What a difference a year makes.
Last summer, Rusty and I took our usual country drive and my main observation was that no one wanted to talk about the election, People wanted to rant online of course. But in person? Crickets. Ask a waiter in Oregon why he likes Trump and he’ll race off to refill your water glass. Ask a city official in Ohio which way his swing state might turn, and he says he’d just be guessing. Nobody in his town says a peep, in person, about presidential politics.
Now, America is talking, alright. More like boiling over, it feels like. I won’t know until next week, but my feeling is that the in-person shyness is gone now. Real life, sadly, has begun to resemble a Twitter war. And as I wrote yesterday, you know who wins a Twitter war? The folks in the underground fake news economy, who sell extreme stories the way they used to sell computer viruses or spam.
I’ve sensed something else as I’ve moved around these past few months. Pessimism. Deep, dark pessimism. As if we’ve fallen into a national depression. The folks who lost the election are angry, and can’t seem to fathom why they lost. The folks who won can seem even angrier. They’re still using adolescent terms like “libtard” in everyday conversation. It feels like nobody wants to be the adult in the room. Worse, it feels like there isn’t a positive vision for the future. There’s just scores to settle.
But, I’m happy to find out I am wrong. Reporters are always guilty of being overly influenced by their immediate surroundings. I spend most of my time in the cynical, media-driven coasts. That’s why I take this trip every year. Usually, I am reminded yet again that America is a very big place full of very big hearts, and any attempt to put its people in a box is foolish. I know people are out there raising children, keeping the peace, serving their country, working honest jobs, paying their mortgages, inventing things. The yelling in Washington D.C. doesn’t impact them much.
Rusty and I would love to hear from you along the way. My route is above (subject to change, of course). If you are nearby, let me know. Let’s talk. Well, you talk, I’ll listen. You know how to find me.
Off we go!
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