Life in America: Travelling by Amtrak is Eye-Opening
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Life in America: Travelling by Amtrak is Eye-Opening


Once upon a time America had a massive transport system, and manned train stations. Most of those have been sold-off or turned-into shops and museums.

In early August I took a trip from Staunton, Virginia to Maysville, Kentucky and learned what I have missed in the last 15 years, while being outside the US. The first thing, in today’s America, is never to try and buy a ticket on the train or board without having a valid ID. I witnessed one passenger being tossed off at the next station with all his bags, not because he did not have the money for a ticket but allegedly did not have an ID, or one that was good enough.

Life in America: Travelling by Amtrak is Eye-Opening

The local police were called at the next station, in the rural backwoods of Virginia. I can only suspect that the story proffered was not totally true, “He not having a proper ID.”

I asked the ticket clerk on the train why they had not checked his ID before he got on the train, as the incident would have been prevented and the train would not have been delayed while the police questioned him. It soon occurred to me that it was more likely his dress that had got him into trouble, as nobody had checked my ID or that of any of the other passengers.

I had, however, purchased one online, where I had given my name, credit card and phone numbers. This only demonstrates that there is a double standard. You would think that the same level of security should exist for trains as it does for planes, with all the rigmarole about the need for a new standard of IDs to ensure safe travel, as envisioned under the REAL ID Act.

Anyway, the trip afforded me the opportunity to talk to people and find out how things had changed in America. I did my best not to get too political, and tried to pick up from the nearby passengers what they think about how things are going generally, talking about issues such as immigration, gun control, ethical lapses in government etc.

One thing was soon apparent - there are definitely more Trump supporters than we are told by the MSM, even among blacks and minorities. And despite all the rhetoric about “Make American Great Again”, what matters most is that people can have jobs that give them a living wage and don’t have to worry about losing everything with one major illness or getting laid-off.

One Mennonite man, from a religious sect that are back to basics, was telling me about losing his farm because he had to pay for some major medical operations, and in the process lost his wife too. Even in his close religious community, divorce is just like it is in the rest of the US population.

Life in America: Travelling by Amtrak is Eye-Opening

Another passenger, who taught English in an Amish school, another closely related religious group, impressed me the most, as without the benefit of modern technology, not even a cell phone or electricity at home. She was more informed about what was going on in the world than most people who are well-connected in terms of IT and academic degrees.

The distinctiveness of the Amish is in their separation from the society around them. They generally shun modern technology, keep out of political and secular involvements and dress plainly.

I started confirming the initial conclusion I had reached on setting-foot-back-in the-US after 15 years a few weeks before. Based on my own observations and what people were telling me, this country has really changed a lot — and not to the better. 

Wage Slaves and Conspiracy Theories

As a former university classmate recently wrote me: “This is not just some old "conspiracy theory" - it's a real thing.  If the S doesn't HTF any time soon, it's already hitting people one person at a time. Perhaps this is worse. If everyone got hit on the same day with an "end-of-the-world" scenario like they hope for every week, U.S. citizens would have more power to gang-up together.

“Picking people out of society one at a time for slave-labor in the corporate prison system is worse because there is no shared experience. It's every man for himself. People turn a blind eye, saying "not my problem", and victimize the victim even more.

“Some people are going to debtor's prison because they are poor and get a traffic ticket they can't pay. Others are going because they racked up high student loans.

“The U.S. college-level education system has become nothing but a scam and a sham. They award any student any amount of loan money, which becomes a noose around their necks that bites them later, with the inevitable knock at the door and a jackboot hauls them off.”

For most Americans, a college education has become a requirement for entering the job force as a professional. This pressure creates some pretty nasty contradictions in the ways we live in this country: we want to make as much money as possible, but at the expense of others; we expect younger generations to submit to debt without a viable job market to pay it off; and the identities we choose to portray are increasingly commanded by the number on our paycheck.

In short, debt is the new form of social control, e.g. wage slavery.

I will be meeting some more folks to talk about life in America, and all that is now in the works:

 “There's a couple of guys in town I think you should meet.  They seem to be on the same political side as you and have been shaking up things in Kentucky, both named Geoff.   If everyone's available, I think a Pow-wow is in order.  The plans you have, and what you need; I think they might have good suggestions.”

The best thing I have done, at least that I am most proud of, is having registered to vote, and not as a Democrat or Republican (as they are basically the same) but as a Socialist — it was one of the options of party affiliation in my home State of West Virginia.

Life in America: Travelling by Amtrak is Eye-Opening

One thing is for certain, at least for many media outlets, they are sidestepping the main stories, ones that really matter to most people. 

It is easy to criticize, point the finger but it ends there.  There need to be more stories of universal problems and how normal people deal with such problems on their own or working together. 

To further expand only old mother’s favorite coined term in describing those that are in positions that are to serve the public, Snivel Service Workers.”

We are now faced with a population that complains all the time and expect others to fix our problems. And when they don’t we complain ever more. And with the media and so many electronic games and devices dulling the minds of the populace, it is only getting worse.

Author: Jeffrey Silverman