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Tucson Opinion: What I found on my 4,200 mile road trip thru 'red' states
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Tucson Opinion

Tucson Opinion: What I found on my 4,200 mile road trip thru 'red' states

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

It seems that you can’t read a newspaper or watch the news today without seeing a column or story that speaks to the political division in our country.

It’s easy to grow weary of the vitriol and finger pointing by politicians and of some in the media who fan the flames of this divisiveness. As a daily news reader, this was on my mind as I took off recently for a solo road trip of 4,200 miles covering states and communities around our nation that I’d never seen, most of which did not necessarily align with my own politics.

I visited cities small and large, like Tulsa, Lexington, Montgomery, Vicksburg and Mattoon, Illinois. Given our daily exposure to politics I was sure the divisiveness reported to us would be palpable. What I found instead was a beautiful and wonderful country that showed me we have much more in common than that which divides us.

Over two weeks I met and spoke with retail and restaurant workers, janitors and security guards, rental hosts, horse farm workers and museum docents among others. I found them to have a joy in living and working, and a pride in their communities.

I encountered folks eager to share their state or city history and in wishing me a pleasant stay. After a couple days on the road I turned off the news and podcasts and really looked at the scenery and cities I was passing through.

I listened and learned from a horse farm guide in Lexington, Ken. whose knowledge and passion about thoroughbreds was remarkable. I met residents of Montgomery who wanted to make sure I saw the highlights of their city. I spoke to a security guard who was bemused by my trip.

Not once, with anyone, did the conversation turn to politics or that our country was divided. Instead we spoke about the love they had for their communities.

I walked through the Greenwood District of Tulsa and that history flooded over me. I visited the civil rights museums in Montgomery and found docents concerned that I was really fully understanding the history these beautiful buildings displayed.

At the Memorial for Peace and Justice I met college students who were the docents at this stunningly beautiful yet sobering reflection on racial injustice. They wanted to make sure I soaked in the full impact of the history of injustice displayed there. In Vicksburg I visited the civil war battleground so elegantly preserved as a reminder of the cost of our violent division of the 1860s.

I returned home to Tucson with a different vision of America than when I’d left. It’s people are good and honest, warm and welcoming. I feel better about our future.

Rick Unklesbay is a retired prosecutor and news junkie.


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