Two Kinds of Vacations

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I have just returned from a trip to the British Isles.

For me there are two kinds of vacations, one for relaxing and one for learning.

When I want to rest and reflect I go to Hawaii or Palm Springs, sit in lounge chairs, swim, work out daily, and cook healthy food for most of the trip.

This was a learning trip – on tour daily from 8:30 in the morning till 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

While I am not as well-traveled as many in Newport Beach, I believe I can say that I have seen a large part of Europe. I am always happy to get back home, but I wish that more people could travel so that they understand the things in people’s lives that are the same and different all over the world. It helps you understand how the world works and how differences can pull us apart politically, keeping us all from moving forward.

The major divider in this world is religion, and we have continued to fight wars over this throughout the centuries. City after city has a famous church or churches that have long histories of fighting and defending their religion from neighboring intruders. So much damage, loss of life, and wasted energy and time building and rebuilding, because we do not accept differences, values, and cultural differences as much as we should entering the 21st century. Yes, we have come a long way, but certainly not far enough.

Sept. 11, 2001, changed everyone’s lives all over the globe and reignited of religious radicalism worldwide. You would think that after centuries of fighting over religion, by now we could clearly understand the value of tolerance. But the more you travel and learn the history of each country, the more you see that we are still fighting many of the same battles – in the United States and in European countries – as we have for centuries.

A prime example of this is in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While the citizens share the same city and resources, many still live separated by a wall, on one side the Catholics and the other Protestants. It is unconscionable to me that people live like this in the 21st century. When do we start practicing our religion and behaving as if all people matter and have the right to choose their values and religion, or no religion?

The terrorism war is supposedly about religion and what faith should dominate. That war continues and is bankrupting our country, and no one knows how to solve it so that it does not end up dragging us down further.

You only have to get on an airplane once to know how much life has changed in 11 years since the 9/11 attacks. You used to go to the airport an hour before your flight, now its two or more because you never know how long security will take, and you can hardly carry anything in your luggage because everything except clothing is a potential threat in the cargo hold, the overhead bin, and on your body.

Do you remember where you were Sept. 11, 11 years ago? I do: working out of town in El Centro, as a rural school superintendent. I was sitting in my hotel room watching “Good Morning America” while getting ready for work. I saw the second tower get hit and could not believe my eyes. By that time we all knew it was not an accident.

I went to work that day knowing I would never see my desk or attend any of the scheduled meetings. Instead I spent the entire day and week visiting classrooms, talking to parents, kids and staff ,and advising teachers on how we would handle this with our students. We all knew intuitively that first day that our lives had changed forever.

We all need to take a serious look at the way these differences about religion are affecting our lives and move to a central understanding and acceptance of how we are alike and define what basic human values we can all embrace like: dignity, freedom, choice, respect, responsibility, citizenship, fairness, caring, and trustworthiness.


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  1. I agree with the focus of this article. Hasn’t it been said that topics to avoid at social functions are politics and religion? These topics symbolize our emotional core and when tapped can result in reactions rather than provocative discussion. A ‘reaction’ often ignites an immediate response as one might have to a bee sting. Rational thought and possible positive outcomes can result if the ‘personal’ viewpoint remains at the doorstep and – using an analogy as with a newly-wed couple – the crossing of the threshold represents a new beginning and a joint agreement and venture to move forward as a unit.