Advice for one reconsidering a US road trip
January 30, 2017 3:02 AM   Subscribe

A close friend and I have been planning an extensive US road trip, to take place this May, for the past year. It's the trip of a lifetime for both of us and we've been looking forward to it greatly. With the advent of the new administration and the horrorshow that's already started after just one week thereof, I'm reconsidering whether I can morally justify going on the trip. How can I best make this decision.

A few salient details:
  • Both of us are white, middle class, men, FWIW
  • The trip is planned to be for four weeks
  • We'd be travelling in CA, AZ, NV, OR and WA, arriving in and departing from SFO
  • We've booked flights and accomodation and car hire. However, we've only paid up front for the flights and car hire. The car hire is refundable, the flights aren't
When I talked about my feelings about all this my friend said that I was "borderline virtue-signalling", but also confessed to feeling uncomfortable. One of us cancelling means both of us cancelling -- we can't afford the accomodation unless it's together.

Truth be told I'm currently very conflicted. I've been looking forward to this trip for a long time, but now it all feels slightly soured, like I wouldn't actually be able to enjoy it. I also worry that by travelling I'm tacitly supporting the Trump administration. I'd like to think that I'm a good and upright person, and I do a lot of charity work with refugees, so this impacts people of whom I've had direct experience.

A Muslim friend of mine recently remarked that "if you're not opposing Trump, you're supporting him," and told me that if I did go to the US they could no longer be my friend, since I was therefore okay with the new regime. All of this has left me in a state of analysis paralysis, out of which I don't really know how to break.

Any advice is welcome.
posted by six sided sock to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Virtue signalling, hateful, bullshit phrase that it is (IMO, obvs) is about empty platitudes rather than actions. Choosing not to go to the USA in the face of plans is an action, albeit not one everyone would agree with.

One of my friends is, as of the "Muslim ban" effectively banned from the USA. And she is (to all appearances) a White British middle class woman. They were saving up to take the kids to Disney world before Trump got in. Whilst she is not welcome in the USA, then I stand in solidarity with her. That is evidently how your friend feels.

The other thing to bear in mind is that all this has happened in one week. It's a long time until May. Things may get better, they may also get very very much worse.
posted by threetwentytwo at 3:34 AM on January 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

I don't have particular advice on the philosophical issues here, but, as a Californian, I have to ask you to please note that California is not Trump country. (And it is a very cosmopolitan place, except for some few spots in the middle.)

Of the states in your itinerary only Arizona went to Trump; Nevada, Oregon and Washington, went, like California, to Clinton. Maybe instead of a US road trip, think of it as a Pacific Coast Blue States trip? And to signal your virtue go ahead and skip Arizona. (Go to Mexico instead of Arizona!)
posted by bertran at 3:39 AM on January 30, 2017 [16 favorites]

Well... have you looked to see if there are any fun protests to be part of when you come here? That would eliminate a good chunk of guilt. There are also over half the people in the country that didn't vote for him, that are disempowered to fix things for four more years beyond protests. Our president may lead our country, but his policies are not necessarily reflective of the people governed by him.

I mean, on behalf of the people who didn't vote for him, I'm sorry for both his rhetoric and direction towards both other nationalities as well as the marginalized groups within the US.

I'll also be honest, you are headed to a lot of places where immigration and border security issues are at the forefront... there is opportunity to support them during your visit.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:43 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please come and bear witness while it's still possible to do so.
posted by jbenben at 3:55 AM on January 30, 2017 [24 favorites]

It's a long time until May. Who knows if you'll even be allowed in the country then? There's been talk of border control asking all incoming foreigners if you support Trump, searching your phone, asking for your social media details and what websites you visit... Any other time those threats would seem like nonsense but it would be completely unsurprising to me if they were to be implemented under this regime. Who knows if they'll search your phone and find this post, for example, and then deny you entry. You'd be out of the plane ticket *and* anything else you'd paid for. At least if you cancel now you'd limit your losses.
Assuming you are British, I don't hold out much hope that May will be able to sort out any exception for British citizens, so I wouldn't assume your British passport will get you in easily. It definitely wouldn't if you have any stamps in there from countries that the US has banned immigrants from.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:56 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Front line workers in the hospitality industry are among the most vulnerable here in the US: cleaners, kitchen staff, laundry workers. If you visit, making sure to tip heavily where you can and be mindful of your impact (don't leave a sty behind you in your hotel room, for example) is as important now as ever.

