Tremor: 4.1, Depth: 3.4 kilometers, Location: 0.0 kilometers from Tunis, Tunisia
The United States is not that old. Not that old at all, in fact. The scattered ruins that dot the Middle East, left by Greece, Rome, and various Crusader kingdoms were long buried in the sand by the time Columbus ever unfurled his sail in search of another route to India. In fact, England was just a decade out from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution when the last colony was finally established. Therefore, it makes sense that all of the major tourist locations across the United States are relatively recent, and all post-Enlightenment. While this seems like a trivial notation, it actually makes for a relatively unique phenomenon which I like to call the “Democracy Pilgrimage”.
Contrary to the language of the modern American conservative movement, the United States has always been a secular nation. The legal traditions that influence American legal theory largely arose out of the secular theories of Locke and Rousseau, and America has never been known as a hub for religious pilgrimages. Instead, you find the United States a haven for these so called “Democracy Pilgrimages”, or visits to a site such as the Old North Church, or the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, where the significance is not their beauty, or antiquity, but the symbolism behind the site. And this phenomenon is not unique to the United States.
Around December 20th, I will be leaving Jordan for the Winter Break, and heading to France. This is not my first time to the country, and will certainly not be my last. However, this time, it will be more like a base of operations than an actual visit. I plan on visiting, at the very least, England, Italy, and Tunisia. In the last country on that list, while of course the ruins of Carthage will be a high priority, I would also like to visit the grave of Mohamed Bouazizi, that poor man whose life was tragically cut short by an act of self-immolation that set the entire region ablaze. I would like to return the democracy pilgrimage to the catalyst of the most recent series of rebellions and political changes. I would like to pay my respects to the man who today most represents the ideals held in those sites we still idolize today. But most of all, I would like to thank him for showing the world that the Middle East is a vast tapestry of different, colorful ideologies, and not some monolithic bloc of anti-American sentiment. Because sometimes, when you’re down and out, it just take those few select words to let you know it’ll all be okay.