Looking For a Sliver of Hope in America

Looking For a Sliver of Hope in America

Rachel CohenTuesday,17 May 2016

Walt Whitman got America. If he were alive and kicking today, I wonder if he would be the great white American hope.

Instead, of, well, let’s not even say it.

I’m well aware that as a resident of the heathen-haven New York City, my values are apparently out of touch with other of my fellow Americans, which is fine! I’m okay with different people having different ideas! When I have to sit down with a Republican family member, I can actually do it, only slightly wearing down the teeth in the back of my mouth. And I can do this because at the end of the day, I retain some sort of optimistic idealism that makes me believe that my fellow Americans aren’t inherently bad, we’ve all been exposed to different things, and we can all find a way to compromise and live together.

And then this weekend, I visited America.

Apparently I really do live in a bubble, despite having spent plenty of time in rural areas all across the United States. Because this weekend I left JFK on my JetBlue flight, and landed under three hours later in what, I guess, is this “America” everyone is talking about.

I won’t mention the place that I went, but I will say that I IN NO WAY thought of it as a “backwards” area. I flew direct from New York City, and was thirty minutes from my hotel. NOT by any stretch in the middle of nowhere.

But from the back of my taxi (us heathens don’t know how to “drive”) I passed through the landscape of America. Acres of land spread out before me, each with basically the same model home placed in the same spot next to a huge entry for a planned development to come. One after another, after another. None with ground broken, but with a good-old flag flying saying you too can live the American dream in a pre-planned community that may or may not ever get finished, depending on the real estate market, the most stable market that ever there was.

A bit more driving through flat open land, and we turned onto a street with signs of civilization. Strip malls dotted the landscape, some half-full, many with, I couldn’t help but notice, real estate title companies.

After this stretch, again, were the walled and gated communities, with modest sized homes and the expected “model” sitting right out front curbside. Most of these were finished, and requisite big-box stores and fast-food restaurants were EVERYWHERE. Ah, I thought, this is the America I’ve heard so much about.

The people I encountered met the landscape in a fitting way. I listened, and I talked. And I learned a lot about America. More than anything, we all appear to be looking for a little sliver of hope – no matter what side of the aisle you are on. Each housing development promised the hope of a better life, a new home with room for the kids. Here, people hoped to be able to carry their guns around as they pleased; a more pressing concern than worrying about funding college in the future.

And my departure from America was suitably fitting. As I drove back to the airport, a single massive billboard dominated the landscape, decrying “Make America Great Again” – Donald Trump (in case you didn’t know). You know what Trump, we may just agree – although not for the reasons you seem to think.

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Image Credit: evaingesl on Flickr

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