One of the things I find interesting to do while traveling is to watch the local newscasts in the places we stay. Typically, I don’t care for TV news most of the time, especially local news. All the “human interest” stories don’t typically interest me and I don’t go the sorts of events the news generally discusses. Nor am I especially interested in what crime is happening or the latest fashions. What I didn’t consider is how well the local news gives you a picture of the local popular culture. I just took that part for granted since I always knew first hand what the local culture is.
As I travel, the differences in newscasts from state to state, and sometimes community to community highlight what makes different areas distinctive. The types of events they tell viewers about, the types of human interest stories they cover, and the nature of the crimes all tell you something about a place. And of course, there is the political coverage, which is the thrust of this article.
Of the two of us, I’m the politics aficionado, but Trail is the one who has strong feelings about politics. I like to ruminate about both sides of the issue, trying to see from all perspectives, Trail has direct opinions about what is wrong and what is right. I really like debate and discussion in the public forum, Trail prefers to keep it personal and let her money and votes do the talking. Of course, we do talk amongst ourselves on the subject from time to time.
The other day, Trail expressed that she wasn’t keen on supporting the governments of states engaged in the kinds of politics she dislikes. Since nearly every state has a fairly hefty tax on hotels and accommodations, any time we stay somewhere we help fund the government to some degree. I’ve encountered this idea with international travel, avoiding countries that are oppressive and exploitive, especially where they state essentially controls the tourist trade, but I’d never heard it with respect to US states.
I can certainly understand the impulse, one I find admirable, and there is some good reason in it. Certainly if I weigh a fun time, against being a party to exploitation, I’ll forgo the fun time. At the same time, I think that travel to such places can serve as a cultural bridge and a way to break down the kinds of barriers that lead to repression and discrimination. Also in some cases, while the state benefits some, others are benefitting more. Tourist dollars can do a lot for people.
For me, I think it depends on how strongly I object to what is going on, and how directly the money I spend gets into the hands of the folks doing things I object to. In the US, there isn’t much I so strongly dislike that I’d consider a state boycott, nor does the money all go directly to some corrupt military regime. A lot of it goes to pay for roads and other very reasonable things that exist regardless of the politics of the locals. But were I to be offered a trip to North Korea, I’d very likely decline. I doubt my presence is going to do anything but support the a system I want nothing to do with.
I also feel this is a personal decision. With the exception of tourism based on direct exploitation, I’d not judge anyone for choosing or choosing not to visit a particular place. For the most part, I want to see an open world where people are free to travel to new places and share their culture with others, but I can absolutely understand not wanting any part of something you have a strong moral objection to. Whether you go out of a passion for cultural exchange or abstain due to an ethical standard, I commend you for your conviction.
If you have ever made the choice not to go somewhere for ethical reasons, I’d love to hear about it.