humpback whale New York
In popular imagination America is where dreams turn into reality and where roots form for a lifetime of peace prosperity, and security Image Credit: Reuters

Until very recently the American dream was a global fantasy, a haven aspired by residents in many corners of the world as an oasis of abundance where dreams turn into reality and where roots form for a lifetime of peace prosperity, and security.

And for the most part, that dream held for millions of people who left their homeland to create for themselves and their families a new life in the new land.

From Asia, from Europe, from Africa, and from the southern countries in the Americas they all trekked in, some through arduous journeys across the sea, while others were brought in to serve as labour.

The new country grew stronger on the toils of immigrants — each bringing their own identity and talent that lent a hand in shaping a dynamic country, one which would soon surpass all others to become the most powerful country in the world, an incredible feat when the age of the country was pitted against that of the dynasties and monarchies of Europe and Asia that had centuries of history and existence behind them.

Read more

A spate of travel advisories 

But the unthinkable has taken place. Late last month, news broke out of several countries issuing a travel advisory to their citizens about travel to the United States. A travel advisory is put out when a government deems that it is not safe or secure a condition for their nationals to travel to, and usually issued during times of great conflict within the country.

But America is not at war with some foreign body on its soil. So why push the panic button? Travel Noire, a boutique travel company reported last month that at least seven countries had issued travel advisories to their citizens cautioning them about travel to what once was the promised land. And some of the seven are among America’s closest allies.

The United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Venezuela, and Uruguay all encouraged their citizens to be on alert and stay diligent when visiting America.

The UK government advised its residents to stay vigilant when travelling to the States. They listed possible occurrences of mass shootings and terrorist attacks and strongly urged their nationals to read the guidance in the travel advisory on responding to an active shooter.

France pointed out certain urban cities that pose potential threats, such as mugging, carjacking, theft, and walking alone at night. “The ministry provides a breakdown of potential threats in neighbourhoods in major US cities, such as Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.”

New Zealand went so far as to alert travellers that individuals or groups may target the US through terrorist acts in areas where tourists frequent. The country’s current travel advisory level for the US is a 2 out of 4, meaning travellers are advised to exercise increased caution.

Travel Noire stated that “New Zealand’s government attributes the rating to the threat of terrorism. The US remains a target of terrorist interest from both international terror groups and domestic-based extremists.”

The Canadian government whose country borders that of the US was concerned enough to mention in its advisory the high rate of firearm possession in the US and that it is “legal in many states for citizens to openly carry firearms in public.”

Growing polarisation

Due to increased mass shootings, Canada advises tourists to “familiarise themselves with how to respond to an active shooter situation.” Canada’s travel advisories also detail and warn residents about possible criminal incidents at the US-Mexico border.

Australia’s travel warning lists the possibility of an impending terrorist attack citing the growing polarisation in American society and the Great Divide within political parties.

It also has the US classified at a level 1, instructing travellers to exercise standard safety precautions. Like Canada, Australia does warn citizens that violent and gun-related crimes are more common in the US and provides tips on how to avoid such deadly encounters.

Venezuela and Uruguay had also issued travel warnings against the US since 2019. The “proliferation of acts of violence and indiscriminate hate crimes,” was the reason that Venezuela recommended citizens postpone travel to the US while Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged travellers to take extreme precautions against the same hate crimes and increased firearm violence. Could this signal something more deeper?

What is even more disturbing is the rise of Americans living overseas and going on social media to announce that they will not be going back! Clip after clip of young and elderly Americans saying they were fed up with the ways things are going in the US and had no plans to return. They were talking about what once was the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As one of them remarked, “It is no longer that. It is more like ‘the land of the homeless and the home of the disillusioned.’

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena