• 01 Nov 2008

    And so my flag and I have arrived.


    We spent this day at the National Mall surrounded by its memorials, monuments, and the sanctums to our three branches of government, each standing as testament to our greatest hopes and aspirations.  It was one of the most extraordinary days of my life and, concurrently, touched by the sadness that marks the end of a journey.  Worse, it meant attempting to comment on what it all meant to me.  I am a little scared.

    Here goes,

    Last March I read an article in the Village Voice written by David Mamet.  Not only am I a fan of his plays, but I also admire him as a highly ordered thinker.  You can imagine my consternation when I read the title ‘Why I am no longer a brain dead liberal’

    Mr. Mamet posits many things, but chief among them are,

    1. That our constitution in its very construct recognizes that man in inherently evil
    2. That corporations and the military complex can and do operate for the public good, and
    3. That larger government is always bad

    And with these revelations, Mr. Mamet rejects his former liberalism.

    Further, he cites the work of Thomas Sowell who, in his book  A Conflict of Visions, highlights two competing worldviews.  The first, the ‘constrained vision’ sees humans as flawed or fallen, and that they, operating within that ‘constraint’, will work to make the best of it.  The second, the  ’unconstrained vision’ puts no limits on the abilities of humans to improve. 

    Both of these incredible thinkers put forth the conservative movement as representative of the “constrained vision” and progressives as “unconstrained” (and, in their view, unrealistic). 

    But when I attempt to square my experiences of this last month with the above constructs, certain issues arise.  As I talked with people it slowly emerges that they are either acting in response to a perceived threat, or from the desire for things to be different.  But both occur on each end of the political spectrum. 

    So it seems that it may be less about an artificially defined ‘nature’ than it is about what motivates and informs our actions.  What was most significant for me was that there seems to be a direct correlation between the strength of the perceived threats and a willingness to accept, without question, party doctrine.  Even when that doctrine is on opposition to their self-interests.

    So what does it all mean?  At the risk of exposing myself for the unrepentant liberal that I am, this experience has shown me that, more than ever before, people are ready to move past the disproportionate fears that have enabled the policies of the last eight years (I submit the electorate’s response to the 2008 campaign tactics as a proof point). And yes, that the whole of the human condition can be better. 

    And so, in closing, I offer my final interview with thanks and deep appreciation.

    Julie McDonald

    Oh, and for my friends in California, please vote NO on Prop 8!  With love from the road, Julie

  • 30 Oct 2008

    If there was a more beautiful place on earth than the Shenandoah Valley on October 30, 2008, I cannot imagine where it could be. 

    It is testament that it took me over 20 minutes of searching Google images to find a photo that even comes close to capturing my experience today, and frankly, even this one falls short.

    It was almost as though nature was saying, ‘yeah I know I tossed you around a bit these past few weeks but, check this out’.

    Under stunningly blue skies, I made my way as slowly as traffic would permit through rolling hills blanketed in textured foliage.  The working farms and this region’s respect for their architecture simply completed the experience.  And God bless Virginia for banning billboards.  It was perfection. 

    Tonight I began the process of reviewing the tapes and attempting to put a context around my experience.  Tomorrow I will make my way into Washington DC and my hope is to share with you some final observations and thoughts.

    For now, I can only express my thanks for your encouragement, kind words, prayers and love.  They all made the difference.

  • 29 Oct 2008

    I am getting so close. 

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that at this stage of the trip, reflection becomes a bit of a preoccupation.  I find myself musing on the places and people who have touched each day. 

    The waitresses who steered me away from the soup I really wanted with the a simple raised eyebrow.  The garage mechanics who insisted on rechecking my tires just to ensure that I read the gauge accurately.  And the countless hotels clerks who kindly suppressed their shocked looks at the sight of me in my lovely yellow rain gear and a full day’s helmet hair. 

    But mostly, I find myself thinking back on all those people who stumbled on me at my lowest points.  Who, at once, recognized my exigency and selflessly responded. 

    Please meet Charley Cox.

    Charley was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Married twice, his daughter Natalie is an accomplished artist living in New York City.  Having worked for Peterbilt trucks, he is a master mechanic specializing in vintage and Boss Hoss Motorcycles.  The latter being a 1500lb specialty bike that you have to see to believe.

    A Boss Hoss is to a Honda Reflex what George Carlin is to Carrot Top.

    But I digress.  Charley joined the ranks of my roadtrip angels when I was working out backup plans to the weather.  He not only provided encouragement, he introduced me to the incredible motorcycling community in Knoxville.  And if that wasn’t enough, to ensure that I could make it to Washington, Charley personally provided a tow.  Simply amazing.

    Charley Cox

    And finally, courtesy of an email from my sister Debbie, please consider this wonderful piece from Bill Moyers on the importance of community and music.