I just returned from a trip to Boston. While waiting for my return flight, I had breakfast at an Au Bon Pain cafe at Logan airport and noticed that the people working there consisted of a black woman, a white man, a Latino, an east Asian woman, and a South Asian man, all working together in seeming harmony.
This kind of scene, although superficial no doubt, always gives me a warm glow, a sense of what kind of world is possible, where we just don’t give a damn about people’s ethnicity or the other things that usually divide us and simply get on with our jobs and our lives.
But at the same time, I wonder whether other people might observe the same scene and be concerned that it signaled the end of an America that was predominantly white, and instead yearned to go back to the days when a person of color was an oddity. This seems to be the kind of person that is drawn to Donald Trump and the Republican party in general. What seemed to me to be an optimistic sign of the future may be to them a depressing sign of a vanishing past.
But Trump is right about one thing. In his speeches, where he rails about the terrible shape that America is in, he uses as an example La Guardia airport that he says is dirty and crumbling. Vice president Joe Biden has also described it as a ‘third world airport’, which is wrong since many developing countries now have gleaming modern airports and to be compared to them is actually a compliment.
I had not flown to La Guardia in decades and so when I changed planes there yesterday, I was shocked at how bad it was. It was clearly an airport that had not kept pace with the growth of traffic. It was gloomy and crowded and dirty and the system of shuttle buses to take you from one terminal to another was clumsy and required one to carry one’s bags up and down dingy flights of steps that looked like the emergency exit staircases in old buildings. America is undoubtedly struggling with having been first with creating huge airports, and what were once showcases are now lagging far behind.
It is not easy to refurbish an old airport that is so heavily trafficked but it can be done. When I arrived at Cleveland, the airport that once had a worn and drab appearance now looked spacious and bright and clean and modern, the result of an improvement scheme that was completed in time for the Republican convention in July.
There is no question that America’s infrastructure is crumbling, the result of decades of Republican-led efforts that see taxes as a form of government theft and seek to cut taxes and the size of government, allegedly to put more money in our pockets because each one of us supposedly is the best judge of how to spend it. We see the net result all around us, in the sorry state of the roads, parks, schools, libraries, water, sewer, and all the other services that governments now struggle to provide.