Back Again into the Past

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.

The end.

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26 thoughts on “Back Again into the Past

  1. OK, first off, I’ve changed my moniker (not to worry, you’ll figure it out).

    About the ancestry thing, I guess if asked the closest I could come is Northern European. I actually have ancestors who settled in Massachusetts in the 1600’s. The last two to arrive came over about 1884; they were both 8 years old at the time and the whole village came over together. My great grandmother lived long enough for me to know her. Unfortunately there is a downside to mass transportation; her husband was killed by a streetcar in 1898. I know what you’re saying: ” If he had been riding the street car, he’d have lived.” OK smartass, he was riding to work on his bicycle. Hey, maybe you’re right, those bicycle riders are always getting in the way.

    Now, about your statement: “Compare that with any other large city here in the U.S. There is no comparison.” Have you never been to San Francisco? Oh, there goes my family’s bad luck again; I was injured in a subway accident there (train operator error). Other than that, the transportation system there, including the whole bay area, is great. I figured out that if you lived and worked in the City, it would be cheaper to rent a car several days a month instead of owning one. For several years I worked down the peninsula and needed to own a car; people were always asking to borrow it (I found out later, once a drug dealer borrowed it to pick up some inventory). Those traffic backups you see are people who won’t ride public transportation.

    Regarding passports; mine long ago expired. Only foreign country I’ve been to is Canada. Last time I crossed they dismantled my car and threatened me with a strip-search. Now I ask you, what would you ever want to smuggle INTO Canada? And I’ve heard the stories about Mexico; did you know your car insurance is void if you cross into Mexico? Anyway, I’m having too much fun traveling the backroads of the United States and visiting with the locals. My dog has been in 40 states. One time while running through the wilds of Wyoming, we actually came across a marker stating we were entering Utah. We were in the middle of no-where; so we stopped and all three of us (me, spouse and dog) took a leak on the border. I’ve got enough adventures about traveling the U.S. to write a book, but I’m not done exploring yet.

    (Alright, now who else writes such long comments.)

  2. that would be of course, un magret de canard aux confiture de figues avec noisettes….pomme de terre sautes sarladaise and a nice garlicky salad….

    1. We spent an evening in a Benedictine monastery and had a silent dinner with the monks. Of course, we could not ask what it was that we were eating. Afterward we asked- civet de canard avec des légumes. It would have been better had I had not inquired.

  3. well, I suppose it’s a cultural thing regarding your reaction, but a sauce made with wine and duck blood is a wonderful thing. How about cheese?
    As we say here, a meal with out cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.

    I’m glad that your Northwest Ohio Native commentator has let it’s passport expire. But then again if I found him, it or her pissing on the border between the Dordogne and the Correze, it would definitely be a photo op!
    Talk about your cultural myopia….

    1. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, you’re insulting me, right? I wouldn’t want to be misconstrued by any preconceived stereotypes of any European nation or it’s citizens.

      (It kinda sounded like you were talking down to me, but maybe it’s because you’re unfamiliar with American geography and/or humor.)

  4. I am Irish/Scottish, and I hate too break it too you, but I only need too travel 5 miles to experience different cultures. Isn’t the U.S.’s moniker The Melting Pot?

    Will Mexico’s next election involve candidate’s views on illegal immigration from the North? If I go to Germany, can I press 2 for English?

  5. JOB- Isn’t the U.S.’s moniker The Melting Pot?

    Well, it all depends on the ‘ingredient’ thrown into the pot. A Scots-Irish thrown in doesn’t alter the ‘taste’ nor the ‘color’ all that much, now does it. Lots of ‘them’ already stewing nicely in the American Melting Pot.

    How many Native Americans can one add to the stew before the character of it changes radically? Too many Mexicans, according to some tastes, ruin the entire batch.

    Not too long ago, the American Pot had little taste for the Irish.

    Irish need not apply

  6. “My body and brain are in better synchronization….” Really?

    NWO, whats interesting is that my story is very similiar what you have posted above. Well, minus
    the pissing on the border, lol. Although I have done that long ago in the Raisin, the Maumee,
    the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Trinity, the Rio Grande, the Yellowstone and probably a few
    others that escapes this old brain. Even bathed and/or shaved in some of them.

