“Why Are You Here Then?”

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Photo: Jenny Holmberg, June 2019

“But you are still here, aren’t you??”

She looked at me triumphantly, and almost hatefully I thought, but maybe that was just part of the moment’s vibe in the train car we were gathered in, some eight people or so hanging out together as we were traveling through state after state on our way east. Right at this moment we had been standing still for a few hours though, somewhere along the Mississippi River – flooded and sort of scary to see. For almost the whole day, before getting stuck, we had been passing by drenched fields and houses, with the water sometimes reaching all the way up to the rails.

So far we had had a pleasant trip together, for almost two days now. Sitting in the panorama car, also the “lounge car”, sometimes talking to each other and other strangers, sometimes just looking out the window for hours in a row, admiring the landscape. But in one way or another…we had just started talking about politics. And that’s what people say you shouldn’t do, in certain circumstances, right? It’s hard to avoid though, these days, isn’t it??

I don’t remember how it all started – but something someone (it might have been me!) mentioned about universal health care I think was one part of it. We were all unhappy with the current political climate, that much was easy to understand. But even so, it quickly turned out that we all had very different worldviews and perspectives on basically everything. And even though I have had a lot of practice in “Listening” this year, some things that were said (or more, shouted) in the discussion that flared up, I couldn’t just sit and, well, listen to. So I went in, tried to ask what specifically one person really meant with this and that – only to get basically screamed at back.

There is a sentiment here in the States, I’ve noticed many times, that this country is the best place in the world, and that basically every person no matter from where would want to come here and live, if only they could. That the US, with all its flaws, is still, The Paradise on earth (I’m also aware of that this might be the case for other countries’ residents as well, including Swedes’ notion about Sweden 🙂 ). And, as I listened and listened, I also gently (or, not so gently perhaps) mentioned that that maybe is not really the full truth. That there are places in the world where life is different and many times “better” too, for many people, than here. And that’s when the person turned to me with sharp, burning eyes, asking me why the heck I was here then, if that was really true.

So I told them why. That I am here because of love. The love for another woman, to be more specific (sometimes I hesitate to add this particular piece of information, if a situation is uncomfortable in a way that makes me feel safer not adding it. Sad but true). This reply sparked some cheers and even an applause from the UNO-playing couple down in the corner, and smiles from some of the other fellow passengers. I think I even got a high five 🙂

My “opponent” remained silent though. I think we basically hit a wall in our little argument right there and then. They probably still think this country is the Best Country In the World – in aaaallll ways. And always. They also probably still think that the current persident is performing “socialism”(???), which to them also equals fascism, if I understood them correctly (so, a clear example of how we were in agreement with not agreeing with the current president…but how our agreement to that is based on very different thoughts and ideas).

I don’t know. I’m still practicing the listening thing I wrote about earlier. But then, sometimes it’s not the time to just listen, but to speak up. One late afternoon at the Southwest Chief somewhere on our way to Chicago seemed like one of those moments…but I’m not sure anything was “gained”, at all, really. A few hours after all this we arrived to Chicago, left the train behind us and continued on our different routes. With very different memories of this same afternoon, I’m quite sure. Unfulfilling…and just another day in the world, I guess.

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