Friday, September 10, 2010

car talk

During the seven years the Iraq War lasted (so far), the U.S. suffered 4,400 combat deaths, a terrible price to pay for prosecuting a meaningless war to an ambivalent conclusion. How much more meaningless, then, is the daily carnage on our streets and highways, which took 34,000 lives in the U.S. last year alone?

The good news is that the yearly death toll for 2009 is the lowest figure since 1950, when there were far fewer cars on the road. This means that cars are safer today than ever before, streets and highways better engineered, and drivers held to higher standards of behavior, especially with regard to driving while intoxicated.

But it's still an unacceptably high and unnecessarily steep blood sacrifice we choose to make in order to remain slaves to the automobile. Despite the petroleum age clearly coming to an end, as extracting this non-renewable resource daily becomes more difficult and hazardous, the supply more precarious, and the daily dose more expensive, our society remains in bondage to our four-wheeled servants, with our newest cities, suburbs, and neighborhoods continuing to be configured for car dependency rather than walkability or access to public transit.

This state of affairs is imposed on us by law in most places in the U.S., where the aberration of single-use zoning is the norm. That's because some very large, very powerful economic interests are making mucho diñero by maintaining the status quo, and aborting any changes in the configuration of American communities which might naturally be expected to occur because of changing conditions. This is Capitalism 101 in its simplest and most fundamental form, and if it kills you, you have the satisfaction of knowing you will not have died in vain; your name will appear on the roster of citizen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for BP, Halliburton, and the maintenance of our "free" (ha ha) enterprise system.

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