There’s nothing like spending ten hours on a train, passing through a country to make you appreciate its scale.
There’s a lot of America. A lot. A lot of small towns with just a gas stations and high schools that cant have more than a hundred students. A lot of playing fields. A lot of trailer parks. A lot of long straight dusty roads stretching far, far into the horizon so far you’ll never see the end. A lot of white painted, weather beaten wooden houses with a free standing plastic pools, sitting stagnant green, out back. There’s a lot of it. There’s more to a country than a patch of green on a world map with a few dots showing the cities we know or might have been to. There’s millions of lives passing before my eyes right now. An entire State takes hour upon hour to cross by train.
We talk about bubbles all the time these days – social bubbles, political bubbles, media bubbles. And America its its own bubble for those living outside. For NZ, and the rest of the world, America is East and West Coast. As a liberal, we struggle to see how a country that is all New York skyscrapers, and LA Beaches, Kanye West and late night talk shows, can vote the way they do. But then you get down into it. You hit the ground and you take 10 hours to cross just the tiniest portion, passing tens of thousands of houses and hundreds of little towns on the way, and these places, they are not episodes of Master of None of Girls. The America you see from the train window, well yeah, you can see how they could own guns, worship Jesus, or honestly believe that their President makes sense (or as many say to me that he’s “the lesser of two evils”). It’s a different life down here.
And today has been an interesting and important day to be able to be here, and have this time to ponder on this. This morning, as this country awoke, their President tweeting that he is banning all Transgender persons from the US Military. Everyone, is feeling disbelief, shock, sadness, anger. And it's makes you ask, again, “How could anyone support this man?”. How could they let this happen? What kind of people are these?
And the answer, from what I’ve seen – is they are mostly just normal people. Which is what makes it even tougher, and confusing.
Everyone I’ve met on this trip has been a good person. Friendly, open, caring – and I’m sure that’s these communities I look upon. It’s easy to look out at differences and say THEY ARE WRONG THEY ARE BAD but are they? They are parents, friends, lovers, dog owners. In our bubble of America that we see from the outside it’s easy – there’s the liberal America, the cool ones. The ones who work in tech and the media, who are actors and musicians. Who drink blended juices and go to Coachella. Who like the same Netflix shows as us. Then there’s the conservatives – the redneck, drawling, Confederate flag waving, gunslinging, masses who live in trailer parks, or in their survival bunkers at the back of their gardens.
But I’ve yet to meet a single one of these evil members of the opposition. So who are they? Where are they? Because everyone I’ve met could be my parents, or my colleagues, or local business owner. They seem good, hard working, moral people. And I don’t think they voted for any of what's happening today, either.
There’s a lot more to America than what we see in our bubbles or the stereotypes we apply.