When we arrived in the USA we were still dazed and sad about losing Luxy a few days earlier. We decided that the best place for us would be with good friends while we waited for the car, and we had booked our flights right through to Las Vegas. After 28 hours, we were at home in Vegas with Alpha, Christine’s good friend of 28 years where we happily stayed for the next 7 weeks. I won’t go into too much detail on what we did for all that time, but I sure kept myself busy being the handy man around the house, fixing what ever I could get my hands on and Christine cooked many dinners, including some Kiwi favourites which went down really well. Alpha really did make us welcome and she allowed us to befriend her two wonderful cats Marmite and Enzo (and Odie the dog of course) which really helped us to get over the sudden loss of Luxy.
After our first week in Las Vegas, we woke up to the sickening news that a mass shooting had occurred less than 10 miles from where we were. Some of Alpha’s good friends, including a very close friend, were at the event and the husband of one of her friends was a victim. We had slept through it all but in the middle of the night, Alpha, who is a nurse, was called into her hospital to help attend to the injured. All the area hospitals took injured people that night and for the next week, it was all people were talking about. The day after the shooting the streets were all but empty and it was very, very, strange. That day flights were suspended except for Federal agencies coming to investigate and every available rental car in Vegas had headed out of town. Events were cancelled and a big area all around the shooting was closed off. When you take out all the visitors, Las Vegas is actually a small place by USA standards, in fact not too much bigger than Auckland. Take out the 800,000 visitors that arrive every week and it’s like a ghost town. That was Vegas for around 3 days until everything started to open again. As for the investigation, it was news for a week or so, then when everyone started to realise this guy was just a complete nutter it went quiet. Theories exist about other gunmen and shooters from other buildings, but nothing has come from any of it. As for guns here in the USA, it’s happened. People will never give up the ability to be armed so forget even trying it at the moment. So what, if people want to have guns? So what, if they even want to carry a gun around? But assault rifles… everyone knows that is completely ridiculous. Somewhere along the line they were approved for hunting use and now some believe that it’s in fact dangerous to be hunting with anything less. “got to be able to stop that Bear before it gets you” sort of thing... I don’t think it will change any time soon. When it became clear it was just a crazy shooter who had a collection of guns people just shrugged and life moved on. Its everyone’s right to have guns and every now and then some of those people have a bad day.
When we were in Vegas and doing some shopping, we chatted to an attendant. We usually get asked about our accent and it often leads to a chat. This chap (maybe mid 20’s) asked a few questions about New Zealand and we touched on our political leaders then he came up with a real strange question along the lines of the USA being the only democracy in the world? Interesting that someone would even consider that thought, what with the internet in his pocket and all, but over the next month I got to understanding why. With news outlets constantly make statements like ‘leader of the free world’ and ‘the USA is the richest nation on earth’ and the only ‘truly free nation’ some might start to really believe it. Also has a bit to do with the fact that the current president here is new to politics. The rest of the world is constantly in shock at what he says and what he is doing. The way he has placed his family in various positions of authority, the policies that will benefit his circle and his constant lack of diplomacy on the world stage. Fact is, if he had spent a few more years as a politician he would have learned to hide and twist things much better and President Donald Trump would in fact appear like a lot of the ones before him. It’s staggering to see the level of unchallenged lies about BOTH sides of the political field that are quoted by so called experts on the TV news channels. Add this to the current epidemic of fake and misleading news that’s all over social media and you get some young North Americans not truly understanding global events at all, but would be willing to deploy to a foreign nation to fight for ‘freedom’ because their president said it was at risk… (oh and you can keep the gun when you get home).
After we travelled through Africa and were witness to and read about the corruption at every level of the public service and government, we have really had our eyes opened to this and to be honest, we have been a little fascinated by how it all works. The police officer taking 1/3rd of the posted fine as cash with no infringement written up can’t do that for long before the boss catches on and either stops it, or asks for his cut. The way we were approached for bribes quite openly many places in Africa would indicate that the boss didn’t stop it, so it must have worked its way up the chain. By the way that some travellers discuss various countries on line and in forums and the hassle with being asked for bribes, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that somewhere a politician is being paid to not address a situation that is known about all around the world. So, for corruption to flourish it needs assistance from the highest office. Both of us were taught how to spot the signs of this sort of activity when we worked in the bank and it was easy to understand the justification people give themselves when they live in a very poor country, but we didn’t expect to see as much corruption as we are seeing right here in the USA. In fact, the level of it is staggering and completely open. They call it Lobbying. Lobbyists are employed by an interest groups of any sort or corporation to discuss their clients’ needs with the law makers and politicians and to see if any agreements can be reached. Sounds harmless enough until you see the results of this. How can a politician stand up for a platform and what they believe in and were voted in on, then when it comes time for the senate or congress to vote, all of a sudden, they have changed their minds? The turnaround can be staggering and clearly, they have been ‘bought’ in some way. It’s still corruption and really no different to what we have seen in Africa just bigger numbers and more important people doing it.
We have been sort of forced to pay attention to the US political situation because 7 out of 10 people we meet in the USA want to discuss it with us and of course its all over the news all the time. Its hard to avoid it. I have started to ask people not who they voted for but just if they voted at all. Over 45% of people eligible to vote, didn’t… but 100% of people have an opinion. I don’t normally have much interest in politics as it my belief that very, very, few people enter politics to make a difference. I believe most are more interested on the power, authority and the fortune and fame it may give them. The few that really want to make a difference don’t last long and will be toeing the party line before long, or quit. I’m getting old and have seen it too many times for it to be isolated cases. I also don’t like to get into discussions about politics, but here I am, 1400 words into a political rant. I promise this will be the last you hear from me about politics.
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!