Supporting independent businesses run by women, people of color or religious minorities, ditto.

Donations to the ACLU, IRC, Planned Parenthood, ditto.

I'd make sure these are all part of my travel plans. Come here and make a positive impact.

As an American, I would also fully understand a decision not to come right now, or to travel elsewhere. It probably won't solve the issue of your friend, but if you do come, there are ways to be on the right side of history.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:56 AM on January 30, 2017 [20 favorites]

There are two different questions here, I think. One is about what you owe your two friends, the one who would be inconvenienced if you didn't travel and the one who would feel hurt and betrayed if you did. The other is about the wider question of justice, and solidarity with all those excluded from the US at the moment (balanced against the need to support those in the US currently in opposition, who need solidarity too).

On the first point, I think your friend's criticism of "virtue signalling" is pretty irrelevant. You are not signalling anything, you are effectively participating in a boycott that could have important practical consequences if others join you in it. Their moral argument against travel is pretty weak. The real problem is that, by refusing to go, you will be pulling them into making the same decision as you-boycotting- while they don't necessarily agree with you that it's a useful thing to do. Meanwhile, your other friend would feel personally betrayed if you went. So your choice is between "friend X kind of agrees with me that this is bad but prefers not to do x action to oppose it" and "friend Y feels frightened and under attack and wants me to do x action to help them feel less unsafe". Personally, I would prioritise Y's needs against X's wants in this situation. The incovenience of losing money, and the opportunity of a nice vacation, is not as important as the terror of feeling under attack and as though even your friends will not be fully on your side when worse things (possibly) come. If you feel bad about X, you can always offer to make up the financial loss and suggest a holiday somewhere else. But I would also explain your decision to X by reference to Y: not just "I think this is wrong and I need to symbolically resist it" but "I think this is harming my other friend and I need to symbolically resist it for their sake".

On the question whether it is moral to travel to the US just now, I don't know. It's complicated. My instinct is in favour of a gesture of solidarity with the excluded and I feel that - especially is the ban is extended to more countries and beyond 90 days - we are more likely to make our point to the administration by refusing to treat the US as a normal friend and neighbour, and to spend our money there, until normal moral standards of non-discrimination are restored. But there are arguments on the other side. I think you can solve your current dilemma by thinking about your friends, and how to manage their competing desires ethically. The broader question is more of a wait-and-see, over the next few months.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:18 AM on January 30, 2017

I completely understand where you're coming from and how you're feeling. I'm someone who absolutely loves traveling and planning adventures but at this current time it's hard to imagine enjoying it like I used to. In fact, it feels so much like we're in some terrible alternate universe that just LIVING feels weird--I've been so consumed in political stress and anxiety that it feels strange to do "regular" things. But live we must. We can't let this administration trap and restrict us through fear and bullying. It's important to acknowledge and stand up against the tyranny, but also important to maintain some semblance of regular routing so as not to lose sanity.

What I'm saying is, I know the discomfort you're feeling and would completely understand if you decided not to come whether out of icky feelings or solidarity, but I'm inclined to agree with jbenben. Come bear witness to what's going on here. Come also to do what i assume you originally planned on doing--come witness the stunning beauty of this country, and hopefully find that there's beauty in its people, too. I love the US so very much, and in particular its amazing, gorgeous natural landscape. I fear that our nature and parks are in more danger from climate change than ever, under this administration. Come see them, for they may not be this way for much longer. Come meet real people--there are so many nice people here, really. We are so poorly represented by our leaders right now, we need people who can see and share that we are not all like them, far from it.

I can't imagine what it's like for your Muslim friend right now. It's a fraught time and words are driven by real emotion. But you sound like an empathetic and compassionate person to me, and coming here could give you opportunities to exercise that. Like the other comments said, you can join a protest (sadly I'm sure they'll be a weekly occurrence now) and see what it's like on the ground here. You can be an ambassador, essentially.

