I'm going to deviate from my travel blogging on this page and talk instead about politics.  I'm a lifelong political addict, as I mentioned in a previous entry, but I rarely write about politics in my websites because it's too divisive.  No matter what kind of political comment I make, no matter how bland, I'm guaranteed to anger someone, somewhere.  Between my DelsJourney and ExtremeGeographer websites, I've written over 700 webpages during the past 15 years (receiving over 6 million visits so far) and have intentionally avoided discussing politics. 

Until now.  I was so disheartened by Donald Trump's recent victory that I spent several days afterwards writing this page. 

First, my background:  Despite being the "Extreme" Geographer, I'm a centrist.  My politics are moderate and I've voted for candidates in both parties over the years.  I think Republican John McCain is an American patriot and Democrat Barack Obama saved our country from a terrible recession.  I believe in compromise and think we should always try to understand the other side, and I’m wary of extremists on either side who insist it’s “their way or the highway” and that the “other side is evil.”  Americans have lots of different ideologies and political views, so we should try to get along with each other.

My parents taught me to respect everyone regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, religion or gender and I still firmly hold those beliefs.   I also figure that each person's political views are a product of their life's experiences, including the family they were born into, their schooling, their relationships and their travels.  If I’d had your life experiences, I’d probably think a lot more like you – and if you’d had my experiences, you’d probably think a lot more like me.  

Hate Mail and Death Threats

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Above:  Driving across Indiana.  Really worth a death threat?

I've learned to be careful about what I post in my websites because whatever I say about any topic, no matter how innocuous (e.g., “the sky is blue”), someone out there will vehemently disagree.  In 2001, having just driven across Indiana during a road trip, I posted a story on my DelsJourney website saying that I thought the state was kind of boring.  Shortly afterwards I got an email from an angry Hoosier in Indiana who’d read my post and, quite seriously, threatened to kill me.

In 2008, I received another death threat and this one more serious because it was a hand-written letter.  A guy (I’m assuming it was a guy) had read my DelsJourney website and figured that I must be gay because I mentioned that I'd never been married.  He scribbled out two pages in ink telling me that he hated gays and knew where I lived, so he was going to come over to my apartment in Portland and slash my throat.  I was alarmed of course:  not only that someone was agitated about my website, but that they'd done an Internet search to figure out where I lived and then took the time to write me a two-page, hate-filled letter, had put a stamp on it and mailed it.  But after a few moments, my trepidation was replaced by anger and I brusquely thought to myself, “Bring it on, dude!”  I was ticked off that a total stranger – or anyone for that matter – would have the audacity to threaten me like that.  

I kept that letter as evidence in case I was ever murdered, leaving it somewhere my family could find it, and I still have it.  But I didn’t report it to the police because I figured there was nothing they could do.  The person wisely didn’t sign it or include a return address, so other than a handwriting sample, all I had to identify him by was the postmark:  from Vancouver, Washington, a few miles away.  As far as I know, there’s still a guy somewhere in Vancouver who wants to kill me because he wrongly assumes I’m gay.

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Above:  My beloved 1985 Toyota truck on the Oregon coast, a few months before it was keyed.  I drove it more than 250,000 miles for more than 20 years through 48 states.  Note the sunset "Oregon Trail" license plate.

That situation reminded me of another homophobic incident in 2001.  I was driving across Texas on a long cross-country road trip and had just said goodbye to some friends in Austin, then pulled into a grocery store parking lot in south Austin and began writing up a shopping list.  As I sat in my Toyota truck with the window rolled down, a rusty old station wagon pulled into the parking space facing me and a grizzled, middle-aged white guy sat in the car glaring at me, also with his window rolled down.  He started muttering something about gays which I couldn’t quite understand, so I just ignored him because he was obviously unbalanced.  He was still muttering a few minutes later when I got out of my truck and went into the store.

When I came out of the store a half-hour later, his car was gone but as I approached my truck, my jaw dropped.  A two-foot long scratch had been etched all the way across my door.  My beloved Toyota truck, my baby for the past 16 years who’d taken me all over the country, had been “keyed.” 

I instantly knew who did it, but why?  The only rationale I could figure was this deranged fellow had seen my “Oregon Trail” license plate and mistook the sunset on the plate for a rainbow, a symbol of gay pride.  He apparently assumed I was gay and decided to vandalize my truck.  During the 262,000 miles that I drove my truck around America, that was the only damage it ever suffered and I’m still pissed off about it.  I posted that story on my website in 2001 if you want to read it. 

I could better understand from these incidents the homophobic hatred that, sadly, is endured by my gay friends.  And like everyone, I have many friends who are gay.  If you don’t think you have any gay friends, then either you don’t have any friends or you don’t know them very well. 

My point is:  There are some real wackos out there (but not you, of course), so anyone who posts political comments on the web needs to be careful.  Even those who don’t post anything political need to be careful because, sadly, these days anyone can flame someone with lies or ridiculous conspiracy theories, like Pizzagate.  So with that in mind, and at the risk of being threatened (or worse) by said wackos, here are...

