Ready for another American Dream
Extended quote from Allison Arieff’s opinion piece, The American Dream: Phase II (NYTimes):
We’ve built more houses than we’ve needed — and built them farther away from jobs. This has led to longer commutes, which has created more traffic. In response, we built more highways, increasing fuel consumption and, as transportation planners acknowledge, doing little if anything to reduce traffic. It’s a vicious, seemingly endless cycle, and at its core is the notion that the American dream can exist only within the framework of the single-family home on a large lot.
Indeed, we’ve become so fixated on this as the sole delivery mechanism of that American dream that we’ve spent a disproportionate amount of our collective energies (home-) improving it without considering meaningful alternative visions — or devoting at least a smidgen of attention to what’s outside the front door or down the block. Everything in our culture today reinforces this idea of home as castle (or fortress) rather than home as part of a larger whole (i.e., neighborhood). We need to find our way to the latter view, and part of that means finding a better way to talk about it.
The good news is that more and more people are.
Let the reactionary cries of “you just want to change everyone” and “our rights are being taken away!” of the faux-libertarians begin. Really, I don’t see the worry–there are still plenty of champions of sprawl (OakGov) seeking subsidies and externalizing costs (Atlantic Cities) to prop up their
dream “growth Ponzi scheme” (Strong Towns).
Personally, as a Gen X’er, I thought the American Dream meme evaporated a long time ago. I’ll take another stab at it though if it avoids the hyper-individualistic-consumerism pitfalls of the previous version. If it’s based on “what can we do to improve community as our home?” I’m all in.
by Arcade Fire
They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small
Can we ever get away from the sprawl?
Living in the sprawl, dead shopping malls rise
Like mountains beyond mountains
And there’s no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights