Hi. These pictures were taken on Saturday 12 November 2005, except for the last one. After a two-month delay caused by Hurricane Katrina, I was finally able to, in the beginning of November, move into the apartment near the school where I was working.
So, although all but the first picture presented here were taken back home in bayouland, we start our day in Haaaarvaaaaeey.
A Hopper Car And Geopolitics
Before heading back to the homeland to get more of my stuff, I made a check by the track in East Harvey, and I found this, about which I have plenty to say.
First, it is very rare that I deliberately photograph graffiti in ways that focus on the graffiti. My ideology on the matter is something positioned between what I perceive to be two extremes on the matter. On one side, almost exclusively occupied by people for whom the term “railroad enthusiast” would be a misapplication, I often get asked something to the effect of, “oh, do you photograph neat graffiti on railroad cars?” Merely being asked this question perturbs me, as it probably does for the hardliners – almost exclusively railroad enthusiasts – who take an absolutist position on the matter, thinking that any documentation of railroad graffiti is tantamount to glorification of vandalism.
Obviously, by the mere facts that I took the above picture and, a decade later, posted it to this site, I am not an absolutist on the matter, but I greatly sympathize with the underlying idea of the latter position. I agree that it is vandalism, I disapprove of it and wish that it would stop, but vandalism can be art, and art can be vandalism, and the particular message on this car, I just felt like documenting for whatever reason that might be related to what I shall explain in the following paragraphs. Anyway, I support all enforcement of vandalism laws to stop graffiti, and I sympathize-to-the-point-of-agreement with the idea that photographing and publicizing graffiti generally only serves to encourage the practice.
There is something that I want to write on the matter of the subject of the message of the graffiti, however; I suppose that the degree to which I agree with the message depends on when it was written. If it was written prior to the invasion in 2003, I agree 100%; if it was written thereafter, things become complicated.
As I write this a decade after the pictures were taken, the topic of what to do in these foreign policy situations is resurfacing, and there is still difficulty in discussing it, as those who do discuss it seem to be limited by loyalties, either of ideology, party, or even family.
That the 2003 invasion was downright wrong and foolish, among many other critical things that you could rightly say about it, became somewhat irrelevant once the invasion already happened; yes, knowing that it was wrong – and why it was wrong – is very useful in determining how to deal with future conflicts, but the damage was done in Iraq. John Kerry was a lousy and wishy-washy candidate for President, but I don’t think that that alone explains his electoral failure in 2004 in a time when there was plenty of anger against George W. Bush at the time. An important underpinning of my argument here and in the next few paragraphs is that such an invasion would – and, as we know, did – cause great destablization in the region, something that any serious policy planner should have known.
The 2004 election was, I think, too soon after the invasion for “we shouldn’t have invaded in the first place” to not be a part of any question asking, “well, what are going to do about it?” This is why Bush’s 2003 invasion was both unpopular and, paradoxically, simultaneously, a way that he won re-election! I suspected then and I still suspect now that a large part of the “we shouldn’t have invaded in the first place” crowd voted for Bush anyway simply because Kerry didn’t seem to be a credible alternative, even though Kerry probably got plenty of votes from that crowd do, including some Republican defectors; many voters angry with Bush for launching the invasion still knew, perhaps subconsciously, that pulling out then would have caused even more problems than invasion caused.
To a much smaller degree, I think that Barack Obama has this problem too, and I’m not talking about how his election to the Presidency can be largely attributed to the overreach of his predecessor, even though that is a worthy topic. Colin Powell said something to the effect of “you break it, you own it,” with which I totally agree. I suspect that Obama’s effort to get US forces out of Iraq was largely driven by a “we shouldn’t have invaded in the first place” mentality, but while I totally agree with the premise, we had a responsibility to at least attempt to stabilize the place before we left, or at least determine how feasible doing so would be; I’m not saying that he did not do that (as I am not in a position to know), since one could have studied the problem and realized that it would take several decades, large occupying forces, and tens of trillions of dollars, and just decided that it wasn’t worth it, but I still get the feeling that the decision to leave was at least partly determined by this artificial timeline-of-leaving idea and of the “we shouldn’t have invaded in the first place” mentality.
Despite the unpopularity of his actions, Bush won re-election because his opponents could not credibly answer the question of what they would do about his mistake, with many voters knowing, even if subconsciously, that a quick withdrawal would cause more problems than the invasion itself caused; it was a classic wolf-by-the-ear situation.
Think of the saying “you can’t cry over spilled milk.” To hear some of these anti-war people speak, it’s as if they are saying, “we spilled the milk, and we should not have spilled the milk; therefore, we’re not going to clean up the milk!”
Am I wrong to be disappointed that none, it seems, of our leaders can successfully hold both of those thoughts in their heads simultaneously? Is it too much to ask that our leaders openly recognize that we spilled the milk and still commit to cleaning up the milk to the degree that it is realistic?
Back To Pictures, And Of An Actual Train
Well, I made my way to bayouland that night, apparently to get more of my stuff. Shortly after 16:00, I got this train at Horseshoe.
Apparently, the engineer is a tobacconist, and the conductor appears to think that I am the paparazzi, or maybe he’s just trying to get the sunlight out of his eyes. In any case, I worry about how pressured the conductor was made to feel like he should relent to the engineer’s smoking in the cab; if the engineer has seniority and if the conductor is a newbie, it’s totally plausible that that conductor was pressured into accepting the situation, but nobody should have to tolerate that (literal) garbage.
Let’s get’em at Chacahoula.
I think that, despite the solid CSX power, this is a BNSF train; most foreign power here is on UP trains.
I get to Berwick, and it is time to learn something, time to learn about doing a horizontal telephoto shot of the bridge, realizing that it cuts off the tops of the bridge.
Well, that’s all.
The next morning, before I returned to Whoadieland, I got this shot of the Mountail Laurel 14.
I didn’t want to make one blog article with only that picture, hence its inclusion here.
That’s all for now.