If you do decide to come, just please be safe.
posted by sprezzy at 4:28 AM on January 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I am an American citizen and an expat living overseas and I will not be returning to the US under this administration. Not for births, deaths, or any other reason. My immediate family in the US, ie those who will be birthing and dying, are aware and support this.

Were I travelling, I would be flying in and out of NY/NJ. It isn't about where I would or would not be travelling to in the US or where I would or would not be spending money once there. I am not going to comply with a customs and immigration authority that has acted in direct contravention of a federal court order. I am not going to brandish my US passport to skip over the part where they're demanding your devices and social media accounts to see what your politics might be. I am not OK with breezing through while refugees with valid, legal resettlement visas were turned away.

As a friend of mine noted, "I shall take a dim view of Brooklyn or SF holiday snaps from currently ultra woke social media users."

I mean, look, you can do whatever you want. But yes, you are making a choice about submitting to a system under the orders of a pretty un-closeted fascist, enforced by an arguably treasonous armed force that has shown it has no regard for the law, to take a vacation in a country where you have no ambassador, while those who have been granted sanctuary are being turned away. This seems both broadly immoral and personally imprudent to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:30 AM on January 30, 2017 [19 favorites]

Speaking as an American living in the US right now, I 100% support you if you decide not to spend money or be present here right now. I wish I could do the same.

Canada (among other countries) sounds like a much better place to visit right now in my opinion. If you can't get your plane tickets refunded, any chance you could reroute to, say, Vancouver?
posted by DingoMutt at 5:05 AM on January 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Six sided sock, if you are a British citizen, we do in fact have an ambassador right now, Sir Kim Darroch. There are also consular services throughout the various States.

As for a moral dilemma I can't help you, and in fact am facing an even more complex question myself. But for now, there is a British ambassador to the US.
posted by tel3path at 5:37 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you travel to the U.S., you will be supporting local businesses and local economies, rather than the U.S. as a whole, and the West Coast isn't exactly Trump country.

If you go visit the U.S. and pay attention and chat with locals while you're there, you will probably get a clearer, more visceral understanding of what is going on in the U.S. than you ever will by staying at home in protest and reading every newspaper available to you. I think that sort of understanding can be quite valuable.
posted by colfax at 5:49 AM on January 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

This strikes me as bizarre. The majority of American voters did not vote for Trump. Everyone I know in California has been in a 24/7 state of shitting themselves since he was elected. He surely does not need your money, but the folks working at the restaurants and hotels and car rental agencies and tourist attractions that you'd spend it at, do need it. I'm an American who voted against him and thinks he's fucking crazy, and would be baffled at your choosing to boycott my business because of what he's doing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:52 AM on January 30, 2017 [22 favorites]

Do you remember all the stuff about "if they keep you from doing [activity] then the terrorists win"? Well, same applies. Don't let the new administration keep you from acting normal, unless it puts you at risk for a bad outcome.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:53 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

As an American living in the U.S., I would see it as an act of solidarity if you cancel your trip -- and then tell everyone everywhere why you've done so. There are some really wonderful places in Mexico that you could visit.

As for coming here and joining in on protests and other acts of resistance: frankly that seems dangerous to me. You don't have standing as a citizen in our justice system (for what that's worth in this regime) and CBP has already shown that they think of themselves as the hand of Trump.

I also see the arguments on the other side of the issue. I don't know that this is clear cut.

I appreciate your thoughtfulness in asking this question. It heartens me to see support from around the world.
posted by mcduff at 6:15 AM on January 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm American-Canadian and am changing plans to travel to the US this summer. We are also looking for alternatives to made in the US products. I imperfectly seek to spend my money ethically and that's kind of where I am right now. I'm thinking of going to Quebec City instead to patronize some businesses near last night's shooting, so it's not that I'm unaware that this is a global problem of anti-Muslim sentiment. I'm also extremely choked up and heartened at the American response this weekend with peaceful protests, the ACLU, and lawyers mobilizing. It makes me feel proud to be American.