    In all due respect, M_R, I would not trade my many trips to Yellowstone National Park and
    float trips on the upper “wild” Missouri to live in Ireland. My ancestors left there for a reason
    in the 1880s for a reason and never to “look back”. When they got of the boat in NY, my great
    grandmother and her friend then walked as far as Toledo and she told me, they could walk no
    farther, so they stopped and lived and worked and died in Toledo. She and her Irish husband
    raised seven children. None had any desire to return to the “old sod”. Isn’t the “fickle finger
    of fate” something? I mean, I wouldn’t be existing but for her chance of leaving Ireland, walking,
    collapsing in Toledo, marrying and establishing a home off of Detroit avenue on Norwood. Yep,
    it’s a roll of the dice……

  7. Thanks for the offer, MD. We have our passport papers to fill out, so who knows what the future
    will bring, lol…Duck was always a favorite dinner for my folks and family, especially on holidays.
    As I recall, it was a little dry? Unfortunately though, I still have a much too large appetite, as my
    doctor reminded me recently, so hope you serve some good fillers, lol…..

  8. Hah…Can I use your initials NON? I’m probably more American than you’ll ever be. I just happen to live in France. And yes, I was being condescending to you, because you attempted to slather Mudrakes observations about the typical American attitude towards European progressivism and pragmatic investment in infrastructure with your crisco coated deep fried anecdotes.
    I tell my wife, who is a French Citizen, but born in Seattle that America is a very culturally diverse place. I was born in Detroit. I lived in Toledo (and if you are a North Toledoan, I probably disturbed your sleep during the mid 1970’s when I ran the generator on the Toledo Terminal RR Bridge…I think it’s called the CSX Bridge now across Maumee Bay at 4 am in the morning once a week to test it.) and NYC. The cultural differences as you drive through Michigan from top to bottom is amazing in itself. I’ve spent a lot of time in the UP backpacking and sampling Pasties…Pasties are interesting because they are a sort of folded meat and vegetable pie which were originally of northern French origin and came to the Upper Peninsula by way of Wales because of the immigration of Welsh Miners who came to work in the Iron Mines of Lake Superior. They could be reheated with a miners lamp on the back of a shovel.
    You want to talk native American Orchids of the Great Lakes? I assure you my friend, I am an expert.
    My mothers family as far as we can tell originated in Alsace, but emigrated to Ireland during the Wars of Religion, because they were Catholic, but then during the time of Cromwell, came to America when Lord Calvert got his grant to settle Irish gentry in the Chesapeake Bay Colony. During the Revolutionary War, they were Tories and ended up in Canada. The part of the family that stayed in Maryland were the Keys and the Taneys…Francis Scott Key was the father of a great grandfathers wife. (Roger Brook Taney)
    The Canadian Harts intermarried with Algonquin Indians and ended up moving back to America and settled in Detroit.
    My father’s family emigrated from Ireland in the 1860’s and had a gaelic family name that was impossible to pronounce unless you were gargling with poteen, so the immigration officials changed it something that could be written phonetically. and pronounced with out causing physical injury to ones larnyx.
    That said, I still think a civet de canard, in fact I do a Civet de ainguilletes de canard when I can get duck blood, is wonderful thing…

    1. “…you attempted to slather Mudrakes observations …”

      I would never slather(sic) his observations, the first reason being is I like him and would never insult him. In fact, his blog is one of just a very few I look forward to reading. (And I think you misused the word “slather”.) I would love to hear about his experiences from his recent trip.

      Now, about my posted comment:

      1st paragraph I was showing how much I agreed with him in that my ancestors have been here so long, I’m a little mix of everything but am aware enough to know that the “mixes” I’m aware of are from Northern Europe. Many people have such “low information” they are unable to answer that question.

      2nd paragraph was agreeing that only two U.S. cities really have an efficient mass transit system (San Francisco and New York). But the physical geography of the United States makes it difficult for a coast to coast efficient mass transit system. I think we desperately need mass transit in the United States and certain large corporations are the reason we don’t. We also need some sort of efficient energy use management (we used to have some).

      3rd paragraph was about the unexplored remoteness of parts of the United States. I was in the middle of no where, not on any road on any map, hundreds of miles from anywhere and there’s this old sign marking the state boundaries. Some day I may desire to travel abroad, but for now I’m still discovering my own country.

