Often in the bitterness of political debate, we expose our provincialism. Sometimes it comes in the form of: If you like the way things are in (fill in the blank), just move there. It’s the old “America, love it or leave it” routine.
George Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And perhaps we can add: Those who live with blinders on are also sure to repeat their and our mistakes or make new errors. And one of the best ways for Americans to remove those blinders is international travel. By experiencing what other countries do, we can learn that there are better ways to do things — if we’re open to them, of course.
I’ve alluded to this observation before, especially after a 2013 visit to England and Paris where I rode intercity and local public transit. While many of the Brits think their rail service could be vastly improved, compared to what’s happened in the United States, intercity rail travel is excellent. On the continent, France, Spain and Germany showcase high-speed rail. None of those countries have military budgets as large at the U.S. war machine. Changing our priorities will be a long time coming, but being aware of how we could be better should provide some motivation and national soul-searching.