But I cannot see the US at this point in history as a vacation destination because it's the federal government making these policies. Sanctions of countries all over the world have been painful and hurt the equivalents of California, sometimes to little effect and sometimes to policy-changing effect. Trump's carrot is economic prosperity and...right now I have a hard time contributing towards that outcome.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:20 AM on January 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think that you should stay home or go somewhere else because you have friends who will feel personally betrayed. I don't, on balance, think that there's anything especially wrong with coming to the US qua coming to the US - Trump didn't win the popular vote, there have been more mass protests since his election than I have seen in my entire life before, etc. But if you're going to shatter your relationship with your Muslim friend - well, travel is travel, but friends are forever.

Also, a slightly soured trip will stay with you forever. Think about how you'll look back in years to come, after whatever horror is on its way has engulfed us all, and you'll say to yourself "I was asked to boycott but I went anyway". You won't feel good about it.

Canceling will suck, I know; I too have canceled out on things that I wanted for political reasons, and it does suck mightily.

Look, maybe if - god willing - we defeat Trump, you can come and visit the new America and visit all the mefites, and we will take you for drinks and reminisce about the bad old days.
posted by Frowner at 6:25 AM on January 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

My college roommate, back in the 70's, was part of an exchange trip to Russia to work on a joint US-Russian student literary project. This was one of those hopeful beacons of light during the dark days of the cold war. He went, and he's still glad that he did, as he got to bear witness to the abuses happening in communist Russia, and he got to extend a hand of friendship to young people in Moscow who could not even speak aloud what they really thought about their government.

We are not yet at that point. Please, come to our beautiful country. Now is not the time to turn your back on the many American citizens who are working hard to change the horrific government that is now in power. We need your support now more than ever. And remember, too, that the true abuses happen in isolation. We need our friends to come and bear witness.

Think about it this way. Nobody will notice if you don't come. But if you do come, and talk with us, and share your concerns or offer your support, you'll touch dozens of lives and maybe even do some good.

I would also encourage you to lobby your own government to pressure the US to change its policies. I think your voice of protest would have far more reach in that regard.
posted by math at 6:26 AM on January 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'd not go, but I'd not go to the US since about the time I got my passport.

How about a Nicaraguan road trip (now guess my age)?

Nobody will notice if you don't come.

Communal action is difficult, but people will notice if nobody comes.
posted by pompomtom at 6:34 AM on January 30, 2017

(That said, I also see Frowner's point about friendship. This is a difficult decision for you to make.)
posted by math at 6:34 AM on January 30, 2017

I would like to add the counterpoint that "bearing witness" is not required. The United States is not under a media ban, is not subject to a communications blackout, is not suffering a dearth of international interest and reporting, and has a population of 317M people holding 327M mobile phones in their hands.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:37 AM on January 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

On the one hand, what you are "signalling" with this question is being a thoughtful person weighing a complicated decision. I think we can all appreciate it.

At the same time, how does anyone square politics and travel? I am American - and I didn't agree with the UK vote for Brexit. Should I rule out visiting the UK? Sorry, but I would visit in a heartbeat - for 1,000 other reasons.

Should I have not visited Singapore because they commit human rights violations by caning people? Should I have not visited Hong Kong as a stand against China's increasing erosion of their democracy? Well, I did visit these places despite disagreeing with these values, and I think my life is better for having done so.

Many of us here are upset by Trump, but this is a giant country with an extremely diverse population and whatever horrifying shit is happening at the Federal level is only one part of our story. You'll see a lot more of our stories by actually being here. And as much as I loathe the man, this is still the USA - slap a big Fuck Trump sticker on your luggage and drag it around wherever you go. Nothing's gonna happen to you - especially not out west.

One of our greatest freedoms here is our ability to tell our leaders what jerkoffs they are. Nothing has curbed that. And we are doing so with much fanfare right now. Come see in person!
posted by thebordella at 7:01 AM on January 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

If you do cancel your trip, make sure that everyone affected knows why. Send a polite email when you cancel your car, accommodation and plane reservations and explain that you can't in good conscience travel to a country where your friends and co-nationals wouldn't be safe or welcome. Explain that you have no personal animus against the US and hope to be able to come back sometime. I don't really have an opinion on the morality of traveling to the US right now, but from a helping-the-resistance perspective, that might help puncture some of the BS about Trump being a businessman who will be good for American business.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:19 AM on January 30, 2017 [20 favorites]

It clearly means a lot to your muslim friend, so perhaps exporing their thinking and options/alternatives makes sense.

