The Wrong Train Took Us Through Charlottesville

We got on the wrong train. Well, we were booked on the wrong train from D.C. to Chicago. Our train took 8 hours longer than it should have. Plus, it arrived 3 hours late. We either sat up or crunched into fetal positions for 28 hours and breathed in only 4 minutes of fresh air the entire time.

But the longer route brought about an unexpected sight.

train 1

The train passed through Charlottesville rather than Pittsburgh like I expected. As we clunked up to the Charlottesville station, I saw a restaurant called The Melting Pot nestled into a side street. It was Wednesday, three days after the racist violence had calmed down. Although The Melting Pot was a chain fondue restaurant, its placement struck me as ironic. Then, in the blink of an eye, the street where Heather Heyer was killed flashed in front of our eyes—blinking police lights, barricaded roads, scattered glass, onlookers snapping photos and writing with chalk. The next second it had passed.

It reminded me of something I wrote on my first post: “Ignorance and hatred flow from both sides.” I wrote this before the violence in Charlottesville, but it echoes too closely what a president I don’t agree with said. I didn’t mean it in the same context, but what I should have said is that ignorance and antipathy flow from both sides. Because that is true.

I have been researching political polarization for work, and Pew Research Center found that antipathy toward the opposite political party has almost tripled in the last 20 years. Today, 55% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans view the opposing party with strongly negative views. Republicans are only about 4% more likely than Democrats to go so far as to say that the other party’s policies will harm the nation.

Many of us in both parties hold increasingly negative opinions of the other side. “Hatred” was too strong of a word for me to use, so I wanted to clear that up. But antipathy is on the rise. It was shocking to see that street, but maybe there was a reason we were booked on the long train.

train 2

Stay tuned as our trip continues. We are planning to travel all the way across the country, from D.C. to San Francisco, by Tuesday, August 29. (Our return flight leaves that day, so we better make it there on time.) We planned a few stops along the way: Denver, Salt Lake City, the Grand Tetons, and Sacramento.

Now, we are rocking through Nebraska’s endless cornfields. The view has been corn for the better part of two days, but there’s something serene about it. It whispers that there’s no need to occupy myself. Soon enough we will make it to the mountains of Denver for an adventure, but for now, I am content lounging in our sleeper car (the best purchase of my life), seeing the world go by.

Photo of us

PS. We got engaged while playing hangman! I had the r’s. After guessing “hurry up” and “furry it” and “merry go,” it clicked. He meant “marry me?” I said yes. It was perfect.

Until next time,

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