You’ll Never Know If You Can’t Go!
OK, let’s start with a very un-funny joke I heard during my European trip last summer.
Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language?
A: An American.
Probably the best part of my trip a year ago was a three-day visit to Oslo to see a Norwegian couple I had met a couple of years before. She teaches English to young people who are finishing up the equivalent of our high school and she asked if I would speak to three or four of the classes at her school. I was delighted to do so, of course, and it was a wonderful experience. In fact, I probably had more fun than the kids.
In one of the classes, I was asked why most Americans don’t speak foreign languages. I responded by asking how many of them had a passport. As you would expect, every kid raised his or her hand. Then I told them that most Americans don’t have passports, which means they can’t travel to foreign countries and that, in turn, means they think there’s no need to speak a foreign language. The kids were shocked.
The fact is, only about 45-percent of Americans own passports and because a passport is now required to cross the borders into Canada or Mexico, we can only assume that a much smaller percentage of our fellow citizens own passports so they can travel to Europe or Asia. Therefore, it’s probably safe to say that perhaps two-thirds of our population will never be exposed to other cultures and other countries where they might just possibly see things being done differently or — dare I say it? — even better than in this country.
Now, can you guess which states rank lowest in terms of how many people have passports? Sure you can. It’s most of the southern states. In fact, it’s most of the RED states. Leading that pack is Mississippi, where only 18-percent of the citizens have passports. In several other states, the numbers vary a bit, but in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia, only about 25-percent of those folks own passports. I’m sure the actual numbers could be computed, but projected on a national level, it’s probably accurate to say that two-thirds of our population is without passports and cannot leave the country.
There are multiple implications to all of this, and I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that we can attribute at least some of the opposition to high-speed rail to this. After all, if you can’t travel outside the country, you have no way of knowing what it’s like to have access to really good transportation systems or to understand the mobility and other benefits those systems provide to the people of all those other countries.
Maybe we need a different approach. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to talk about cost-per-passenger-mile and environmental benefits if two thirds of our fellow citizens cannot comprehend how an attendant can casually be pouring hot coffee on a train traveling at more than 200 miles-per-hour. Heck … that still amazes me!
The California project is an absolute joke, it has gone three times over budget, and is now limited to a small, not very hopeful section. It has been a complete waste of taxpayer money, and is a great cautionary tale to other states, to keep away from HSR boondoggle.
Funny how it seems to be working so well in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Japan, China, etc. And let’s see how the Texas project works out.
Is this a joke? this is a very one-sided presentation of a complex problem. You can add the fact of lower median incomes to the point about not traveling as much. You can also point out that blue state leaders have spent the US deep into debt, and that’s without even building HSR. Look at the astronomical cost of HSR in California alone. $15 billion and they have not started construction. Another difference is the geographic size of the country compared to the small countries that have HSR. The only large country that HAS built HSR is China – a communist country that owns everything. This opinion piece is misinformed, misleading and pretty amateurish. I would also point out the Florida is a red state and has MANY people that are bilingual – in fact most of south Florida is bilingual. Best to leave HSR for private companies willing to take the risk and reap the rewards the way Florida East Coast Railroad is with All Aboard Florida’s Brightline service between Orlando and Miami.
Let’s just say we’ll agree to disagree. I can to resist noting that someone with a difference of opinion is not necessarily ” misinformed, misleading and pretty amateurish”. Oh , and by the way, the high-speed rail project in California IS under construction.
That is definitely a problem in America. But, what do you expect from a work force who won’t take a vacation? I have traveled all over the US on Amtrak. And yes, it is the “Red States”! Many people there don’t even travel out of their counties, and have no idea what other parts of the country are like. That’s how Ted Cruz was able to talk about “New York Values” as if that was something evil! Travel broadens the mind and causes acceptance of differences. I enjoy sitting in the dining car with 3 strangers and having polite discussion.