I would say, at a minimum, if you do decide to take the trip make a conscious effort to support businesses that have spoken out for rational immigration policies and against our slide into fascism, and leave room in your itinerary to observe/join in some of the protests. These are steps you can take to make it clear that your visit here is not an unambiguous endorsement of the illegal and immoral administration.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:33 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had friends cancel their trips, and I understand that and appreciate and respect their motives.

I am a firm believer that when we encounter people different than ourselves, we are all richer for it. I believe in cultural exchange. We all learn something about the larger world, and about our own.

Visiting the US fosters cultural exchange, however small or indirect. It challenges isolationist and xenophobic tendencies in a concrete, localized way. I did an exchange year to the US in uni, and even as a suburban Canadian white guy, there was much to learn -- both ways.

Self-segregation is, I think, counterproductive in challenging a restrictive world-view like Trump's.

It is with that firm belief in the value of exchange that I will not cancel my own planned visit. That said, I totally understand and respect the reasons why others will boycott. I also freely admit that as a suburban Canadian white guy, I do not face the challenges in going to the US that others do.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:39 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please come. Bear witness that America is not just that orange asswipe.
posted by notsnot at 7:39 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're planning on drawing this line, make sure you draw it straight. Principled action requires actual principles. By saying this, I'm not trying to imply that you're not morally serious or sincere--I'm saying that you should be able to articulate exactly why you won't go to the U.S. and to be prepared to apply that to all your travel plans in future. This kind of decision should not be based on just a sense that travel to the U.S. is somehow incompatible with your feeling that you're an upright person (though neither should it be based on fear of appearing to "virtue-signal," a concept deserving only of contempt).

Trump, and the Trump administration, benefits only in an attenuated way from tourism (especially if you lack the poor taste required to voluntarily stay at one of his branded hotels). He gained power through an archaic system of vote distribution that does not reflect the choice of the American people, who have turned out in opposition in force, and specifically in opposition to the executive order concerning immigration. There were between twenty and thirty thousand people in NYC marching yesterday against it. The enforcement of that order has been blocked, at least for now, by the courts (supported by a remarkable mobilization of volunteer lawyers appalled by government conduct who are sitting on floors in airports filing petitions for the release of people they've never even met)--do they count less in your eyes than the executive branch? That view is not compatible with the American theory of democracy.

Meanwhile, many of the most popular U.S. tourist destinations, including most of the places you are visiting, are bastions of opposition to Trump. (To a local, the idea that you would supporting Trump by, say, visiting NYC verges on the absurd.) The hospitality industry (not otherwise generally known as supporters of Trump, though I'm sure there are individual exceptions) is a huge employer of immigrants, documented and undocumented. They are the ones who will be most directly harmed by any travel boycott.

If you want to support the opposition, you will have your opportunities while you are here. Even if it's just to talk to people that you meet and reassure us that the world is with us.

The friend question is a difficult and painful one, and one I'm honestly not sure strangers can advise you on; I only think you should be clear in your mind about what you would actually be doing by visiting the U.S.
posted by praemunire at 8:08 AM on January 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's a hard question, and I don't think there are legitimately absolute answers to it. That said, a few arguments here strike me as odd:

- the value of cultural exchange: cultural exchange is definitely valuable, but (a) there are many ways to accomplish such exchange these days, including on websites such as these; (b) British visitors are unlikely to be an enormous novelty in the areas OP has planned to visit; (c) as others have pointed out, those are also not areas where there is a shortage of anti-Trump views, whether domestic or foreign; (d) there is a strong current of animosity, among a portion of the population, against input from other countries that may be less than 100% supportive (remember "Freedom Fries"?) and I'd argue that there's significant overlap between Trump supporters and the aforementioned group.
In short, I'd say that as far as cultural exchange goes there are significantly more valuable places for a British person to visit. (I also think it's relatively unlikely that the OP wouldn't be able to take a road trip in America in the future.)

- non-Trump supporting areas shouldn't be "punished" for his presidency: Not that two tourists' income is likely to make that much difference, but this is a serious matter. At the same time, people in all areas of the US will be suffering as a result of this administration, whether they support it or not. If loss of tourist revenue helps weaken the Republican government in any way, then that is at least a loss with a purpose, and ideally a short-term price for a long-term gain.
It is also problematic to speak on behalf of any American who might stand to gain financially from the OP's visit. Many people are more than willing to take a hit in the name of larger principles.

- OP should go, and participate in protests: it would be more than normally problematic for the OP if they got arrested in a protest in a foreign country; the OP already lives in a country where protesting is extremely valuable and currently often targeted at Trump or at Trump-approved policies; there are many other countries in which OP could both travel and protest.

- this would be like deciding not to visit [some other place]: international travel is always, I think, a complicated issue with respect to ethics. On the other hand, both the extent to which travel to a country signals support or complicitness, and the extent to which such travel would be beneficial or harmful to the residents of such a country, are matters that exist on a continuum; the decision to avoid travel to one country on an ethical basis can coexist with a decision to undertake problematic but less-troubling travel to another country.

In the case of America, because there has been such a sharp and sudden turnaround in policy, it would not be strange to feel that seeing that turnaround reflected in a sharp drop in tourist income would make an effective political statement, and furthermore act to belie the idea that America is becoming more "great"/admired. (Though of course such a drop, or significant international opposition to the new government, could also feed the sort of isolationist us-vs-them mentality that helped Trump get elected in the first place. But you could also argue that's inevitable. Etc.)

Another aspect in which the current Trump situation is different than, say, Singapore, is that by visiting there the OP would be taking advantage specifically of a right that has just been taken away from a very large population. There is an element of solidarity in the face of discrimination here that is not as clear in some other cases of foreign travel.

Like some other comments, I was going to suggest looking into how much it would cost to change your flight (destination) rather than abandoning it as a sunk cost. Regardless of what you ultimately decide to do, you might as well make the decision with full information.
posted by trig at 9:53 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I faced this type of travel question three years ago. My hobby group had booked our annual convention in Indiana, and then the Governor signed the "religious freedom" law that allowed discrimination against the LGBT population. We had so many discussions about whether to go or not, and joined the rising tide of popular opinion. I was a strong proponent of NOT going at the time. However, the Pride parade was already set for the Saturday we planned to be there, and our organization created an official event for participating. So we went, and participated in the parade, and lent our presence and voices.

The law was amended before our convention to specifically protect the rights of the LGBT population, and I hope that my tiny voice helped. But who knows? So I can say that I truly sympathize with your dilemma. But I think I would do the same if I had it to do over again. I would go, and look for opportunities to help.
posted by raisingsand at 10:08 AM on January 30, 2017

In Southern California, at least, you could easily go for days without setting foot in anything but Muslim or Mexican-American owned businesses... Orange County has the largest Persian population outside of Iran, and according to Google there are ~15 Halal restaurants within 10 minutes of me. Would your friend feel any differently if you made a point during the trip of supporting the communities that Trump is targeting? That'd be fairly easy to do if you stick to the West Coast.
posted by Huck500 at 10:31 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can't even conceive of what things will be like here in May. Maybe we're all chicken littling a bit and things will be business as usual, only with a lot of protests. Maybe your social media will be subject to search when you enter the country. Maybe California's going to be in open revolt against the Trump administration. Or something much more dire may happen by then. Literally none of us can tell you what the fuck is coming at this point. On that basis alone, I'd recommend canceling your trip, and this is coming from someone who LOVES roadtripping on the west coast/in the southwest.

Also, I'm inclined to say you should stand in solidarity with your Muslim friend. Setting aside all the logistics of your travel and planning, would this trip be worth ending or irreparably harming this friendship?
posted by yasaman at 10:36 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

If loss of tourist revenue helps weaken the Republican government in any way, then that is at least a loss with a purpose, and ideally a short-term price for a long-term gain.

I don't know if you're an American and this is not immediately obvious to an outside observer, but: if OP goes to, say, California and stays in a CA hotel, he will pay, among other things, a hotel tax to the state of California. The state of California has come out strongly against the immigrant ban and the California AG is likely to engage in legal action against the Trump administration (as well as continuing to provide services for which there is ordinarily federal-state joint responsibility that are likely to be basically abandoned under the Trump administration, for example, pursuing companies for consumer fraud). Most tourist revenue does not go to the federal government. Those hotel (and other) taxes OP would be paying would be going instead to the support of some of Trump's most powerful enemies.

