AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
Say what you will about Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, but he’s realized the value of ordinary people in this election cycle. Responding to Fox News last week regarding Fetterman’s 2016 Reddit statements about how fracking is a “stain” on the Keystone State, Fetterman spokesman Joe Carvello explained Fetterman’s reversal of his position on a moratorium on fracking: “We can’t just abandon these people, and tell them to go learn how to code.”
Fetterman is positioning himself as separate from the big-name national Democrats, including President Biden, who have crippled the American energy industry and brought a great deal of pain and suffering on an American people who were energy dependent and saw real wages rise during the Trump Administration. Is it a cynical flip-flop in response to the catastrophic numbers pollsters are giving Democrats these days? Or is it a sincere change of heart from a politician who claimed to care about ordinary people and then found out that at least some of his left-wing policies hurt them?
I don’t know, but if I were a Pennsylvanian, I sure wouldn’t vote for a guy whose election would cement the position of the party that has done so much to hurt them. Perhaps Fetterman, who has been hospitalized for heart trouble, ought to put off his political career a bit and take a long drive through what too many Democrats think of as the land of the deplorables and what most Americans think of as the heartland in order to see what Americans are like outside of Superzips, universities, and blue cities. I think all Democrats, and even all Americans, ought to do so every summer. That’s what I did this summer. And I’ve come away with a greater love for my fellow Americans and an appreciation of their great hospitality.
For the last fifteen years or so, the big trip has been from St. Paul, Minnesota all the way to Snohomish, Washington to see family from my wife’s side and mine scattered throughout South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. It was a marvelous trip (around 1700-1800 miles) whether we started out on US 90 and headed through the Badlands or just jumped on 94 a couple miles from our house and cruised across North Dakota on our way. We’ve loved every stop at Mount Rushmore, every ascent into the Montana Rockies, and especially the glorious bridge over the broad expanse of the Columbia River between George and Ellensburg, Washington. Sure, it’s not sea to shining sea, but it is from the great Mississippi all the way to one shining sea.
This summer we have foregone the trip out west because we had another trip to make. At 1200 miles, this one was a bit shorter but even crazier than usual. This time, my wife, my seven kids, and I took all three of our vehicles (instead of one) filled with a whole lot of stuff (though we left the kitchen sink) and we started south for a trip through Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma on our way to the final destination of Texas. When I say final, I mean that we are not returning to Minnesota as we did on all those western trips. We are moving to the Houston area as I take up my new job.
The act of moving with seven children and two cats brings to mind the novelist Nikos Kazantzakis’s description of family life itself: “the full catastrophe.” And indeed, though we began boxing things up and giving things away, the last few days were a chaotic attempt to gather up the collected mementos and just plain junk of twenty-one years of marriage and decide what to keep, what to give away, and what to take to the dump. It was in the act of doing this that we first experienced the generosity of those ordinary Americans.
My friend Dan loaned me his Dodge Dakota for about three days to make all those donations to the thrift store and dump. Our friend Christina organized meals for us in the last few days. Chris loaned me his refrigerator dolly and Peter loaned his regular dolly. Justin helped us haul away stuff on his trailer and his wife, Katie, sent over their 14-year-old daughter to help us pack and throw away. Greg spent our last day in St. Paul helping us run errands and get us out the door. How does anybody do this without friends?
One’s friends are one thing, but you don’t realize what Americans are like till you’ve taken the full catastrophe on the road. When we finally got going, we made it into Iowa when the front left tire on the minivan my 18-year-old son was driving completely shredded while he was going 65 or 70 in the left lane. I had the family go on to the next little town in Iowa, where it was reported that there were some tire stores, while I limped along behind on the little donut tire in his van. When I got to the motel, I was told to go down to the hospitality room by the pool.
Why? Well, the motel was full and so were the other ones around. The manager, perhaps thinking of the Holy Family, decided that this less holy family was going to find room in the inn. So she put us up on mattresses thrown down on the floor in that hospitality room beside the pool. What a gift. When she wouldn’t charge us for the room in the morning, my wife pushed a hundred-dollar bill into her hand.
It was a great kindness she did, especially as we had to replace that blown tire. By the time my wife and kids were pushing off, I was sitting in the front office of the tire place. Doug, the genial owner of the tire place I was sitting in, had found at least four of the kind of tire I needed but told me I only really needed two—though I had told him if he thought I needed all four I’d buy them. Considering my story, he had bumped me to the head of the work order that morning and was reminding me that I really needed to check after fifty or six miles to make sure the bolts on the new tires were staying still. “I may never see you again, but I don’t want you to die.”
We didn’t. And the rest of the trip was much less, well, catastrophic than it had started out. Even the catastrophic parts, from the vantage point of a few days, seem both charming and funny because of that American hospitality. It’s true that America has some incredibly serious challenges. But if you can make it outside the Beltway and the Superzips, you’ll find, as I did, that your friends and a lot of ordinary Americans you haven’t met yet are very generous people, ready to help out a family in need on the road. They’ll do it with smiles on their faces and concern in their hearts that you don’t die because you didn’t check out the bolts on those new tires.
David P. Deavel is an Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas (Texas). A senior contributor at The Imaginative Conservative, he is a winner of the Acton Institute’s Novak Award and a former Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. With Jessica Hooten Wilson, he edited Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in the West (Notre Dame, 2020). Besides his academic publications, his writing has appeared in many journals, including Catholic World Report, City Journal, First Things, Law & Liberty, and The Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Gettr @davidpdeavel.
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