Ayn Rand Rides D.C.’s Metro

Washington Metro train leaving Union Station Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (
AP Photo/Gene J.Puskar

Though Ayn Rand’s abilities as novelist have been praised by everyone from actress Anne Hathaway to the late professor of aesthetic theory John Hospers, critics on the left often suffer from Ayn Rand derangement syndrome, unable to give her a hearing as an artist or a thinker because of her assertion that she was a “radical for capitalism.”

Probably the novel that upsets them most is Atlas Shrugged. And the scene that gets them going is one where a train tunnel collapses, after a variety of new and contradictory bureaucracies, regulations, and Presidential edicts leave the industry imploding. Harper’s magazine was fuming about this scene just two years ago — 60 years after the novel was published!

This year our Nation’s Capital has seen the subway system (Metro) that transports lobbyists, political staffers, and federal bureaucrats to work every day, shut down for weeks for repairs, experience electrical fires, and reveal a wannabe ISIS member among its employees.


So I’ve rewritten and re-imagined the liberal-maddening train scene as follows:


As the tunnel entrance before Union Station came closer, just after the Red Line train left the NoMa platform, the passengers saw, at the edge of the sky far to the south, in a void between the buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue, a marble dome glowing through waving branches of cherry blossoms. They did not know which monument it was and did not care. The monuments represented America’s dark past, when people held a haughty and delusional belief that the United States was an exception, a beacon to the world of some outmoded notion of liberty.


It is said that catastrophes are a matter of chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Metro were not responsible for the thing that happened to them.


The woman who had entered at Takoma Park, Maryland was a chief of staff for a famous Senator who argued that individual ability is of no consequence, that “you didn’t build that,” that individual effort is futile, that everything is achieved collectively, and that it’s the community that counts, not individuals.


The man who had just entered the train at the NoMa stop hosted a National Public Radio broadcast daily covering new genres of music in African countries or the shrinking numbers of rare insect species in South America, but never mentioning play-for-pay corruption of a leading Presidential candidate, or the current President’s tax funded importation of unvetted refugees from terrorist-torn regions, or the growing poverty, unemployment, or inequality the President’s policies had caused.


The woman from the Rhode Island Avenue stop was a retired schoolteacher who had spent her life denouncing the evils of “privatization,” opposing giving parents any choices about where or how to educate their children, instead turning class after class of children into dolts and cowards, the latter by teaching them that the will of the majority is the only standard of good and evil, and that a majority may do anything it pleases, that they must not assert their own personalities, but must do as others were doing.


The man from Glenmont was a magazine publisher who believed that men are evil by nature and unfit for freedom, that their basic interests, if left unchecked, are to lie, to rob and murder one another — and, therefore, men must be ruled by means of lies, robbery and murder, which must be made the exclusive privilege of the rulers, for the purpose of forcing men to work, teaching them to be moral and keeping them within the bounds of order and justice.


The Silver Spring passenger was a businessman who had acquired his business, a company that made green appliances — that without subsidies would have been prohibitively costly — for yuppie lofts that had sprouted in Washington, D.C. round every new METRO stop — full of lawyers, lobbyists, and highly paid bureaucrats, displacing the city’s original working class — with the help of a government loan, under the Obama stimulus package, that had been passed to repair crumbling infrastructure. But appliances were redefined as infrastructure because he was a major campaign bundler.


The man from Wheaton was a financier who had made a fortune by signing contracts with companies in blacklisted terrorist-funding states and getting his friends in the State Department to grant him waivers to do business with them.


The man from Brookland was a union officer who believed that he had “a right” to a job, whether his employer wanted him or not. He’d pushed Metro to fund lavish pensions, and rewarded the politicians who supported that. He figured taxpayers and Metro riders would cough up the money to take care of deferred maintenance or better security eventually, and that was their problem, not his.


The woman on her way home to her Lincoln Park Victorian was a lecturer who believed that any poor person in the world had a right to be fed and housed and educated in the United States at taxpayer expense, since America’s wealth had been stolen from the third world, and not created by visionary entrepreneurs. She didn’t believe the presence, among the refugees, of some people who wished to commit violence against her country, excused the United States from its obligations or from the punishment it deserved.


The man headed to Georgetown University Law Center was a professor of economics who advocated the abolition of private property, explaining that intelligence plays no part in industrial production, that the human mind is conditioned by material tools, that anybody can run a factory or a railroad and it’s only a matter of seizing the machinery. He was returning from a wonderful winter sabbatical, an enviro-tourism vacation in a villa outside Caracas where his American dollar had stretched very far…though the staff seemed somewhat unfriendly, especially when they were bringing him his sumptuous lunches and dinners.


The woman from Cleveland Park was a mother who had her two children asleep in a Nuna Ivvi stroller beside her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband worked at the IRS auditing taxpayers active in dissident groups that opposed the President’s agenda, which she defended by saying, “I don’t care, it’s only the crackpot fringe types that they harass. After all, I must think of my children.”


The man headed to Bethesda, having taken the MARC train in from the Baltimore-Washington Airport, was a former Washingtonian, a former DC journalist back visiting from L.A., who now wrote premium cable TV scripts into which, as a social message, he inserted cowardly little obscenities to the effect that all businesspeople were scoundrels.


The woman headed home to Shady Grove was a civil rights lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security who composed memos instructing DHS, TSA, and FEMA staff not to discriminate against anyone in any of 25 — and growing — protected class categories. She had also served on a task force for the Metro Board making sure that the transportation system did not monitor the social media or political statements of its own employees, especially if they were recent immigrants from other countries.


The man headed to Friendship Heights was a lawyer who had said, “Me? I’ll find a way to get along under any political system.” And whose $3 million home proved to him that one could indeed do well by doing good.


The man headed to Rockville was a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland who taught that there is no mind: how do you know that the Metro has deferred maintenance? – no reality – how can you prove that the electrical arcing exists? – no logic – why do you claim that trains cannot move without motive power? – no principles – why should you be bound by the laws of cause and effect? – no rights – why shouldn’t you attach men to their jobs by force?- no morality – what’s moral about running a subway? – no absolutes – what difference does it make to you whether you live or die anyway? He taught that we know nothing – how do you know so-called “tyrannical” systems are inferior to ours? – that we can never be certain of anything – how do you know you’re right? – that we must act on the expediency of the moment – you don’t want to risk your pension do you?


The man heading to Woodley Park was an heir who had inherited his fortune, and who had kept repeating, “Why should start ups like Uber be allowed to disrupt things and make billions overnight?”


The man headed to Dupont Circle was a humanitarian who had said, “Successful people of ability? I do not care what or if they are made to suffer. They must be penalized in order to support the disadvantaged. Frankly, I do not care whether this is just or not. I take pride in not caring to grant any justice to the able, where mercy to the needy is concerned.”


There was not a person aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas. As the Metro train went into the tunnel, the glowing sunlight off the memorials on the National Mall was the last thing they saw on earth.


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