      I add little life experiences because I think it makes the comment more interesting and I enjoy reading those types of things on blogs. Learning is fun. On my first trip to Toronto, we rode all their mass transit systems just for the fun of it. We were staying at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and they all thought we were nuts for riding public transportation.

      As far as any one European Country’s citizens being known for condescending behavior, I think I am of the same mind as most Americans. Oh, while we’re at it, don’t be sayin’ you’re “more” American than someone else; you sound like Sepp and his friends.

      (If you’d like examples of poor French behavior, just ask. I usually try not to insult anyone unless they ask for it.)

      Thank you for your time.

      1. Oh, for any of you that didn’t get his “North Toledo” comment, it’s the ghetto area of Toledo. Has been for decades.

  9. UTF, a magret de canard is the breast from a barberry duck, a type which grows to be about the size of goose. I had the unfortunate experience of trying to raise them a few years ago…they are quite prolific breeders, The breasts of the male ducks are like steak. They are a red meat and cooked fast, to my taste, they are better than steak and quite moist! So, the menu would be barbecued duck breast, medium rare, sliced thin served with a garnish of fig preserves with hazelnuts (all from my trees) potatoes sauteed in duck fat with either cepe or girolle mushrooms…the classic Pomme de terres Sarladais, a garlicky salad and what ever my wife invents for dessert.

  10. NOW, you sound like some one I could actually get to like! Thanks for explaining your comments. You have to admit that your intent could have been misconstrued.I am used to seeing comments by people here using “aliases”. The explanations of your comments actually are very much my positions regarding infrastructure and renewable energy…a subject which I am truly passionate about. I admit I’m a snob in some respects, but on the other hand, I’m still a little punk and well, the two aspects make for a sometimes sloppy but appetizing mix…
    I just don’t do French duck, I am famous for my East 116th Street Harlem Style Fried Chicken…Cleo’s Daddy’s recipe….just ask!

    1. We’ve talked before, but I had to change my moniker because I was using my real first name. Some of the wingnuts had hinted violence against me. My actual identity and address would not be hard to find and it repressed things I wanted to say. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

  11. As to the North Toledo Reference, I realize what you are referring to as far as the present neighborhood…like Lagrange Street, the tracks….but, I was referring to the horrible racket I was forced to subject y’all to , once a week, at 4 am in the morning when I had to test the emergency generator for the Railroad Bridge…I had to fire up a circa 1918 Bucyrus Erie Diesel engine the size of a small garage and then check if the DC generator was working. I was told that you could hear the noise in Michigan….

  12. I guess my comment was a little argumentative. For that I apologize, I just get sick of hearing how America does all these things wrong, while other countries do things right. The truth is, no country is perfect, I’m sure of that.

    I’m 35 years old. I’ve been to 5 different continents, but by no means am I a world traveler. I loved Brazil. Australia was cool, but 23 hours is too long on a plane. I am looking forward to a Scandinavian trip sometime soon. Hopefully very soon.

    I agree with NON to a point though. There’s a ton of places here I still haven’t seen.

    But with all my travels, I really can’t compare any one country to mine, because I don’t live and work there. Maybe public transportation is much more important in Europe, because of the cost of owning your own vehicle.

  13. JOB- I believe that the EU is light-years ahead of us in public transportation, which was the point of my post. Not only are they ahead of us, but, like the universe itself, they are pulling away from us at light-speed because we have no incentive to spend money on infrastructure. We’d rather spend it on unnecessary wars and meaningless weapons.

    There’s the rub. They’ve got us big time on that issue [and health care for their people, too.] Two biggies.

    1. I think the reason we don’t spend is because the public wants instant gratification for their tax dollars. Carty is the perfect example of this. He screws up Toledo’s finances and then blames the lousy streets on Bell.

  14. “I believe that the EU is light-years ahead of us in public transportation.” To make such a statement is to forget the history of the United States and that of Europe!

  15. Occupy Toledo Starts Today
    October 10th, 2011. at 11am

    Meet at Levis Square, the corner of Madison and N. St. Clair

    IMPORTANT: General Assemblies: 1pm & 7pm

    1. F.Y.I.: The details of the event were announced on local TV news and even printed in The Blade yesterday.

      1. The morning news shows were doing live telecasts from the site this morning.

  16. My friend, UptheFlag, can you write a bit more about this statement?

    To make such a statement is to forget the history of the United States and that of Europe!

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