Not Lost in America

   We’ve just returned from a three week odyssey – ROAD TRIP!!! Remember that movie, Lost in America? Yeah, “Just like Easy Rider.” Well, except that we didn’t do it on motorcycles but in an Acura ILX. We were going to take the SUV, but 50 feet from the driveway as we were heading out, the air conditioner failed, and we were not going to drive across the country in the middle of the summer without air conditioning.

   Now, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal except that a) I’d had the SUV in for $1100 in maintenance three days before we were to leave and, b) the car was loaded to the gunwales with not only our baggage for three weeks, but my travel guitar, boxes of stored stuff we were going to deliver to our kids in the Midwest, and even a child’s rocking chair. Successfully transferring all that stuff into the ILX was a miracle achievable only by my wife. I’d probably never have gotten it all in on my own. Of course, her tolerance for smushing is greater than mine.

   Anyway, after the initial setback, we were on our way. I’m not going to describe the trip in detail, although it was lots of fun: 5600 miles in three weeks, visits with the kids and grandkid, and lots of sightseeing both on and near I-40 (Route 66), I-80, and Nevada 50 (the loneliest road in America). How many people have been to the Cadillac Ranch? Carhenge? (You can Google them.) Other sights: The Devil’s Postpile National Monument near Mammoth, ancient bristlecone pines near Big Pine, Scott’s Bluff National Monument and Chimney Rock in Nebraska, the Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo, TX, Taliesin (for all you Frank Lloyd Wright fans), and more.

   But that’s not what this blog entry is really about. No, it’s actually about the two Americas that we experienced as we traveled (and have noted on prior travels), one being the Northeast and West coastal areas and large cities of America, and the other being much of the South and, specifically on this trip, all the more sparsely populated interior areas that we traversed. In our severely polarized country, the cultural dividing line is abundantly clear.

   Being West Coast liberals, we were struck by much of what we saw in the country’s interior: a culture of religion, guns, tobacco use, poor diet and obesity, and overwhelming Republicanism. As for the Jesus stuff, smoking and obesity, I can only wonder over how so many people can be either oblivious to, or ignorant of, science, medicine, and nutrition in the 21st century.

   The Republican political affiliation is easier to understand, however. These are people who don’t face the concerns of those living in the larger urban centers, whose lives often revolve heavily around high school sports and other local events, whose daily exposure is to an America that does not mirror the reality of the larger country and world. Living in a cocoon and thus prey to the manipulations of equally ignorant but power-hungry Republican politicians, it’s no wonder they vote the way they do. Except…that these people aren’t really stupid. So why do they so often vote in a way that’s counter to their best interests? Many of them would benefit greatly from universal health care (and “Obamacare”) including readily available family planning services, food stamps, a livable minimum wage, the Women’s, Infants’, and Children’s (WIC) program, among others, and yet they support politicians who consistently oppose such programs. And why, in the face of unacceptable levels of firearms related deaths, do they oppose background checks and support the NRA?

   One is led to ask, what’s wrong with these people?

   I don’t have the answers to all these concerns. I only know that the severe polarization we face today isn’t healthy for the nation. The reflection of this, aided and abetted by the demagogues of Congress, is a society headed for third world status. Unless contemporary Republicanism can find a way to rise above its philosophical dependency upon the maintenance of a sheep-like underclass that is willing to support it despite self-inflicted harm by doing so, things are going to get much worse. Eventually, anger and frustration boil over, and no one needs to be told what can happen then.

   But, oh, apart from the foregoing, our trip was wonderful.

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