24 June 2005

Why Boycott Aruba??

Some in the media are calling for a boycott of Aruba in the wake of the disappearance of Natalee Holoway. Their reasoning is that the island isn’t safe. I have even caught myself thinking the same thing. The reality is that Aruba has an international reputation of being one of the safest vacation destinations in the world.

The facts are that this cannot condemn an entire people and their economy. The talk of the Aruban Police’s inexperience when it comes to missing persons and homicide investigations only further supports the fact that Aruba hasn’t got these problems.

The problem in this case is allowing teenagers to go on these types of trips relatively unsupervised. Some may argue that Natalee is 18 years old and an adult. The truth is that wisdom and maturity don’t automatically turn themselves on like a switch on a child’s 18th birthday. Rational thought and decision making cannot be expected to be made with any kind of responsible certainty of a positive outcome.

My position shouldn’t be construed as blaming Natalee’s parents or Natalee herself for what has befallen her. My problem with this is with the practice itself. High School graduates from her hometown have been taking this particular trip for years. It is now kind of tradition and right of passage for graduates.

Aruba was selected because of its drinking age of 18 and the availability of illicit drugs. By allowing their children to go on these party junkets relatively unsupervised is the problem. Children, and an 18 year old is still a child, should not be going to locations for the express purposes of engaging in activities which would be considered illegal in the United States.

These kids could have gone to San Padre Island, Miami, Hawaii, Key West, Tampa, Orlando, or a host of other locations to experience paradise. Places within the United States where drinking and drugging could be held to a minimum.

Aruba is a location for adults. And by adults I mean people who are capable of making rational educated decisions. Sending an 18 year old child to Aruba is telling them that it’s ok to drink, do drugs, and have sex with no consequences.

Aruba is a Dutch Protectorate. And as such, falls under Dutch law. There is a reason why so many travel to The Netherlands each year. People go to use drugs and partake in the sex trade, which are both legal in The Netherlands. And sending children to a Protectorate of a nation with such liberal substance laws is irresponsible.

Now, Natalee’s parents cannot be held accountable for this in anyway. For years now this trip has been taken with no serious negative impact. And for her parents to deny her the opportunity which has been experienced by so many others wouldn’t be fair to her. But now I believe that we can all agree that these types of trips are not responsible. Unfortunately it takes occurrences such as this to bring to the attention of parents exactly how dangerous these trips can be.

If you are planning a Honeymoon, an anniversary, a single’s cruse, or retirement vacation, by all means go to Aruba. It’s a small island, beautiful, warm, and full of friendly people by all accounts. But if your 18 year old recently graduated child comes to you with an opportunity to go to Aruba on a class trip, I’d advise to deny the request. Insist on them staying within the United States. Or better yet, go with them. Only you can be ultimately responsible enough to supervise your own child.

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