The commentators are talking about what I've been exploring the last few weeks - political signs.
I've hit 20 states in the last 19 days on the road - close to 6,000 miles so far this trip. I've seen an overwhelming amount of support for Trump, remarkably few signs for Hillary, and about 4 signs for Bernie. Something is fishy here. (I wrote that last sentence 5 days ago.) I mean, way fewer signs, and a complete imbalance of imagery which I have tried to keep balanced, as an artist, trying to be non-partisan in this project. But I've had to abandon that.
I was suspecting that the reason I hadn't seen signage was because of our ongoing technology revolution, our social media revolution in the last few years. I was suspecting that the urban voters, democratic voters were headed to display their support in the political landscape online where I can't see it. But at this point, late into the night on election night, it's seeming that my suspicion was false. No, I was not seeing signage in the landscape in support of Hillary because there just wasn't any.
While the urban and educated remain flabbergasted, while the rural communities across the country remain flabbergasted that they finally feel 'heard' - while things iron out either way, a few truths remain about the United States, truths that I've figured out along my drive, this being my sixth cross-country drive, what I've learned first hand as I've been focusing on the political landscape of America.
1. America is very very very very very very large. There are wide swaths of land stretching for miles with only fences, brush, and sky. It's easy to forget how huge the country is - the simplicity and relative affordability of hopping on a plane to be transported to a place that is half a week away - all while you're sitting cozy watching a movie. But driving gives the real scale, the interaction with the landscape that most of us urbanites have lost, the vision of the variety of people throughout the country. It is an education in our individual smallness, in the sense that we are one of many, many, many, many people in this country.
2. The road is long. Somehow, we have managed to pave the way to here and there and everywhere. There are, quite literally, paved roads crisscrossing the United States in a surprising fashion. I can get just about anywhere in the car - my itty bitty little 2003 sedan. I can get there relatively easily. I can get there comfortably, driving solo, a mom. There are Starbucks along the way - just about everywhere - so no complaining about how tiring that long road is, no complaining about finding a decent bathroom. Yes, the road is long, but there is a road, and it's more comfortable than it's ever been.
3. There are invisible boundaries. Sure, America is big, but everyone (pretty much) has a car. Everyone can get in the car and drive pretty much anywhere. But as I chat with people scattered around the country, people are trapped. For whatever reason, people don't reach beyond their own communities, don't drive beyond the boundaries of their city, don't explore the next town over, don't go to that new place, don't explore new (to them) communities, don't talk to new (to them) people. Perhaps to an urban center, perhaps to an ocean, perhaps to visit Cousin Jenny - the new experiences that could potentially open up perspectives of people from all walks of life - there is a boundary, a limit. It's invisible, but it's there. And it's surmountable.
I talked to a few people in Upstate New York, the upper section of Appalachia. These are people in a small town. We all know New York as one of the biggest and most diverse cities in the world - the drive to New York from this little town in Upstate New York is about five hours. Now, five hours to an urbanite is no big deal. Five hours is about how long it takes to get to Tahoe from San Francisco. It's not a big deal. There are buses. There are trains. But as I was there, one woman virtually begged to join me on my overnight stay into New York City since she'd never been and had always wanted to go, but never had.
I know there are many factors that keep people limited within the boundaries of their comfort zone, within their city limits, their personal boundaries. But what is the defense for not going beyond that boundary? Tell me what is holding you back from driving beyond the city limits, talking to new people, and reaching out. It is what is limiting so many from the big-picture, from seeing the world, from knowing how much kindness is actually in the world and in other people and other communities throughout the country. The road is paved. The path is there. But this 'boundary' is what keeps people listening to the same radio, watching the same TV, putting up with the same abuse day in and day out. It's what keeps Americans divided.
But there's a path, multiple paths, multiple and accessible roads, to traverse the country and go beyond our limitations to bridge the divide and share humanness. These boundaries, these walls, they are put up by us - as individuals. But they are not real - it's imagined. Pick a new place and talk to a new person, you know, like a friend, like a human, even when they're different or unusual or too urban or too rural or too educated or too uneducated.
One by one - I think we can get there.