Wealth, Waste, and Trash…this is American the Beautiful?
I made it safely across the country via Amtrak. I have any number of observations about the trip, but I will try to limit myself to the most important. I kind of wish I had brought my laptop on the train, it seems that every other passenger did. And I had the good fortune to be seated next to the only outlet in my train car, so I got to meet almost every passenger in the car as they asked to charge their laptops and cell phones and CD players. I worry about the next generation, here kids were passing some of the most incredible scenery known to man…and instead of watching it they were engrossed in watching drek or Shrek or whatever on their CD players. God’s beautiful gifts trumped by a talking cartoon donkey…if the terrorists find out what we use our freedom for…maybe they won’t hate us anymore?
Moving right along (yes, that was a bad train joke) the first thing I noticed was the fabulous wealth still existing in America. There’s lots of construction going on, and the new cars on each and every block must be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m sure most villages in the third world can’t afford one new car, let alone dozens. And again and again I saw lots and yards full of vehicles, construction equipment, and other detritus of industrial America…clearly not in use but clearly quite salvageable and the sort of thing that would likely still be in use in other times or other parts.
And this leads to the second thing I really noticed, the staggering amount of waste in America. From vehicles/equipment not in use to giant heaps of obviously recyclable scrap it was astounding. In the nineteenth century metal was almost always recycled and made into useful new products (This is why pre 1850s locomotives are scarce as hen’s teeth, they weren’t scrapped, they were salvaged for their iron to make newer locomotives.) And besides vehicles and equipment, the number of clearly idle and unused but obviously serviceable buildings was amazing. Again, I know damn well that in most parts of the world if it has a roof…someone is using it for something.
Lastly I was saddened to see just how goddamn dirty and trash filled our great country is. Maybe one yard out of ten was well kept and pleasant to look at, most of the others ranged from merely being indifferently maintained to being suburban junkyards. And private businesses were no better, while some were obviously well run by owners who took pride in their business, many others were run down to actually decrepit. I mean, someone owns a business or house, and they just let wind blown trash accumulate until the place looks like a landfill? And almost any sort of road accessible public place basically was a dump, not only filled with wind blown trash, but also liberally sprinkled with old furniture and crap that people had obviously just tossed out of vehicles to “dispose” of them. I don’t know how many animals crap in their own dens, but sadly many humans are among them.
The overall conclusion I reached is that despite the fabulous wealth and prosperity America still enjoys, we sure as hell don’t take much pride in our great land. Maybe other countries are better, maybe they are worse, I’m not much of a world traveller. In fact I would love to get feedback on such from readers who have travelled abroad, do other nations look like extended dumps from passing train windows? Still, that doesn’t change the fact that while many Americans still talk about what a great country we are, I find it hard to understand how one can simultaneously be proud of a country and yet treat it like a landfill. When I go on hikes I not only carry my own trash out, I often carry other trash that I find out as well. Clearly I am in the minority here.
On the plus side, I noted that graffiti on freight cars has made great strides in both quantity and quality since my last train journey.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit and copyright: Solid Gold. Coming soon: Polygamy and Pitcairn, and a frightening post about an airborne “pesticide” so dangerous it turns people’s brains to mush before it is even used.)