Joe asked me to contribute my thoughts to the blog. We have been going 3 weeks so far on our trip driving around the U.S. He is calling the blog: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Age of Trump,” so I will contribute my thoughts along that theme.
“The Good:” there is so much to say about this part of the theme. For me the trip has been a walk down Memory Lane, and I am blessed that many to most of my memories are good ones. The trip started off with a drive through Bristol, TN/VA, where I spent my first 5 years. Incredibly, when we drove by the house where we lived then, I remembered it! How does that happen—the brain’s memory function is mysterious and miraculous. Many other wonderful memories have been triggered through conversations with lots of old friends and many relatives. I took a tally. Through several reunions, we have reconnected with 9 close friends (most of whom we have not seen for quite a while—3 for more than 50 years!) and 26 family members. Among our family members are: one aunt and one uncle (who put us in touch with many memories of our parents’ generation), my brother and his wife, six first cousins (3 each) and their spouses, a second cousin, and numerous “cousins once removed” (our children’s generation) and their spouses and children. And that doesn’t count the great week we spent with our grandson, Jasper, at Ghost Ranch, which I imagine you have read about through Joe’s blog. We are very blessed to have such an incredible number extended family and friends, so diverse and interesting. We love you all! Happily, we have many more such reunions coming up along the way, including the upcoming reunion of many work colleagues from the 1970s and 1980s in Santa Barbara, and visits in several more friends’ homes. We don’t mind mooching!
The other thing that stands out most in my mind about “the good” part of the trip is the amazing scenery we have passed through on our drive West. The spectacular, varied landscape of our vast country is something you do not fully appreciate when you fly around for business or pleasure, as I have done for many years. Our path has taken us through the lovely Appalachians, the beautiful rolling hills of middle Tennessee, the Ozarks which are like the Appalachians but have their own unique beauty, and the slowly rising plains and arid deserts of the West. The latter landscape, with its mesas and mountains in the distance, is so vast and so amazing, with the sky and the clouds above and all around it. It is something that you see when you are driving along in a way you do not ever appreciate in a city or from the air.
“The Bad and the Ugly:” Unfortunately there are a few things to say about this, too. I believe Joe has mentioned our impressions of the “uglification” of the American landscape through the many strip malls, billboards, parking lots, and big box stores that we see as we drive along. Many of these are even abandoned and deteriorating, becoming a form of trash along the highway. (The saddest of these are the abandoned rest stops that have been closed due to lack of funds, I suppose.) Whenever we come to a place where humans have settled, we see this “uglification.” Why—although we train our children not to throw trash out the car window—have we have allowed this other form of trash to accumulate on a massive scale along our roads, destroying the otherwise-beautiful landscape? It does not have to be this way (as we learned from our travels through Europe last year). This form of destruction could be prevented through better planning and stricter regulations on development. But we have allowed the god-almighty-dollar (in the form of money in the pockets of developers, merchants, and those selling the land) to dominate political decisions. Ok, I’ll get off my high horse now.
As a public health researcher, I have also been shocked by the poor nutrition and high rates of obesity that I have observed as we make our stops. It is hard to find ANY healthy food (fruits and vegetables) at a typical rest stop/convenience store along the way. The shelves are full of soda, chips, and candy, none of if healthy or nourishing. The person behind the counter is likely overweight, as are most of the customers. It is especially sad to see an overweight mother giving such food to her child, who may already be overweight. Last night we indulged in Popeye’s for dinner. Hey, it’s cheap–$14 for a chicken dinner for two. Behind the counter were numerous poor, overweight staff cooking for the poor, overweight customers. Recent statistics show a decline in lifespan for some groups of Americans, including low income people. A lot of the decline is due to diseases associated with poor nutrition and obesity. Again, the almighty dollar has something to do with this problem; it’s cheaper to process, ship, and store this kind of food, than to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, so prices are cheaper and profits are higher. On top of that, people become addicted to sugar and fat, and prefer it. Somehow, our next president should tackle this huge public health problem. The best way is to use the model that worked for the tobacco epidemic—a combination of intense public health education with regulation of manufacturers and vendors. Ok, I’ll get off my high horse again.
“The Age of Trump:” we set out to try to find out why people (about half the American population!) are for Trump. We thought if we got outside the Beltway, we would find people to talk to who could explain this phenomenon to us. But we have yet to do so. We have seen only one Trump sign in anyone’s yard (or any bumper stickers, and I guarantee we have seen a lot of bumpers!). We have between us several Republican cousins, and not one is voting for Trump. So we’re still mystified. We’ll let you know if we find anything out!
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading the blog, and I’ll weigh in again somewhere along the way.