...it's a wild world.
It's hard to get by just upon a smile.
It's an old Cat Stevens song, and I cried today when it came on the radio.
I have no idea, really, what Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) was writing about in the early 70s - but I know the dagger his words drove into my heart today...
My niece is studying in Jerusalem until mid-June. Last weekend, while the eyes of the world turned happy/sad/congratulatory/angry toward the US for the killing of Osama bin Laden - this 20-year old world citizen was vacationing in Egypt with no awareness of the world news and no cell phone handy for her parents to contact her.
To say my sister had a sleepless night or two this week would be a gross understatement. Many of us want this brilliant and beautiful young woman to come home. As soon as possible.
Of course she is resistant. She doesn't feel in danger or threatened in any way. She is treated with great respect, she reports - everywhere she goes. I don't want to put words in her mouth, because I haven't spoken with her, but I don't think I'd be stretching the story by saying she has told her parents:
"It's no big deal."
In fact, she talks like she might be writing for the Tour Egypt website:
Certainly, there are countries that actually are unsafe for Americans to visit under the current political climate, such as Iraq, Sudan and Algiers. But other Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria are completely safe, as well as extraordinary tourist destinations.
BUT there is no denying the US State Department has issued a Worldwide Travel Alert:
The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.
And there's no avoiding the fact that a CBS reporter who was in Egypt in February to cover the celebratory occasion of regime change was brutally attacked - after being dragged from a team of people who were paid to protect her. (Don't watch Lara Logan's interview on 60 Minutes if you have a loved one in the Middle East.)
And I challenge you to find something encouraging to read on the State Department's travel information site specific to Israel:
U.S. citizens, including tourists, students, residents, and U.S. Government personnel, have been injured or killed by terrorists while in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Attacks have occurred in highly frequented shopping and pedestrian areas and on public buses. American employees of the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General and their families are prohibited from using public buses and their associated terminals in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel. (My niece is also prohibited - by her parents - from using buses since the March 23 bus stop bombing in Jerusalem).
I don't think I'm an alarmist. I'm one of those people who believes if we plan our lives fearfully around the potential for danger, then terrorists win. But I am a realist. Sometimes it is best for Americans to lay low. I think this might be one of those times.
Listen to Cat Stevens: A lot of nice things turn bad out there. Oh, baby baby....It's a wild world.
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