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Friday, April 20, 2007

Left and Right and Getting Ahead

Left and Right and Getting Ahead

I follow the news in the U.S. during this self-imposed exile—it’s impossible to ignore. Almost everything that passes for news from American takes the form of angry bickering between our version of the Sunni and Shiite divide: conservatives and liberals. It’s either right, left, or “Tonight on Larry King Live: Ana Nicole’s real bra size.”

It seems as if everything that happens in the U.S. can be traced back to this Hatfield and McCoy’s feud. Some stupid hick of a radio show host utters three indelicate words and the affair devolves into a schoolyard shouting match between left and right. A mentally ill student goes on a rampage and both sides are screaming across the divide that the other is to blame. It’s hard to find any news item that hasn’t been ripped in two by left and right and used either to back up their idea of America or to criticize the other. This doesn’t seem like a very effective means for running a country.

Issues like abortion and gay rights continue to divide and conquer in America. Spain seems to have decided long ago that both abortion and gays won’t disappear if you make them illegal. You hear almost nothing about these two issues here in Spain, issues that polarize America. Every once in a while some Catholic archbishop will spew out some mealy-mouthed objection but most people here see the church for what it is: an incredibly corrupt and out-of-touch institution. The church here is more of a tradition, like fireworks on the Fourth of July, than a spiritual guide. Spain is a more moral place because they have turned their backs on religion.

Spain doesn’t have anything that comes remotely close to America’s conservative wing and America’s more left-leaning thinkers would be considered middle-of-the-road to conservative here. Here in Valencia there is certainly a difference of opinion in politics but everyone seems focused on getting things done.

Valencia just opened up a new metro line that reaches from the newly-renovated area of the port to the newly-renovated airport in the opposite direction. A fast and inexpensive train to the airport may not seem like such a big deal, unless you happen to live in a large city that doesn’t have this service. For the entire eight years that I lived in Seattle, the city government bickered and quarreled over plans for a train to the airport from the downtown area. In Seattle we also voted over plans for a rapid transit system. I think we voted in favor of it something like four separate times. The plan was later voted down mostly because of the objections of a single, incredibly wealthy real estate developer. Not exactly democracy in action.

Valencia’s bike path system is growing in leaps and bounds. Riding bikes is not exactly a Spanish tradition yet
Valencia is committed to making bicycles a large part of the urban transportation solution. In this area they are way ahead of Madrid where bikes are a fairly uncommon sight.

Other than tilting at the windmills of the War on Terror, it’s hard to think of any area where America is actually working towards her future. I don’t think that we have a single goal that we can all work towards and agree upon and this can be blamed on a complete lack of leadership. Forget about putting another man on the moon, I just want to be able to get to the airport without spending $30 on a cab.

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