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May 10, 2013


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Planes and automobiles.

What is it about trains that so exercises right-wingers? Didn't St Ayn Rand celebrate them in Atlas Shrugged? Don't they embody a cultural ideal (coherent small towns, epic national greatness, a graceful landscape, and "traditional American values"? What happened to all that?

I suspect the answer can be found in the seedbed of the right-wing renaissance, the sun belt. While it's true that right-wingers love their Norman Rockwell Americana, their aversion to cities and diversity surpasses it. What they advocate is a debased American value system of hyper-mobility and separation. If you isolate people in boomburbs on the edges of cities, you also divide and conquer the citizenry into haves and have nots. You obscure the crucial interdependence that underlies ours (and really any) national project. In other words, you create the very alienation that right-wingers attribute to liberalism.

The discontent of modern America is inseparable from this alienation. The shell game that right-wing puppetmasters employ to confuse fearful, older white citizens suggests all would be well if only minorities didn't have so many civil rights. Start with loneliness, mix in some victimology, add a few croutons of hysteria and voila!, paranoia, the psychological basis of movement conservatism.

Conservatism may as well be the disease of which it purports to be the cure. Our greatness (contra David Brooks) is in our cities, not the suburbs. And good cities have good transit. The neurotic tic in the American psyche knows this and flails against this reality. It attempts to starve not just the beast of government but the harlot of otherness. It knows its enemies all-too well, and it looks suspiciously like the extended Obama family.

Our civil war is not about anything real so much as the phantasmagoria of American identity. You want a more humane and thoughtful America? Start with trains. Take the underground railroad from the depths of our shared pain to the light of a better day.

Goddamit, soleri - I think I need a cigarette...

Rogue's contributors can probably come up with wonderful stories about their train experiences. For me, it began with the Rock Island Rocket between college and Denver. It progressed to Amtrak between DC and NYC. The culmination was a junket on the Orient Express, where we backed into the Gare du Nord in Paris and were too blitzed to collect our luggage in a timely manner. The sum total of all this is the visceral thrill of clickety-clack and not having to brave the hordes at the airport.

roll me one Petro. What a great closing sentencing by Soleri.

Brilliant, Soleri

I think that conservatives react against mass transit simply because liberals champion it. It's that simple. There are an awful lot of similar examples. The New York Times noted last year that:

"It can be difficult to remember now, given the ferocity with which many Republicans assail it as an attack on freedom, but the provision in President Obama’s health care law requiring all Americans to buy health insurance has its roots in conservative thinking.

"The concept that people should be required to buy health coverage was fleshed out more than two decades ago by a number of conservative economists, embraced by scholars at conservative research groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, and championed, for a time, by Republicans in the Senate.

"The individual mandate, as it is known, was seen then as a conservative alternative to some of the health care approaches favored by liberals — like creating a national health service or requiring employers to provide health coverage."


So, maybe we could slip Glen Beck a few bucks to have him say "liberals want to privatize your Social Security?"

Trains also move much of our coal. Someday, they may have to also move nuclear waste. We can't have travellers competing with coal and radioactive waste for precious rails and railbeds. We must keep people flying so that they never really see America and witness the desperation of all the abandoned communities that lie along the rail lines.

That was a tasty salad soleri tossed! Roll another one, if you got'em, Petro.

Unfortunately, my only true train (heavy rail) experience was the Verde Valley site-seeing train. Of course, I use light rail (WBIYB!) when I can.

Love the Turbo Train photo! And yeah, rail travel ... it's one of my favorite parts of going abroad.

I agree with Justin about rail travel

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