including my new friend) that would be hurt by a bureaucratic squabble.

Plus, now it’s far less likely any visa application I submit will be approved. Requesting a visa costs time and money. Two things I don’t want to lose a lot of; particularly if the chances of obtaining what I payed for are small. So unfortunately, I won’t be visiting my new friend in Iran. My knowledge of their culture and way of life will have to depend on the stories I hear from fellow travelers from Iran.

There are so many things I won’t learn now. A recent example is how I’m currently in Turkey. I’m learning that ‘Muslim country’ doesn’t mean what most people in the US think it does. There’s no Sharia Law here, I’ve seen very few burkas, and everyone I’ve told that I’m not Muslim has (rather than killing the infidel) seemed genuinely concerned for my soul, and attempted to convert me through words. How many misconceptions do I have about Iran? I may never know….

Like many visionaries of the past, I have a dream. A dream that one day, people will seek out the ones they don’t understand and talk to them. A dream that one day, politicians will try to find ways to get along rather than alienate foreigners. A dream that one day, humanity as a whole will celebrate and embrace our differences.

Will you dream with me?

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