I value learning from people who think differently. A lot of people seem to value cultural exchange. Probably the most different place from the United States I’ve visited is North Korea, twice.
I grew up equating flying with travel and the only way to explore other cultures. Now that I’ve stopped flying, I see how I had made myself dependent and ignorant by a practice (flying) that is destroying cultures, homogenizing the world.
I still want to learn from people with different backgrounds or who think differently. I’ve shared at length how much cooking seasonally and locally connects me with people from other places far more than going to restaurants of other cuisines, which are increasingly homogenized and homogenizing the world. Likewise with many other parts of culture, like movies, books, music, sports, and more.
The more I stay local, the more I find people who think differently, effectively from cultures as different as the places nearly everyone who talks about flying to learn about other cultures (admittedly a low bar for Americans). I can find diversity within biking distance if I want to. It costs almost nothing, like fare for commuter rail if I take a train. I learn more about the world. I don’t wreck people’s (and wildlife’s) health and safety by polluting as much.
A friend in New Jersey hinted in conversation about guns, which led me to share my one-time experience at a shooting range in Houston, Texas on my train ride back from Los Angeles five years ago. One thing led to another and I got invited to his range with him, my second time firing a gun.
Here are my results. It’s possible you may think my aim wasn’t bad, but the target was maybe ten yards away, so not that impressive.
The culture of the people at the range, at least of the few people I interacted with, was as different from Greenwich Village and NYU as the parts of India and China I’ve visited are from New York City. If anyone wants details, please ask.
One thing led to another again and I got invited to a benefit dinner the range was hosting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. I told them I was happy to go and looked forward to meeting people there, viewing it as a cultural exchange, but I couldn’t see myself paying the dinner fee to Trump’s organization. They were wonderful and discounted my attending with my friend a good deal.
So I went. Here’s one of the sheets for the fundraiser part of it. In a silent auction, people could bid on items starting with a Walther PPK gun. I spoke to a bunch of people and enjoyed meeting them all. They weren’t that far from people all over America, but were different than the majority of people I see in Greenwich Village. Some of our conversation I think Greenwich Village people would not tolerate, even people who would describe themselves as especially tolerant.
The event began with the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem (music only, for some reason we didn’t sing it), and Amazing Grace in honor of people in uniform. I don’t think I’ve attended an event that began that way in decades. Baseball games would come closest.
I had to catch a train back so couldn’t stay to the end of the event. The friend I went with knew the range’s owner. We spoke to him on the way out. He said he had seen Donald Trump himself enter the building and go upstairs, which I found almost unbelievable. On the one day I happened to visit, he’d be there? The next day I saw the former President had been arraigned in Manhattan that day, so it would make sense he’d return to Bedminster.
People tried to figure out how to invite Donald Trump to the event. If anyone wants the story, ask, but I missed out. Since I had to catch a train, I left. The next day, in the thank-you email they sent attendees, they included this picture showing Donald Trump did attend. The four people in the picture below are the ones I spoke to on the way out. Had a stayed longer, I would have met him in person too.
Apparently, I had been about ten yards from him. I understand his rooms were above the ballroom where our event was. I can’t believe I missed meeting a former President in person in an informal occasion.
Since then, last month I took another trip with my friend to an outdoor rifle range with a longer a distance. Here are some pictures with me, I guess you could say practicing my Second Amendment rights.
I contend I’ve experienced comparable travel experience and cultural exchange as most trips most people take when they fly, yet I spent little more than train fare and hardly polluted. Anyone could get as rich an experience also without harming innocent people (and wildlife) as flying or even driving.
Come to think of it, yesterday I went to a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in the Bronx with a Puerto Rican friend. There’s travel opportunity a plenty without flying, polluting, and homogenizing culture.
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