progress toward peace. The enormousrnflow of drug money incapacitates therngovernment, because a bureaucrat willingrnto look the other way for the drugrnlords can become rich; if he’s unwilling,rnhe’s likely to become dead.rnWlien ])eople travel to a foreign land,rnthe beaut’, intelligence, sadness, and humorrnof human life seem so penetratinglyrnclear that they retLirn to their normal livesrnmore alive. I could get that renewal inrnItaly or France, but Colombia does muchrnmore: She whispers secrets in my ear thatrnapply to more than just her lovely, unhappyrnself The homeless children begrnin the airport; kidnapping has become almostrncommonplace; the economy hasrndeclined while much of the world hasrnenjoyed a boom: Still, normality strugglesrnto assert itself amidst the chaos andrnevil. People worry about their children,rnmake plans for their vacation, and try tornget tickets to that concert next Saturday.rnIn the midst of a multilateral civil war,rnthey hold elections, and journalists demandrnthat both the paramilitary bandsrnand the guerrillas respect the rule of law.rnThe journalists may disappear or turn uprndead, but others take their places.rnWhen an American in Bogota asked arnwoman he trusted where he could exchangernhis dollars for pesos, she directedrnhim to the office next to hers in an elegantrnbuilding. He blithely entered a hnyrnroom with a partition, where three tenselookingrnyoung men quickly gave himrnpesos and a small printout from a calculator,rnsaying nothing during the transaction.rnOnly later did it occur to thernAmerican that maybe all of this wasn’t,rnwell, quite legal. He asked his friend—arnrespectable, conscientious woman —ifrnshe thought those quiet, young men werernnarcotraficantes. Probably so, she said;rncertainly, it was a money-laundering operation.rnShe spoke calmly, as if such arnthing next door to her office were quiternunremarkable.rnIn Colombia, enlightenment couldrndescend on the battered old car in thernmiddle of Call where I talked to twornwomen, both schoolteachers, as we drovernthrough a rich neighborhood. One ofrnthem gestured at the houses around us:rnThis was where the mafiosos lived. Shernwas referring to the clan that once, accordingrnto the U.S. government, controlled 85rnpercent of the world’s cocaine trade. Irnsputtered and asked the other woman ifrnmy leg were being pulled. “Oh no,” shernsaid calmly. “Everybody knows that.”rnFor a moment, my sense of being in anrnalien land was so overwhelming that itrnsimply burned out. I realized that therernwere neighborhoods in New York, Washington,rnor Los Angeles where I couldrnhave the same exchange with a native.rnMy city also has drug lords who live in ostentatiousrnwealth and murder anyonernwho gets in their way. In my prosperousrnneighborhood, teenage boys stand on therncurbs late at night, looking expectantly atrnpassing cars, hoping to make another salernof heroin or cocaine. In my country, therngovernment pays unmarried teenage girlsrnto have babies, our children murder eachrnother in their classrooms, and little learningrntakes place even in the more peacefulrnschools. Our polihcians spend their timernposing and trying to score points off eachrnother, and last year, three of the four menrnwith any chance of becoming presidentrnwere the sons of senators or presidents. Inrnthe midst of our own drug war, violence,rnand corruption, we think our lives quiternnormal, ignore the terror, and go on as ifrnit all were happening far away, and tornsome other people.rnWliy would anyone visit America? Isn’trnit dangerous?rnBrian Kirkpatrick writes from Baltimore,rnMaryland.rn”The college education I never had.”rnThat’s how more than one reader has described Chronicles: A Magazinernof American Culture. Chronicles makes an ideal graduation gift, both forrnthe student about to enter college and the one embarking on his career.rnAnd right now, when you give a gift subscription to someone else at ourrnspecial introductory rate of only $19, you can renew your own subscriptionrnfor only $28 ($11 off of our normal rate). So do the student in yourrnlife a favor —and save some money as well.rnPlease enter the following gift subscription. irnSend Chronicles as my gift to: Your information:rnNil.rn.AildnrnNamernAddressrnCily/State/Zip City/State/Ziprn• I have entered a gift subscription for $19.rnPlease renew my subscription at the low rate of $28.rn(I have enclosed a check for $47.)rnTo order by credit card, please callrn1-800-877-5459rnPlease make check payable to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture,rnP.O. Box 800, Mount Morris, IL 61054rnAUGUST 2001/37rnrnrn