“It’s a big, scary world out there! After the election, who is going to pay for the wall between Mexico and Norway?” I asked the rest of the table. “Will North Carolina’s next governor continue to monitor bathrooms and build business walls between countries he doesn’t like—perhaps the wall between McCrory’s Magic Kingdom of North Carolina and Iran?” I casually sipped the finest margarita I ever tasted, sat back and awaited the answers.
“A wall between Mexico and Norway?” my wife asked. “McCrory’s Magic Kingdom?”
“North Carolina’s Iran Divestment Act. It’s a big, bad, world, indeed!” I muttered.
“Dad, are you drunk after one sip? Or are you joking?” one of my sons asked. “It’s tough to tell when you’re serious.”
The dinner questions capped one of the most interesting travel weeks I’ve ever had. I asked the questions on Earth Day, while watching the firework spectacular “Illumi-Nations of Earth” from Mexico—actually, from the “La Hacienda de San Angel” restaurant from the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT in Orlando.
We stopped at the Hacienda, exhausted and hungry after two enjoyable trips around the world that day—Disney World that is. I’m not a huge Disney fan. I’m sure there are at least as many dark sides to the Disney empire as there are to any empire, including the Empire of America, the USA. After traveling by land around EPCOT’s World Showcase, and traveling by sea through the iconic “It’s a Small World” exhibition, it’s Hakunna Mattatta for me. I’m looking on the bright side of life. How could I not?
For two days I traveled through parts of a confident competitive empire. I didn’t see one “Make Disney Great Again!” T-shirt. Disney knows it’s great as entertainment empires go. Maybe the Disney Empire isn’t as paranoid as some others. It employees 185,000 people, brings in 52 billion dollars of annual revenue, earns 8 billion dollars a year, and puts millions of smiles on millions of faces, and continues to adapt and lead a competitive global entertainment market.
For two days I saw countless shades of human skin covered by fashions from around the world, including a lot of burkas. We ran into a Wilmington music teacher who guided her group of students on a school trip. I listened to the music of most human languages. I spent one day enjoying the irony of exploring a highly centrally planned Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow EPCOT that Walt Disney intended to, “always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.”
Throughout the visit I felt safe sharing the commons with about 50,000 other unarmed pedestrians a day. No guns. No cars. No problem. Imagine that. Walt did. It’s a privilege to go to Disney World. I wasn’t spending Disney dollars. If economic inequality keeps getting worse, the Magic Kingdom will be out of reach for most of us.
The last time I had the privilege to travel around Disney World was in April 2001, several months prior to the September 11th attacks and the initiation of 15 years of the War on Terror. From what I recall, then the crowds were just as large, diverse and kind as they were last week. Surprisingly, after 15 years of war propaganda about a big, bad, dangerous world where anyone could be a terrorist, there were still long lines at “It’s a Small World.”
Small World debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair during the height of the Cold War and highlighted humanity’s connections rather than conflicts. This year marks the 50th anniversary of its inclusion at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California. In Orlando a small boat winds along a lazy river through a variety of human cultures, each playing the theme song in a culturally suitable style. The exhibit was the highlight of my 2001 Disney adventure and the 2016 reprise. After my 2016 brief journey round the globe, one fellow sailor, Juan from Venezuela, smiled and said, “We may not all be in the same boat, but we must see that we are on the same river.”
Some folks want to build walls or monitor bathrooms to protect themselves from a big, bad world. Juan and I find the approach to life absurd. To us, it’s a small world, after all.