Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lowlights :(

So as I was waiting for the train in Colorado I struck up a conversation with Mr. Steers (see previous post). Mr. Steers got up to take a walk around the station and asked me to watch his bags for a minute. The man on the other side of me told me that was against Amtrak policies and they ask you about that when they take your ticket. (Anyone suspicious? Any unattended bags? Anyone ask you to watch their things? Were your bags out of sight for any length of time?) They didnt ask. But the large, furry, odd man next to me proceeded with the conversation about safety and I listened. Then he spoke about other things. He was a truck driver from Kansas, he has a house there but is never home, he is taking the train to Omaha, he had to quit his dream of college to work after his father lost his job, he is ultra conservative. And finally our conversational turning point: He does not think our president is conservative enough. This is when I officially entered the conversation. I asked what does he feel our president is not conservative enough concerning? He said immigration. I further inquired as to how.

(Quick note: most of you know me to be quite the fireball when it comes to debating and other inflamatory conversations, but let me help you out a little here. This man was very large, a little odd and I was in the middle of a train station in Colorado. And I know how to be polite and respectful, when I need to be! And since it was warm I was not wearing my Barack My World sweater.)

He felt that we should build a fence ALL AROUND the country, an iron curtain, if you will. He went on and on. I listened. Some people next to him were nodding in agreement. I was slightly amused. (I really missed Chicago at this point)
Then he concluded with some ignorant crap and was done.
I asked him if he loved his parents, which I knew were still alive as he had previously mentioned. He seemed intriqued and answered that he did. I asked if what lengths would he go to if they needed medical care that our country did not provide, or if they were starving and no food was available? Would he walk to Canada? Perhaps enter Illegally if it meant they could live? He just looked at me.
Then he said he did support some sort of resident worker program. That we should get something like that going, on a bigger level. But that if these people from other countries insisted on coming here they should wait in line. I asked him how do you wait in a 3 year line of endless red tape when your life and your families lives are in imminent jeopardy? If even the governments are corrupt and in killing people, at that point what do you do?
He said well if you cross the border, then you cut in line and screw others. I agreed but felt that I cannot fault people for trying to provide basic needs like life and food to those they love. I see it from a human standpoint, not a fiscal one.
I also said that we are a country of immigrants and that no one is really from here. I then rambled on (boringly I am sure) about how even the first people in the America's , the Clovis people, walked here from China across the Bering Strait so in a sense emigrating!
Then he said, "well they have to learn english."
"Who?" I said.
"Those immigrants you want to come here. It's for their own good. The government needs to make it mandatory for them to all learn English." he declared satisfactorily.

Then, I asked a rhetorical question. I said, " Dont ultra conservatives dislike the government and any involvement in their personal lives whatsoever?"

He affirmed that and elaborated that government should mind its own business at all times and stay away.

So I asked isnt that intrusive to require people to learn a language? Isnt that very personally intrusive? And who decided English is the national language?

He turned to me and stared. And then laughed loudly.
He said,"You are smart. You are a woman, and you are smart!"
I told him that was a confusing compliment.
He said he had never met a woman that could argue so well with him.He was serious.

Was that really a lowlight? Not sure. But this conversation followed with some very awkward moments of him following me around the station, onto the train and forcing me to move seats twice.

Other lowlights:

Since our train was so delayed, I guess the bathrooms filled up and they had to shut them off two hours before we got there. SO no bathroom. They were disgusting, seriously. Horrifying. Scary. They are like airplane bathrooms with the suction and metal and smallness.

We drove through the flooded midwest towns and I was shocked. Six miles from the Mississippi was still flooded. Whole farms under water. I saw cars, trucks and SUVs floating alongside farming equipment. The houses and barns were still underwater except their roofs. The interstates are still closed. Amtrak told us that the train was shut down for 4 weeks as they had to rebuild the entire line through that area. I had no idea. It was silent on the train as we crawled through the area at like 20 miles an hour. It was horrific. It just looked like one huge lake. No evidence of anything else but the tall trees sticking out occasionally. I wondered if all the animals died? I hurt for the families who lost everything; farms, crops, houses, cars, lives.... It still amazes me the devastation water can cause. I wondered how the price of food will be affected further. Hurrican Katrina came to mind, as I have seen pictures and they do compare. Everyone was pressed against the windows and it was silent on the train for like half an hour. the water came up to about feet from the train line.

I ate a hot dog that man pulled from a plastic bag that he cooked in the microwave. I regretted it immediately. I am still horrified at my food choice. It was either that or a ham and american cheese sub or tuna salad on wheat. Sick. And I paid like 5dollars for it.

but im home now and its all but faint memories.


Christopher B. Brooks said...

You are a trip Sarah. A good trip, but a trip nonetheless!

Simon said...

I read this blog post with great interest, since I am a (legal) immigrant in the USA, about to get my green card.

Sometimes people gets into conversations with me about immigration and even go so far as to say the USA should ban all immigration, and then I remind them I am an immigrant and they seem to think that British people don't count. I think a lot of people are just xenophobic, and thus they are naturally opposed to immigrants.

The USA is a country of immigrants, though. The language of the land was never English before the British arrived. However, even I get angry when I have to hear "por hablo espanol, primo numero uno" or whatever, because I feel like one country should have one language. Then I feel bad.