Travel abroad

It’s not a privilege, it’s a right in the United States of America.

It is one of the most important rights a citizen can have. In Nazi Germany it was denied. In Soviet Russia it was denied. I used to feel guilty during my four years in Moscow in the late 1960s that my country never questioned that right and my Soviet friends’ were denied it.

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Today I learned that Khizr Khan, a Harvard-educated American lawyer, a citizen for 30 years, and the father of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004 defending his troops, had been denied that right—in my country, the United States of America.

Soviet leaders feared the harm ordinary citizens might do if they were allowed abroad. The danger was that they might criticize their government, their quality of life, their standard of living. They might express an opinion that did not flatter their leaders. They also might learn how life abroad was preferable. They might carry subversive literature, valuable currency, unwholesome thoughts. There were so many fearsome reasons. So foreign travel was forbidden.

In Toronto Khizr Khan was scheduled to make a talk about “tolerance, understanding, unity and the rule of law” before a group organized by Ramsay Talks. He had to cancel that talk today, he was told, because his “travel privileges are being reviewed” by the government of the United States of America.

When did it happen that travel abroad was a privilege subject to review by our government and not a right guaranteed to all American citizens?

Think about that.

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