America in 2021
We travelled for four and a half months in the summer of 2021 in an RV through 17 states throughout the heartland of America. We travelled from Indiana through Illinois and Iowa to South Dakota where we stayed for three weeks, then onto Wyoming where we stayed a week, two weeks in Montana, a week in Idaho, two weeks in Utah. We drove through Nevada and down the Vegas strip before literally stepping foot into California, which was about as much time as we wanted to spend there. We then spent a week in Arizona, two weeks in Colorado, two weeks in New Mexico, three weeks in Texas, drove through Louisiana, a week in Arkansas, a week in Mississippi and a week in Tennessee before returning to Indiana.
We learned that, in general, Americans are still united and eager to help one another. Nearly everyone we met was friendly, particularly in the RV spaces, but that's always been the case with RVers who tend to look out for each other. While political and media forces are working overtime to divide Americans by race, by class and by culture, Americans soldier on. To be sure, Americans are an extremely diverse group of people, but we are held together by our core values and principles. As near as I can tell, these core values continue to hold true with all but the most extreme, who are often manipulated and radicalized by the media, especially if they lack the life experience to understand that the narrative being pushed by the media is simply not reality.
We experienced worsening inflation on our journey, particularly in food and fuel prices, which are undoubtedly the result of government actions which expand the currency supply and reduce production. Despite this inflation, there were few homes on the market, and few vehicles for sale across America. What little supply exists is being decimated as people rush to buy assets that they hope will hold their value as the dollar continues to decline in purchasing power. This always happens during times of inflation throughout history. Large investors and corporate entities in America are buying farmland, homes, campgrounds, and anything they expect will increase in value relative to the dollar.
We saw hundreds of homeless people, especially in large population centers throughout the south including Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Galveston, Houston, and Memphis. However, in all of these locations, businesses were desperate for employees, with help wanted and starting bonus signs nearly everywhere you looked. Again, government's thumb on the scale makes it more profitable for many to beg than to work. This sad reality has the effect of sapping self-worth and a sense of purpose from those who choose that path. Inflation pushing up home and rent prices is also likely a driver behind this situation.
There were stark differences between red states and blue states as to how they were functioning in regard to their response to COVID-19. States like New Mexico, Nevada, and Louisiana were still locked down, with many businesses still closed, and mandatory mask requirements in nearly all public buildings. Federal facilities including national parks required masks in all buildings. In generally red states like South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, and Texas, you would be hard pressed to find evidence that COVID-19 was still a thing. The only evidence was when you would visit corporate stores such as Wal-Mart, which enforced mask mandates for its employees, but not with customers who would simply shop elsewhere if they were required to do so. And in some areas, employees and management would abandon corporate policy to go maskless. Don't get me wrong, I believe that initial actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 were noble when it was a very severe disease with no vaccine or treatment options, but as Delta and now Omicron variants become dominant, the severity is decreasing and everyone who wishes to become vaccinated has had sufficient opportunity to do so. Long term restrictions will continue to impact commerce and productivity, which we're feeling in many areas of the economy.
Our experience reinforced my belief that one's environment has a large impact on their political beliefs. The urban areas, which tend to be much more dependant upon one another, and on government, for their day to day needs and survival, tend to skew Democrat and generally have no issue following the orders of their political leaders and others they depend upon. Whereas rural areas are far more independent and less reliant upon others, especially government, for their day to day needs and survival and tend to make their own decisions and tend to skew Republican.
Admittedly, we did not visit areas where a larger percentage of the population have become radicalized in their beliefs to the point where they abandon American Constitutional principles, but in the areas that we visited, I believe that faith in American principles is still alive and well.