I posted last week about my wife and I taking off on a mini-vacation over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I was a good escapade and we both needed to get away for awhile. The Tahoe performed well and to expectations. The winds were 15-20mph and gusts up to 25-30mph. The Tahoe, being a bit boxy, was bounced around at highway speeds. On the trip down, we had headwinds and our gas mileage reflected those winds. On our way back, the wind had shifted from the south to the north and we battled headwinds all the way home.
We watched the countryside and the towns that we passed through. It was evident that all were battling headwinds, economic and political headwinds.
It is not unusual to see boarded up buildings along the roadside. Abandoned gas stations have sprinkled the countryside since the first gas price spike in the 1970s. At that time, about every corner in town had a gas station, or a mom ‘n pop “gas and grub.” There are few, now, who survive. Today’s versions sport brand names like Quiktrip, 7-11, or Casey’s.
But today, more than just gas stations stand empty. Along the highways, in the towns, numerous modern office and light industrial buildings now stand vacant. These empty place still sport signs advertising auto repair, tires, used cars, and more often, layers of signs of a succession of failed businesses.
Missouri was and continues to be hard hit but there is a few signs of life. In Butler, south of Kansas City on US-71, a new Walmart is about to replace an older and much smaller building. The newer, larger facility will bring a few more jobs in an area already depressed. Further south, in Neosho and Pineville near the Arkansas border, the economy still survives as do the residents…damaged, yes, but surviving.
On entering Arkansas, the countryside appeared the same until we reached the larger cities of Rogers, Bentonville and Fayetteville. The depression is visible and obvious. Instead of a vacant building here, an abandoned business there, you have entire business and light industry parks empty with lease signs sprouting like mushrooms in the economic darkness.
These are not old office and industrial parks. No, these vacant sites are new and modern. Some in the final stages of completion needing only a bit of landscaping to be finished. They have been halted and now stand amid growing weeds and wind-blown debris.
There are no visible lines of unemployed men as depicted in fading photos from the 1930s. In this time of government welfare, they stay at home, or out in bars, and small-town cafes and diners. In many forms the unemployed today have a better life than those of eighty years ago but the feeling of helplessness and despair is still present.
Missouri and Arkansas, in past decades, were bastions of the democrat party. No longer. Now trucks and family cars sport decals and stickers say, “One and Done.” Other stickers are much less polite but just as vehement in displaying their displeasure with Washington and the establishment of both parties.
At one small gas station along the Missouri-Arkansas border, I noticed cars and pickups with Obama-Biden stickers crudely scraped off and new ones supporting various democrat opponents like Ron Paul, Rick Perry and others as replacements by the former democrat owners. The negativism against Washington, democrats and liberals run high and continues to climb higher.
Along with these anti-establishment sentiments is a strong suspicion that, seeing the proverbial writing on the wall, the democrats and liberals will attempt to thwart the election next year. A common sense of uneasiness is present if you watch and listen to those around us. A story about the Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving with the sales of guns being among the highest in recent years is apocryphal.
Whether for hunting or personal protection, the sales of firearms grows as does the growth of concealed weapons licenses across the country. The growing distrust of the government in Washington is widespread and not, as the state media would claim, only by the far-right. The country as a whole is shifting leaving those in government isolated and apparently uninterested of the views of the electorate.
We are approaching one of those periods that the Chinese have called, “interesting times.” No one can predict what will come but come it will. All we can do is prepare as best we can and work together to see that the election is unimpeded and fairly executed.