Sunday, 4 December 2016

Thoughts from abroad (2)

I won’t only write about conversations with cab drivers but following my ‘one is anecdote, two is evidence theme’ – there are a few more, some a bit scary.

The first conversation was with the 'man on the plane' returning from his first visit to London. He had already voted and is Trump's man. "I'm anti-establishment and government is corrupt. It doesn't matter that he is not experienced; he will pick good people like Reagan did.  Reagan was just an actor before."  No comment from me about Reagan having been Governor of California and President of the Screen Actors Guild – how many other Presidents have been long-serving union members?

Our Uber driver who collected us from Baltimore airport arrived in DC from Pakistan three years ago.  Much discussion between Number One Husband and him about cricket - he plays in a league there. He doesn't have a vote but tactfully said it was too close to say who would win.  He then asked if the Queen could change the government or laws if she didn’t like them - quick lesson on constitutional monarchy. He then asked how they will choose the next monarch.  He likes the young one – I think he meant Prince William not Prince George.

Driver number two in DC, judging by his accent, was local. He was unsure about the election. His comment was "Clinton’s been in government for 20 years and I'm not sure what she's done. He would be different but he's got some really crazy ideas." 

I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed by The Lincoln Memorial.  A bit like when I saw the Taj Mahal, despite great familiarity with the image, the scale rocks you back on your heels. Given that we were in the nation’s capital during an election, perhaps we paid more attention to the words inscribed on either side. One is the Gettysburg Address and the other is the Second Inaugural Address which includes the words "one eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union but localized in the Southern part of it". And later "It may be strange that men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces."  How fitting that the new museum charting the history of African Americans is close by - fully booked however. 

Not far is the wall with all the names of the military who died in Vietnam.  There was a large group of Veterans visiting, each in a wheelchair with a helper and with baseball caps stating what they were veterans of.  This was during the campaign when Trump was talking about illegals, building a wall etc.  We did notice particularly that so many of those names are Hispanic.  

We had no engagement with the war in Vietnam but for me it was the first war we were seeing in real time. Sitting on the sofa, watching people being bombed. Also on television at the time was that magnificent series "The World at War" which showed film taken on the same week during WW2.  Neither seemed real; too awful to be able to get to grips with or so relentless as to numb us. Just as the daily footage of refugees trying and sometimes failing to get to Europe is on our screens now.

The next Uber driver said he didn’t know who he was going to vote for “she is a crook and he is a crazy man”.  But the most depressing conversation was with the Uber driver in Philadelphia.  He is in his mid-fifties, born and raised in the city and, apart from a few years in Florida has lived there all his life. He used to work customizing cars.  He said “I’ve been married ten years, my wife is from the Philippines, she’s legal, I made her legal and she has a good job as a night supervisor. You can’t believe anything on the news, it is all lies.  My wife is very busy on social media – there you see the truth. We are voting for Trump, she thinks we need a strong man like Duterte.” 

Finally Uber is getting a bad press here and we don’t really use it in London – if you are of a certain age and live in London you can travel for free which we take full advantage of.  However the drivers in the USA seemed uncomplaining and we had a very good experience apart from one who tried to drop us off at the wrong place.  We had a women driver in New York who used to drive a yellow cab – she preferred Uber as it was more flexible.

I will write again, but no more politics. 

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