After eleven weeks on the road, 191 interviews, and twenty-five states, I returned home Tuesday evening. Opening the gate to my house, seeing my dog, and eating homemade food were much-needed. Peanut butter sandwiches and spending every night alone are not the most enjoyable combination!
Although I was exhausted by the end, this trip was eye-opening and inspiring. I met people of all walks of life, of all creeds, of all races and ethnicities, and of all political leanings. I saw the country, from the Great Lakes to the Rockies, from the heart of downtown Detroit to the back roads of Maurepas, Louisiana.
Our country faces many challenges ahead, but I am heartened to hear that most people are aware of them and want to face them. People know polarization is a problem. They know we’ve stopped listening. Most people I spoke with acknowledge that racism is a long and powerful truth in this country, a road block to much of our progress and something that we must address.
There were, of course, disagreements. Some want stronger borders while others welcome immigrants with open arms. Many Republicans feel that Democrats don’t respect President Trump the way a President should be respected. Many Democrats feel that started with the way Republicans talked about Barack Obama.
But ultimately, most people I talked with want to be good citizens, and believe that political party says nothing about citizenship.
I realize, though, that despite that we might say that, we don’t act on it. We don’t seek out difference and disagreement. We shout at each other and at our TV screens. We ignore news that upsets us and revel in headlines that affirm our opinions.
We can’t keep doing these things and except these problems to get better. If we want to genuinely be good citizens – not just say we are – we have to step outside of our comfort zones, read new newspapers and watch new TV channels. We need to get to know our neighbors, even if they look different from us, talk different from us, and believe different things than we do. We need to help the needy, regardless of whether we think it’s the government’s job to.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing some interviews from the trip as well as some other thoughts. I’d love to hear any ideas people have about the things they’ve read here or elsewhere. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy being home!