Rick Steves is Controversal

Did you see the interview with Rick Steves, the travel guy on PBS, in Salon.com today? Within, he says things that have people talking, things about Iran, for example. Says Steves:

We shot from the bushes at the redcoats when we were fighting our war against an empire. Now they shoot from the bushes at us. It shouldn’t surprise us. I’m not saying it’s nice. But I try to remind Americans that Nathan Hales and Patrick Henrys and Ethan Allens are a dime a dozen on this planet. Ours were great. But there’s lots of people who wish they had more than one life to give for their country. We diminish them by saying, “Oh, they’re terrorists and life is cheap for them.” They’re passionate for their way of life. And they will give their life for what is important to their families.

Challenging point, that. Personally, it seems that we should try to be empathetic to the fact that huge swaths of the under-educated are turning to a militant and deranged religion, or perverting a religion, in order to execute (pardon the pun) a nihilistic and myopic and xenophobic world view. And we should use knowledge and principles of enlightenment and reason and all that good stuff to, well, change minds and turn these polluted thinkers away from the easy seduction of violence. And then there’s radical Islam.

Steves makes his most salient point when talking about pot. Usually in the “legalize it” movement, the rhetoric is around medicine or even state rights. But the raw truth is that white people smoke pot everywhere and nobody really cares but black people, different story. Steves again:

A lot of my outlook and writing have been sharpened by enjoying a little recreational marijuana. If you arrested everybody who smoked marijuana in the United States tomorrow, this country would be a much less interesting place to call home.

The fact is, the marijuana law in the U.S. is a big lie. It’s racist and classist. White rich people can smoke marijuana with impunity and poor black people get a record, can’t get education, can’t get a loan, and all of sudden go into a life of desperation and become hardened criminals. Why? Because we’ve got a racist law based on lies about marijuana.

Right on, brother.



One Response to “Rick Steves is Controversal”

  1. Lisa N Says:

    I find Rick Steves personally a little annoying (at least, on his television show), but I’ve always liked that he’s advocated that his travelers open themselves up to actual interaction with the culture they’re visiting. He’s been a big force, I think, against reactionary middle-aged, middle American tourists holing themselves up in resort-style hotel chains and never meeting (let alone interacting with) a foreigner other than the person who serves them bacon and eggs in the morning. He really promotes local small businesses and encourages his travelers to get out there and talk to locals (even going so far as to offer tips for communicating without a shared language).

    When I was working as a tour guide, I love the travelers who were using Rick Steves’ guidebooks. They tended to be the most open to learning new things and the most aware, in some ways, of their own cultural baggage.

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