I grew up in Greenville, S.C., at a time when it was a city of about 65,000 and depended heavily on the textile industry. Indeed, it was the self-declared "Textile Center of the World," with aspirations to be "the next Charlotte or Atlanta."
Everyone I knew went to church on Sundays, sometimes twice, and there were those who went again on Wednesdays. "Blue laws" prohibited practically all secular activities on Sundays, the main exception being pharmacies and then only for limited hours. Heathen that I was, I worked as a soda jerk at one of those pharmacies.
My fading memory wants to remember that there was very little crime, save for the occasional stolen car. Well, there was the one time in 1953 when Greenville made the national news because of juvenile delinquents and a rash of vandalism, but that was the major exception to the general calm.
Greenville was, for the most part, bone-grindingly ordinary and just plain vanilla. But then again, so were dozens and dozens of cities and towns, larger and smaller, that were a mashup of "Father Knows Best," "Leave It to Beaver" and "Ozzie and Harriet."
My mom worked in an armaments factory during World War II, and I don't remember who cared for me while she worked. What I do remember is that she re-entered the workforce when I was about 9 years old, and I was on my own after school until my dad came home from work.
I share that because although I came home to an empty house I was not a latchkey kid, mostly because I didn't even have a key. And that was OK because the doors were never locked anyway. My parents never locked the doors to our home, even when we were to be gone for a couple of weeks on vacation.
It was a time when most homes didn't have air conditioning, and people felt safe enough to leave windows and even doors open to moderate the temperature. There wasn't any concern about someone coming in and stealing anything. That just wasn't done.
There was even a time when my then-wife got to the checkout at the grocery store only to discover that she had no checks in her checkbook. This predated credit cards so basically it was a situation of having all that stuff put back on the shelves, go home and get checks, come back and select all the groceries again, then pay for them. Except the store manager told her to go ahead and take the groceries and "drop off a check the next time you're over this way."
You get the point. It was a time of innocence and trust.
I am an engineer by education and in another life I used to travel a lot. My airline tickets had my name on them, but no one ever checked them against any identification. Fortunately, I never had a ticket with a misspelled name.
An airline passenger could even carry a loaded handgun onto an airplane. I never understood why someone would do that, but carrying a gun on a plane wasn't a big deal because even if you did you weren't going to do harm to people in an aluminum tube hurtling through the sky at several hundred miles an hour.
When hijacking airliners to Cuba became fashionable, I decided that, macho aside, if it ever happened to me I was going to recline my seat, fold my arms and go to sleep because the perp wasn't going to hurt anyone. We were just going to get a free trip to Cuba.
Eventually things did tighten up a bit. Metal detectors became the norm, making it at least necessary to put that Swiss Army knife in the bowl to go through the metal detector. But that's the point: Passengers could carry knives onto airplanes.
Then airlines started checking names on tickets against photo IDs to be sure the person named on the ticket was indeed the person traveling. If there was a spelling error of the name on the ticket, the agent just rewrote it or with a few keystrokes changed the name in the reservation.
While we needed a passport to travel to most destinations outside U.S. borders, all one needed to board a ship for a Caribbean cruise was a voter-registration card and a driver's license.
The events of 9/11 changed all that forever. We were probably long since past a time of leaving doors unlocked, but the innocence was gone.
Until I moved to Nashville, I am pretty sure I didn't know a single person from another country. Today I live in a city with the largest Kurdish population outside Iraq and more than 6% identify themselves as Hispanic.
This diversity varies from one area to another, but I find myself again living in a place that is just beige, vanilla in so many ways. And I love it!
Our little agency has the privilege of helping thousands of travelers each year with adventures that many of them never dared dream of doing in the past. Most are U.S. passport-carrying citizens of this country. But many are not yet citizens but hold a permanent resident permit (green card), which carries with it stringent requirements and responsibilities.
Central to the rules is that a green card holder has the right to live in this country as long as he or she does not "commit any actions that would make you removable under immigration law."
So what does all this mean, and where is this going?
On Jan. 27, president Trump issued an executive order titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." [Editor's Note: A new executive order was signed March 6
, after this story was originally published in our print edition.]
I am all for the underlying intent of the order, which is to protect the nation from terrorists. It's enough that I can't leave my doors unlocked anymore. I certainly don't want to fret about some evildoer from one of seven countries coming into my country with nefarious intent.
Except, even with the most charitable characterization, the order was terribly flawed and overly broad. Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius
, a quote from the 13th century that translates to "Kill them all. The Lord knows which are his" may be a stretch, but it seems in some ways applicable to this situation.
We at once were presented with travelers who were in the air at the time the order was issued but who arrived after it went into effect and, even though they had valid green cards, were denied entry.
Poorly drafted and crafted policies promulgated by our government regarding who can come here -- and far more importantly who can come back -- have created a less than desirable situation for far too many travel retailers.
I'm not railing about translators in Iraq who risked their lives to work for our government then were denied entry after being promised safe haven. I'm not bemoaning a valid green card holder from one of the countries on the list who returned there for vacation, then was denied re-entry, having to count on friends to care for a pet.
No, this is about business. I'm complaining about clients with valid green cards who are afraid to take that $10,000 vacation they've been planning because they fear not being allowed to re-enter the country.
I'm complaining about green card holders originally from countries not on the list who fear they will be denied re-entry because of some ill-informed immigration officer.
I'm complaining about U.S. citizens who have decided not to take a vacation in another country because they fear for their safety as a result of actions the U.S. has suggested it will take against the destination they had planned to visit.
Take pride in saving 200 jobs here or 300 jobs there through some action but guard against destroying thousands of existing jobs because of some hastily drawn, poorly thought-out, catch-all policy that does more to make a voter base feel good than to actually protect us.