My Thoughts About the Election

Given all the polling that had been done in the days and weeks before the election, I was stunned, like most Americans, by the results.  Here are my thoughts:

First, I love America and have spent the last seven months driving from one coast to the other to see it, becoming the first person to visit every one of its 16 corners.  And during my trip, I've talked to people from all walks of life and political ideologies.  If you really love your country, don't stay in a cocoon.  Get out and see it.  You might learn that the folks "on the other side" in this deeply-divided country aren't nearly as despicable as you thought.  Politicians like Donald Trump are constantly trying to divide us because it favors them politically, but the truth, as I've learned on this and previous road trips around America, is that there's a lot more that unites us Americans than what divides us.    

Second, my ancestors came to America in 1634 seeking freedom and they've fought in every American war to preserve those freedoms, so I feel deeply about what this country stands for.  Nope, no "bone spurs" in this family.  I get alarmed when I see the causes they fought for, like freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom to dissent, being suppressed by politicians like Donald Trump.  America’s freedoms and diversity are its greatest strengths, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t have this country's best interest at heart.

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Above:  Watching the election results in my motel room in Sarasota, Florida on the evening of November 8, 2016.

Third, the greatest threat to this country isn't Russian espionage or an attack by Muslims.  The greatest threat is an uninformed electorate.  Every voter has a duty to seek out the truth – the real truth and not stories that are posted on Facebook, YouTube or shady websites full of wacko conspiracy theories.  Just because a demagogue ("A political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument") like Trump repeats a lie a hundred times doesn't make it true. 

So my main message is this:  Take your politics seriously but not personally.  In other words, get informed on the issues and don't believe anything a politician says without looking into the facts – not the "alternative" facts, but the real, and only, facts.  But don't take your politics personally and fall into the easy trap of seeing those on the other side as evil or despicable.  Some of us have very different visions of what this country should be, but remember that we're all Americans and that we all love our country.

What Worries America

Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes, so as devastated as I am in knowing that he'll be president for the next four years, I take some small comfort in knowing that his hateful and divisive attitude doesn’t represent most of America.  Even though I'm a centrist who's in the demographic (a white, middle-aged guy) that'll be least affected by Trump's blatant racism, I'm still worried about what a Trump presidency will mean for this country and the world.  And there are millions of Americans outside my demographic who are downright terrified.

Election Night was a double-whammy for moderates like myself.  First was the shock of Trump winning the election when, for many months, he had been behind Hillary Clinton in virtually every national poll and was projected to lose "bigly."  Of course, my main question after the election was, “How could all the pollsters have been so wrong?”

That’s looking back.  The other whammy for most Americans is looking forward, worried about the next four years with a demagogue like Trump in the White House.  Specifically:

  • We’re worried about a president who just makes stuff up.  JMSU isn't where Trump went to college; it's his campaign motto:  Just Make Stuff Up.  During his campaign, Donald Trump spewed out hundreds of egregious lies (like Obama's birthplace) that planted seeds of hatred in the minds of his followers.  It's scary to think that millions of Americans can be easily swayed by a cult leader like Trump and that millions rely more on Facebook posts and Twitter feeds for their news than on reputable sources such as NBC, PBS or even, on occasion, Fox.  Just because you repeat a lie a hundred times doesn't make it true.  The main lesson of Trump's victory?  If you want to win an election in America, Just Make Stuff Up because some are unwilling or too lazy to question it.
  • We’re worried about a rise in hatred in America directed towards minorities or anyone who’s not a Christian White Male.  White supremacy isn't what my ancestors fought and died for.  I’ve driven all over rural America these past eight months, literally to every corner of America, and have met many wonderful people who were incredibly kind to me – and yet, I knew that many of them probably voted for Donald Trump.  How can I reconcile the kindness I received from these folks while knowing that most of them voted for the most hateful and racist presidential candidate in modern American history?  Would they have been as kind to me if I weren't a white guy, I wondered? 
  • We’re worried about the Constitution and our democracy.  Donald Trump craves absolute power and we worry about our constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, the right to dissent, freedom of the press and even our right to vote. 
  • We’re worried about a president who is easily rattled and angered.  We believe Trump doesn’t have the temperament (or intelligence) to handle the presidency and will act on an impulse with disastrous consequences, for America or the world.
  • But mostly, we’re worried that Donald Trump doesn’t really want to Make America Great Again.  Many of us believe his run for the presidency was just a ploy to satisfy his massive ego and a way to boost his business.  We think he cares more about himself and his business interests than about the millions of hard-working Americans who need a competent and compassionate leader in the White House.

I hope I’m wrong about this and that, four years from now, I’ll look back and realize that these worries were totally unfounded.  I really am pulling for America and its ideals, because like I said at the beginning of my road-trip, I believe the U.S. is the greatest country in the world.  But like millions of other Americans, I worry that a Trump presidency will not end well, either for America or the world. 

 

 
 
 
 

 

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