My body and brain are in better synchronization since my arrival back onto this continent some 35 hours ago. And it’s déjà vu all over again: back to the past. Take public transportation as a theme, for example. Most Americans., I’m afraid, have no idea how totally ineffective and dysfunctional our so-called public transportation really is in comparison with the EU. That ignorance stymies our growth as a nation and leaves us far back in the dust. Yet, we don’t know what we don’t know and that is the most distressing aspect of the entire scenario.
Here on Man With the Muckrake we often talk of the low information voter and the resultant ignorance at the polling place in November. Even worse is the general parochialism of the American citizens. There is a large swath of people who, when asked of their ancestry, reply, ‘American.’ [map] This swath of people [beige on the map] live in the Appalachian states of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well other areas of the Old Confederacy.
What causes a person to reply, American, to that census question? Are they that ignorant of the roots of their family tree? Do they not know of their European grand- and great-grandparents? Did their ancestors really come from America?
I did a quick statistical analysis this morning regarding passports. After all, if one never goes over the mountain, how would one even know what is on the other side? Not surprisingly, the three states named above have the lowest percentage of their population owning passports. Of course, since they have no relatives ‘over there’ then why would they want to visit them, eh? Two percent have a passport. Mississippians are in 50th place, less than 2%. Most of the Old Confederacy hovers at 2%. Interestingly, Mississippi was ranked #1 as the ‘most conservative state’ in the U.S. by Gallup. Not surprisingly, the more liberal states had passport rates twice or three-times that number. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have passport rates of 6%. California, Minnesota, Maine, Maryland and Vermont weigh in at 5%. They like to go over the mountain to see what they can see.
What is the effect of never having gone elsewhere during one’s lifetime? Of never experiencing a different culture? Of remaining perennially parochial?
Here’s a photo I snapped in downtown Dublin a few days ago. Notice the plethora of double-decker buses plying the city center. Public transportation is grand there and the people are well-served.
Compare that with any other large city here in the U.S. There is no comparison. Then, to put the United States to further shame, there are the rail lines. We zipped from Dublin to Belfast at 90 m.p.h. along a continuously welded track. Eight trains/day, from 5 AM to midnight. In Ireland of all places. Europe- that cesspool of socialism!
Is it any wonder why we stagnate here in the U.S.? Why would congressmen and senators from those parochial states ever ‘dream dreams that never were’ when whole sections of their constituencies have never been over the mountain? They wouldn’t. They don’t.