Weakening the governments of states like CA and NY (which obtained that $25 million Trump University settlement) does not help the Democratic cause. There may be tradeoffs which outweigh the cost of doing that, but one needs to be clear on that. One of the reasons you need to be careful in deciding how you're going to interact with another country's politics is that it is far too easy to miss nuances like this.
posted by praemunire at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

One of the reasons you need to be careful in deciding how you're going to interact with another country's politics is that it is far too easy to miss nuances like this.

Not to overstate my position, but no, that's not how consumer boycotts (or the next level, sanctions) really work. I'm sure there were great franchises of Chick-fil-a or however you spell it and gay people that worked there and that nominally having happy gay couples eat there could have helped franchise owners learn to get along with people and maybe if the CFO could show that franchises in LGBTQ-friendly communities did better than ones that weren't but...really it's okay to just respond to the owner's statement.

As a tourist I don't owe the US a principled explanation. This idea, that the world owes extra-special patience, is grating. I can just decide I'd rather support a country that isn't putting crap policies in place. On hearing that I'm going to Chick-fil-a my friend can say yo, did you hear they banned people from entering from countries based on those countries' religious makeups? You sure you want to put your fast food dollars in here?
posted by warriorqueen at 11:57 AM on January 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Even in red state AZ there's plenty of native and tribal owned businesses that could use your tourists dollars and the Tohono O'odham Nation looks to be ground zero for one of the fights.

I guess you could compare it to, how would you feel about spending ecotourist dollars on a photo-safari in a country with a right wing government.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:19 PM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not to overstate my position, but no, that's not how consumer boycotts (or the next level, sanctions) really work. I'm sure there were great franchises of Chick-fil-a or however you spell it and gay people that worked there and that nominally having happy gay couples eat there could have helped franchise owners learn to get along with people and maybe if the CFO could show that franchises in LGBTQ-friendly communities did better than ones that weren't but...really it's okay to just respond to the owner's statement.

Donald Trump is not in charge of individual state governments or governors.

Donald Trump is not the boss of the state attorney generals.

I am not talking about individual people implementing bad policies of their boss who may or may not give the people affected some leeway. I am talking about autonomous entities who are likely going to turn around and sue against at least some of these policies (and who certainly are now using their own resources to protect the people affected despite dire threats of consequences) and who are well-positioned to do so. Your tourist dollars support them far more than they support Trump.

Like I said, this is not an obvious point to an outside observer of American politics. And, again, one can argue that other considerations outweigh it. But if you don't understand how American federalism works, you are not really well-equipped to consider how much weight the consideration should be given.

As a tourist I don't owe the US a principled explanation

Nope, you don't. OP, however, solicited an opinion.
posted by praemunire at 12:48 PM on January 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

For more context, this is the joint statement issued by 15 state AGs (including CA, but not AZ), this weekend:

"As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump's unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful Executive Order and will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.

Religious liberty has been, and always will be, a bedrock principle of our country and no president can change that truth.

Yesterday, multiple federal courts ordered a stay of the Administration’s dangerous Executive Order. We applaud those decisions and will use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order and preserve our nation’s national security and core values.

We are confident that the Executive Order will ultimately be struck down by the courts. In the meantime, we are committed to working to ensure that as few people as possible suffer from the chaotic situation that it has created.”
posted by praemunire at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Right...OP, lessons in American exceptionalism. As long as you only visit the good Americans it's okay.

(I actually think it is okay, but I'm bemused at this thread. And for me, I'd rather not contribute to the GDP, especially after seeing Trump's #Dow20k posts.)
posted by warriorqueen at 1:22 PM on January 30, 2017

As long as you only visit the good Americans it's okay.

By putting tax dollars into the pockets of the CA government, you are literally financing American opposition to Trump by one of the entities that has the most power and perceived legitimacy to act against him. I can't put it any more plainly than that. It's not a question of exceptionalism, but of how power actually works in an actual system.

OP, I hope this information has been of some use to you in making your difficult decision.
posted by praemunire at 1:37 PM on January 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Those hotel (and other) taxes OP would be paying would be going instead to the support of some of Trump's most powerful enemies.

