A Train Education, Part Two

This afternoon I picked ten burrs off my dog/wannabe swamp renegade.  I went on another run, and it once again didn’t kill me (wonders never cease).  I also received my first Spring Semester textbook in the mail.  It’s titled “Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World.” World History is sure going to be interesting.

Having done all of these things, I am finally ready to continue the train saga from yesterday.

Part two begins when The New Zealander I Met on a Train asks me about politics.

I reacted with some inner panic.  I’ve never been one to be informed about politics, and I’ve always been sensitive about it.  After all, what kind of person doesn’t know what’s going on in her own country?  What kind of person doesn’t take interest in the people making decisions that directly impact her life?  Me, I guess.  And it’s not that I don’t care about politics, it’s just that I see politics as an exclusive club, one that I can’t enter because I’ve just been on the outside for too long.  I don’t know the secret club lingo, I don’t know the handshake, and I’m afraid to say anything that will betray my ignorance.

“What do you think about Obama?” The man asked me.

“I voted for him in 2008.  And I think that he’s doing the best he can.  I think that he’s still trying to clean up someone else’s mess, and that he should be given another chance.”

“But Obama’s terrible!”  The man exclaimed.  “He hasn’t done anything he promised to do!”

“But…” I sputtered desperately for some intelligent reply.  There was something about Medicare.  And the War In Iraq.  Weren’t the troops coming home?  Or were more being sent out?

“He caught Osama bin Laden,” I pronounced triumphantly, hoping we could at least agree on that and be done with it.

“Oh, Osama’s been dead for years.  Ask anyone on the street.  I have friends from the Middle East, and they say everyone knows that Obama just dug up old news because he needed to be a hero.”

“Who do you think should be elected then?”

“Do you know anything about Ron Paul?”

And so, I spent two hours on a train learning, from a non-American, all about American politics.  The man explained the Federal Reserve System to me.  He explained that much of  America’s money is in Europe, and that we’ve got to get it back if we ever want to end the recession.  He explained that our Founding Fathers had warned about putting our money elsewhere.  He explained Ron Paul’s plan to bring back the gold standard.  He explained that unless things change, politicians will continue to cater to four large banks that can pull the entire nation into a depression with the curl of a finger.  He explained what “too big to fail” means.  He wrote down websites for me to visit and books for me to read.

When the train reached its final destination, the man stood, said that it was nice to meet me, and walked swiftly down the aisle.

I imagine that he’s a regular nomad these days; hopping trains filled with uninformed American students, and, in his Peter Jackson voice, doling out career advice and political illumination in one subtle swoop.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not writing this post to toot Ron Paul’s horn, or to throw Obama under the bus.  I’m simply writing about that one time on a train to Amsterdam when I met a man from New Zealand, and he told me an awful lot of things I’ve been dwelling on ever since.

Sir, if you’re out there, I should tell you that my name is Holly.  I now read the Huffington Post every day, I want to be an English professor, and I’m undecided about my 2012 vote.

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