By Christopher Cudworth
Those of us who run and ride hundreds if not thousands of miles on America’s roads know the difference between a good road and a bad road. We’re intimately connected to the earth. Grounded you might say in contact with the manufactured surfaces of the various roads we ride and run.
No one knows the roads better than us. Not even the people who asphalt and pave and pour concrete. Nor the folks who come back later pouring tar into cracks to create tarsnakes. Much less the people who return even later to pour even more tar on the road and spread pebbly gravel over it in those horrendous patch and seal operations.
Cyclists and runners traverse it all. We see how roads work and how they slowly decompose. It starts the very day the road crews finish their job and drive away. Rain falls. Heat comes. Cold heaves and cracks the surface. The weight of traffic bends and stretches the road surface. Cracks form. Grooves deepen. A road is not a static thing. It is a living thing. It requires care and attention.The worst result of road neglect is potholes. They start small and can expand into gaping depths that vex everyone who approaches. Some roads get so badly potholed there is not much road left to travel. One must slow and steer around the deepest problems or risk a flat or a soaking wet running shoe. Among cyclists there is much bitter joking about roads such as these. “Watch out for the good road,” I’ve heard my companions jest.
The good road. It’s all so symbolic isn’t it? Truth be told there are people who seem unable to decipher good road from bad. Worse, they simply don’t care whether a road is good or bad as long as they can drive around it somehow. They’ve got other things to do than worry day to day about whether the roads we travel are good or bad.
Yet they’re the first to bitch when something bad happens to them on the road. They love to blame others for the problems. Yet they’re so busy moralizing over the fact that they have to pay for the roads and actually have to share the road with someone riding a bike that they can’t seem to understand what causes cracks and potholes in the first place.
It’s them, you see. But they seem themselves as too holy for that cause and effect.
I met one such man on a rural road who got out of his truck to yell at our group for slowing him down. “I pay taxes!” he yelled at us. As if that were reason enough for him to disobey the call to yield to cyclists signaling and turning left. He’s in a car. We’re on bikes. Somehow we’re breaking the American social contract by not acting exactly like him.
See, people can’t be expected to focus on good roads or bad when they’re convinced they have a better idea about how to use a road than you. It’s become normal in American political life to deny and ridicule people who need or want to travel roads for purposes other than those defined by selfish reasons. God Forbid a poor person should actually walk to work along one of America’s roads. You can hear the voices inside those luxury vehicles castigating the pedestrian carrying a plastic grocery bag with their lunch on the way to work.
“Get a car! Jesus, I hate poor people!”
Hence the election results of 2014. The selfish have won again. Now they’ll want to tell us the road ahead is holy, when in fact it is only holey.
Into the potholes of life will be cast the rights of those whose gender or orientation do not match their idea of a straight road. The tarsnakes of religion will vex the wheels of all those who do not abide by conservative Rules of the Road. They will even attempt to dictate the flow of traffic when it comes to who deserves to use the apocryphal roads. We’ve seen this literally happen in New Jersey with so-called Governor Chris Christie, who shut down roads to punish his political detractors. Like so many of his ilk, he thinks he’s King of the Roads. So you see how this works.
That literal event carries so much symbolism for what it will be like now that Republicans control both the House and the Senate. We’ll now be led by the likes of Mitch McConnell who swore, against his true oath of office, to undermine President Obama any way he could. Obstructionism. Blocking the road to progress.
We’ll all have to move aside for the likes of Paul Ryan who on one hand claims religious foundations for his worldview while bragging about the fiscally existential philosophy of Ayn Rand on the other.
They’re a confused, desperate and zealous lot. They hate the road you choose to travel if you disagree with them. They’ll run you over if you get in their way. They’ll cry foul if you don’t jump out of the way. They will not Share the Road.
In fact they will ignore the nation’s infrastructure needs as they have done for decades by refusing to pass legislation to repair our nation’s bridges and roads. To them, every social or political problem that does not match up their road map of corporatism and favors for friends is a patch and seal deal. They do the bare minimum because they while they serve in government, they don’t believe in it. Essentially they’re always, eternally driving down the wrong side of the road, playing chicken with all those who dare oppose them.
Then they put up traffic signs. You had better obey them. “Let’s move on to abortion, and gay marriage. And let’s keep busy telling women they already earn enough money. Those are the real problems of society.”
They’ll also attempt to defund the good roads of Medicare and Social Security, insurance programs that provide for the health and welfare of the elderly. They’ll be casting millions of everyday people to the side of the road as well. Because when it comes to health care, they answer to only one constituency: The people who pay for their election. They’ll vote to defund the Affordable Care Act. They’ve already done it about 50 times.
It’s like they’re a mad trucker going coast to coast with a load of manure they’re eager to dump on the President’s desk. “Pass this or we’ll bring you even more of this shit,” they’ll say. The President will of course veto all their crap. Then they’ll blame him for raising a political stink in Washington.
During all this they’ll claim they’re on the right side of the road because their “tradition” tells them they are “doing the right thing” by slashing budgets and ignoring those in need. They’ll remain beholden to freaks who think guns are the law of the land. They do not care if thousands and thousands of people have been killed on American soil by gun violence. More Americans have been killed by gun violence than all the American soldiers killed in wars on foreign soil. Yet they’ll tell you that guns are the source of peace in America. That’s the same as running you over with a truck and then backing up to make sure the tire tracks show.
It should be clear that their so-called traditions are not on the right or holy side of the road. But in order to remind these “holier than thou” Republicans that they do a shit job of real morality, let us consider this parable from the Bible that shows us how and why it is right to act in good conscience. And how to treat others down the road.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”