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DRIVING

Essay excerpt / narrative non-fiction

The midpoint of the 1,000 miles between the St. Louis and Connecticut suburbs is featureless Pennsylvanian farmland, save the cascade of billboards shouting “You will meet God!” Or another: “If you died today, where would you spend eternity?"


Conservative convictions to this effect appear at such a frequency they are soon just as mundane as the land they rise above. So I think little of a less ostentatious one in Bethel, PA -- whose Berks County went comfortably red on Election Day -- declaring, “God created you tenderly and lovingly.” Until I read the next line: “Transgender is humanism.”


In deconstructing this perplexing message, it would be easy to apply what David Foster Wallace called a “kind of standard liberal-arts analysis,” but the folly of the critical thinker is the same as the blissfully ignorant: we hold our own truths to be self evident, disregarding others’ subjective experience in the process. If we could instead be “just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about [ourselves] and [our] certainties,” Wallace said, we may reach the conclusion he did: This is all just water.


Hours of piercing rain later, I know I’m catching up to my past when the lady at a diner orders a cawfee. From Jersey to home, a sprawled-out nation gets tangled up in itself. New York City, a place I enjoy deeply but happily from a visitor’s distance, thrives in defiance of the chaos it teeters on. The sheer magnitude of human waste and energy generated within a compressed space shared by eight million is hope for a world of limited resources and unchecked growth.


This is what winning looks like. If it feels we aren’t, it’s because we weren’t prepared for the burden of victory.