What I Know Now Since September 11, 2001
by Dean Scott
When I was young, I had the worldview of most people the world over. It was shaped and limited by my immediate surroundings. Growing up, I always had the desire to see more and explore. I felt blessed to have grown up in Florida, an area of the US with tremendous diversity. From an early age, I was exposed to a mix of Anglo, Caribbean, and Latino peoples. This environment enticed me to want to see with my own eyes what I had only heard about growing up. I wanted to visit the islands of the Caribbean, exotic cities, and the beautiful mountains of South America.
The Fortunate Beginning
After finishing up school, I certainly got my share of travel. It was fortunately more than I had expected! I graduated from school in 1998 and was off to military training after that. I was assigned to a unit in Hawaii after I finished my military training. This, I thought, was absolutely great. I had always wanted to go to Hawaii to see the beautiful landscape and explore the islands. Living in Hawaii was a great stepping-off point for my upcoming international travels. I was forced to adapt to a different way of life. I did, and I loved it. Hawaii, outside of the military bases and tourist traps, is a unique culture. It was easy to savor every minute of my time there.
In September of 2001, I headed off on my first deployment. Our first stop was Guam. I arrived there on September 9th, 2001. Tragically, the events of September 11th soon followed. I quickly found myself headed for the Middle East. It was my first exposure to peoples and cultures that I had never once experienced. I had the blessing of working alongside people from all over the Middle East. During the years that followed, I traveled from the tribal areas of Pakistan, Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and northern Africa.
Understanding the Locals Are Just People
While there were certainly hard times living and traveling like this, having the sustained interaction with locals taught me things that a normal military deployment or ordinary tourist traveler never would have. It didn’t take me long to realize that we are more alike than different. We all want to take care of our family, have the freedom to work, and live free of violence.
There was one thing that I will never forget. A group of Arabs that I worked with thought America was unquestionably violent and dangerous. They had seen so many Hollywood movies depicting crime in the US, that they believed the whole of the United States to be this way. I will never forget how odd that I thought this was. This contrasted with my own perceptions of their culture being the violent and dangerous one. This is just one example that people all over the world are susceptible to the same misconceptions.
Keep An Open Mind and Travel with Purpose
We have to try and remember that the world is full of good people – you have to be open to it. Show humility, understanding, and interest in others. This will open your eyes to this reality. Despite reports to the contrary, this is humanity’s golden age, we have travel opportunities at our disposal that were unthinkable a few decades ago. Nothing educates humanity on humanity like travel. Travel educates humanity on humanity.
Don’t fear violence because despite the news we live in a time of general peace. Although any violence, especially organized violence, can be terrifying, we cannot let fear stop us from experiencing our world and connecting with people abroad. Ignore the voices of intolerance that aim to slow the inevitable education and opening of our world. Societies the world over are becoming more open and tolerant. Moreover, you can become a part of this inevitable tide, part of a positive change in the world. You can help create a world unburdened by fear or self-contrived imaginary labels that exist only to divide us.
The abundance of food, technology, and leisure allow millions and millions of us to have the opportunities to see the world. These opportunities would have been unfathomable for most of the population just a couple generations ago. For instance, I have been to 6 of the 7 continents – even the famed explorers of history have not seen everything that I have. Embrace this abundance; embrace this time and push yourself to see and understand more of the world and its people. This message of growth, tolerance, and freedom is one I hope will resonate with all of you, readers, as we remember the events of September 11th.