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Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Cars Drove the American Dream to Nowhere, U.S.A. [Huff Post]


Americans love their cars. I'm not entirely sure whether this bond was forged out of some vague sense of American individualism or perhaps was simply the offspring of our nation's industrial genius, but it is indisputably a part of our national character. Maybe the car is so beloved because it is the legacy to our pioneering history -- the idea that anyone can hop in the Chevy and go almost anywhere, especially since Americans hold the concept of social mobility so dear. From any perspective, owning a car has become an indispensable piece of the American Dream.
However, our love affair with automobiles doesn't come without a cost. Many problems have come to be closely identified with the ways in which we use our cars, which has included everything from the damaging pollution of our environment to frustrating traffic backups in major cities to tragic levels of vehicular homicide caused by drunk or reckless driving. In my opinion, however, America's infatuation with cars has produced an even more devastating consequence: the degradation and demoralization of civic life in our towns and cities. I argue that this single, particularly insidious outcome of American car culture is, in many ways, the ultimate source of a whole slew of societal ills that plague us today.
When was the last time you really walked somewhere? If you're like most Americans, you probably spend more time going up and down the stairs in your house each day than purposefully using your legs outside to get from Point A to Point B. Most roads aren't safe for pedestrian travel anymore, and there are several reasons for this. But, most importantly, people don't walk anywhere nowadays because there's nowhere to go.

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