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2001 has been quite a year. What with the dotcom market crash, and the terrible events of September 11th, I feel like I deserve a vacation.
But I have a problem. You see, I am quite politically aware, and I have always considered myself to be a responsible tourist. I never went to South Africa under the apartheid regime, and I will not go to Saudi Arabia until they allow women the right to drive.
The obvious question to ask is "Why don't you go and ski in Europe then ? There are some pretty good flight deals at the moment due to the Sept 11th terrorist attack, and God knows our airlines could use the business".
This is what a unintelligent co-worker of mine actually said to me the other day while we discussed my dilemma by the water cooler.
Obviously anyone who asks a question such as this is not very well versed in politics or history but I am, which is why the vacation issue is such a sensitive one for me.
I really want to go and sample the delights of Europe's top ski resorts. They are widely regarded by skiing experts as being the best in the world. They offer vast interlinked ski areas combined with top-notch upscale European fine dining, and a vibrant night life. The Austrians can out-party even the most boisterous frat-boys, and the Germans can drink just about anyone under the table.
What I don't want to do is to support racist, fascist regimes or people. I believe my government has done enough of that on my behalf already without me adding to the oppression. Our European forefathers committed genocide in order to found our great nation I like to think that by being aware of racism and being very choosy about where I spend my dollers, I can do my bit to make amends for all the atrocities America has inflicted on many different races throughout the years. As a white man, I realise that I am racist by definition, but this will not prevent me from challenging my own racism on a daily basis, and trying to live responsibly, attempting to make personal reparations in whatever way I can, no matter how small or trivial it may seem to others.
But enough about my personal struggle against racism, I was explaining my dilemma. The five countries I mentioned as potential ski vacation destinations all seem to have problems with racism. I am not comfortable with any of them. Lets take each country in turn
Austria's main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Herr Adolf Hitler. More recently however Kurt Waldheim has hit the headlines for his Nazi connections and currently Jorg Haider is singing the praises of Naziism. What more can be said of the country that welcomed Hitler with open arms in 1938, managed to avoid the full-scale de-Nazification program which the Allies applied to Germany, and then proceeded to elect Nazis and Fascists as though there were nothing wrong with it. I think you will agree I cannot go here and keep a clear conscience.
Home of Jean-Marie Le Pen, Brigit Bardot, and the Front Nationale. The recent death of François Mitterand (who was once decorated by Vichy Nazi collaborator leader Philippe Petain) does nothing to reduce the endemic racism and anti-semetism of the French nation. I cannot bring myself to vacation in this right wing racist haven.
Those thieving profiteering scumbags who stole Jewish gold and lied about it. What more can be said ? The Swiss were dealing with the Nazis for a long time. Why would I want to go there and spend my American dollars which are representative of freedom and democracy, something these Nazis will never understand ? So Switzerland is out. Which is a pity, since I hear that Zermatt has some particularly good runs.
Germany the country's name will forever be synonymous with Naziism. Nothing more needs to be said. I won't forget. Nor will the history books.
Now we come to perhaps the most difficult problem. Italy was never really a Nazi state, its leader Mussolini was a fascist true enough, but it wasn't him who initiated the holocaust. We all know whose idea that was (Hint: he was Austrian). However there are many disturbing right wing trends in modern Italy. Silvio Berlusconi has gone on the record as saying "We should be conscious of the superiority of our civilisation, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion. This respect certainly does not exist in the Islamic countries". These are hardly the words of someone who respects diversity, are they ? And then there is the Nothern League led by Umberto Bossi. It seems you cannot turn a corner in modern Europe without running into a xenophobic racist neo-fascist. Which is a pity because Italy has some great skiing, and some even better food and drink.
Let us Americans hold no illusions about the EU. What appears to us to be a friendly bunch of people who speak lots of different languages, and are prone to getting over excited at football matches is actually the nascent fourth reich.
The common European currency was Hitler's idea, which is why older Austrians are finding it easy to use. The worrying thing for me is that the Europeans (all 300 million of them) seem to be joining together as a super-state. And that super-state is using a Nazi currency model, and appears to aspire to take over the USAs #1 nation status. And they are about the only nation on God's Earth that could pull it off. You only have to think about their superior automobiles and domestic appliances to see that they are a force to be reckoned with. And let us not forget that were it not for Werner Von Braun and all the other Nazi scientists America would not be #1 nation today. It seems that fascism and Naziism are on the rise again in Europe but this time there is a thin veneer of respectability to make it all seem palatable to the masses. I do not want my vacation dollars going toward funding a fascist super-state with ambitions of world domination...
Which brings me back to my problem. Obviously now is a really good time to travel because flights are so cheap, but I don't want to give my support to any racist or neo-fascist governments. It seems I am out of luck.
I've tried looking further afield, but the only other places I have come up with are Chile and Scotland. Chile does not seem to have a history of racism per-se, but then Chile seems to have played host to a whole load of human rights abuses which ensure it will never gain a place on my skiing itinerary.
Scotland looks to be OK, but the men there all seem to be slightly effeminate, wearing dresses and 'Tossing' their 'Cabers'. Whilst I respect diversity as much as the next man, I have no wish to spend my vacation in close proximity to a bunch of effeminate 'tossers'. So Scotland is out of the question.
Which leaves me with nowhere to go. I guess I could stay in the USA, but to tell the truth, I'm getting a bit sick of all the mindless knee-jerk flag waving and gung-ho militarism that characterises our nation at the moment.
Do any of our more politically aware readers have any suggestions as to where I might go ? Somewhere where I can sleep easy in the knowledge that I am not supporting some nasty political regime, and preferably somewhere where I can get a cheap deal on a flight!