This particular point I think is kind of trivial (because there are clear substitutes the OP could undertake instead: donate that money to the ACLU/SPLC/etc.; donate to specific politicians or groups that work against Trump or in support of those he hurts; spend those tourist dollars and tax payments in a country whose government takes action against Trump (say, Canada); donate the money (or time) to groups in Britain dealing with serious (and dramatically related) issues.)

However, the general point about there being endless nuances is true. Like I said, it's a hard question and if there is one correct answer, it's definitely not a clear one. I personally think the optics argument ("See this graph of tourist income plunging!") is, in theory, more convincing than the going-is-helping argument, but that's just me, and it's just theory, and it's not possible to know with certainty how any given action will end up playing out.

The one thing that's almost certain is that two British tourists more or less are a drop in a bucket in terms of individual influence. Which means, I think, that it's necessary to do what was said in a comment above: to get one's own principles straight in one's head and be able to explain them and feel good about it, whichever way you ultimately decide. And I think, as another comment said, that it's also important really to consider one's own feelings - as they are now and as they might be after the trip - and in general what feels right, and how those feelings intersect with one's principles.

It's a hard question.
posted by trig at 1:38 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's not what American exceptionalism means and state governments are not an amorphous "good"; they are very real political units.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:39 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

"American exceptionalism has been historically referred to as the belief that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations because of its national credo, historical evolution, or distinctive political and religious institutions. [Emphasis mine.] The difference is often expressed in American circles as some categorical superiority, to which is usually attached some alleged proof, rationalization or explanation that may vary greatly depending on the historical period and the political context. However, the term can also be used in a negative sense by critics of American policies to refer to a willful nationalistic ignorance of faults committed by the American government."

Michael Ignatieff's book on American exceptionalism and human rights is a good read. He does distinguish exemptionalism from exceptionalism.

And...I dunno man, in this conversation the argument that you should spend your tourism dollars in California because US states are uniquely powerful to stop Trump seems a lot like American exceptionalism to me, especially if one would otherwise not visit there due to - I don't know, torture being newly made a possibility, organizations that support women's reproductive rights being defunded, people being banned from entry due to the predominant religion in their country, a wall being built, withdrawing from international trade agreements, the appointment of a self-proclaimed white nationalist to the principals committee of the National Security Council which may (does?) authorize extra-judicial killings, and perhaps on the horizon as they have been stated, increasing nuclear arsenals. That's before the assault on the American people themselves as their health care is defunded. This is not mitigated by states' power until it is...if it is, hurray, I will get to visit my girlfriend at her house.

It really is not that easy a decision for me but if you can't see why that's a viable choice for world tourists right now...I dunno. This is definitely my last post in this question but OP, good luck, I hope this has been helpful!
posted by warriorqueen at 2:24 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't go. The important reason is that you are not feeling good about it and gawd, in another few months this place might be a hell hole (it is already there but wait till he lets the local police dept. disobey federal laws-its already happening in Cleveland). You will be miserable through out the trip.
I never visit or buy from those who are against my political interest because my money then funds them to carry out their vicious, hateful actions. I cannot live with that and the fact that I may empower these vengeful and hateful individuals who are disguised under the mask of either religion or economic necessities.
posted by metajim at 4:38 PM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was planning a CA - NY road trip in June, and that is not going to happen now. As a Californian who is not white or straight, I do not want to spend a single dollar that is not necessary and I can't in good conscience advise anyone to visit the US right now (and possibly for the next 8 years).

However, if I were you and had already paid for tickets, I'd go. The question would keep me up at night, but the word 'non-refundable' would decide it for me.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:36 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, come so you can speak with first-hand knowledge about what it is like here and what people are experiencing. It's important, and perhaps your friend might change his mind if you tell him this reason.

OTOH, this is a coup we're experiencing. The federal government is being taken apart from the inside, we are no longer even pretending to be a democracy... this might not be the most safe or stable place to visit right now.

I'm the kind of person who likes to know first-hand what's going on, so I would go if it's still safe to travel here. I think it's an important moment in history to document. But that's me. You do you.
posted by jbenben at 6:40 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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