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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Today I wake to find myself deeply embarrassed by the actions of many of my countrymen.
Today there is a clamor for closing the borders of this country to refugees, an action so deeply against the grain of our collective heritage that it borders on revolution. We are doing the unthinkable, and the leaders of the movement readily accept that fact.
This nation is proudly -- or at least used to be -- a nation of immigrants. The vast majority can trace our ancestry back to Europe, Africa, Asia, South America. Nearly all of us came, historically, from somewhere else, and that has always been a badge of strength when added to our collective heritage.
But today, in light of terrorist acts in Paris, there is a rush to slam the doors and peer anxiously through windows from a darkened room, nervously clutching at the fabric of the curtains as we watch the streets in panic.
It isn’t who we are. Or should that be who we were? Or we should be?
Have we allowed ourselves to be so deeply frightened by the government, the news media and the actions of terrorists that we are willing to forego the very nature of what makes us great as a country? As a society? Has the atmosphere of wretched and dire fear mongering taken hold? Have we become a nation of cowardice?
If we have, then the terrorists have won. If you are afraid that is a natural response. If you are terrified and act from that fear, then the terrorists have won. They have achieved their goals. Not because of what they have done to you, personally, but by your own fears of what they MIGHT do to you. You have allowed them to scare you into submission.
That is not what America has historically been.
After Pearl Harbor, America rose up in anger, not fear. After 9/11 we created a worldwide coalition and severely damaged the terrorists who dared attack us.
We are a nation who knows but controls our fear. Or should that be past tense?
Our fears are crippling us as a great nation. We rush to action by isolating ourselves under the guise of “protection”. We no longer stand our ground declaring “the line has been crossed”, we simply shutter the windows and hunker in fear, our hand no longer extended to help those who are themselves victims of the terrorists.
We have become a nation of cowardice, and it’s the fault of sensationalism in the media, of fear mongering from the Congressional dais, of the daily assault on our sense. But there’s a vast difference between being exposed to it and allowing it to change who we are.
Religion, itself at the very core of the debate, tells us -- both Judeo-Christian and Muslim alike -- tell us the most important thing we can do in this world is worship God and help one another. As a current image being distributed on the internet notes, it was the actions of a caring innkeeper who took in the mother of the Christian Son of God. He was not afraid, he acted with compassion.
Why is it we ignore those teachings?
Whether you are religious or not does not matter. Atheists and agnostics are equally giving people compared with people of Faith. But they tend not to fear the unknown. Our fear is being derived from a theological standpoint, in a clash of religions. Conservative Christians in America are driving the effort to bar the doors and seal the windows. And that goes against everything their Faith tells them to do.
At a national level, turning our national backs on refugees is a humiliating abrogation of our national character and our international responsibility. France, the very nation attacked, is still taking in three times the number of refugees as America, the Great Light on the Hill, is refusing.
(And the number in question is the population of a single small town. 10,000. One twentieth of the population of Des Moines, Iowa. 1/20th.)
Our governors and elected representatives are embarrassing us all. They appear not have the courage of our collective convictions, shutting their doors and minds while claiming it’s for our own protection. History tells us the frequent results of such moves.
And if we, as Americans, are willing to let our freedoms go in order to feel a bit more secure then we are diminished as a nation and as a people. We are supposed to die to protect our freedoms. Not our government, our freedom. And if we do not stand firm to protect our freedoms, even in light of the fearmongerers and terrorists in that great big scary world, we are not who we insist we are: the greatest land in the world. The greatest people in the world.
Our actions to date diminish us and give lie to those assertions.
Bravery is doing those things that are the right things precisely WHEN you are afraid. That is the America of the past, and the American Ideal to which we should all aspire.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” -- Abraham Lincoln

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