Over the Thanksgiving weekend we rented the animated film “Cars”, which, like all Pixar productions, was excellent. Something about the emotional feel of the movie, however, has had me pondering about many a political and/or blog discussion.
Central to the plot of “Cars” is the story of the small towns on Route 66 that became ghost towns overnight when the Interstates opened. As one character says, “Bypassed to save ten minutes.” The movie, and even more the director’s commentary, spoke of an entire lifestyle lost.
The interviews of the people who lived along Rte. 66 were poignant- but it struck me that they were oblivious to the fact that Rte. 66 and her sisters had themselves been the death knell of another way of life, the passenger railroad.
“Good morning America, how are you?
Don’t you know me- I’m you’re native son.
I am the train they call the City of New Orleans;
I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done.”
A further bit of irony is that Arlo Guthrie and all the others (like my wife) who lamented the passing of the railroads were just as oblivious to the fact that they, too, had destroyed a way of life- the Stagecoach lines. The first generation of ghost towns in America were created by the railroads who didn’t need to stop for food and water as often as the stagecoach; wide-spot-in-the-road towns were “Bypassed to save ten minutes.”
It struck me that this was a basic principle to many an argument. Don’t like WalMart because it drives under the local supermarket and department store? Well, that same supermarket had shed no tears for the single purpose green grocer, butcher and baker it had driven out; the department store had no pity for the single purpose haberdasher, tailor, toy store and appliance dealer it replaced. Worried about losing the manufacturing base? Those factories didn’t worry about the smithies and cottage industries they ruined. Shedding a tear for that historic downtown theater, restaurant or bar that’s closing? I’ll bet you don’t know or care what had been bulldozed before to build it. Worried about the “browning” of America, because our immigrants no longer come from Northern Europe? You’re probably not as worried as the Native Americans had been about the “Whitening” of America.
We cannot allow public policy to be driven by this generation’s nostalgia; change has occurred in the past and will happen again. It’s only natural to fear the future- as both Shakespeare and Captain Kirk have said, it is “The Undiscovered Country.” Ways of life will in fact be lost; we must face that- as our forefather had to. If we allow ourselves to be guided by any principle other than the greater good, we betray mankind for nothing more than a very temporary extension of our current comfort zone.
P.S. If anyone is keeping track, this is my 100th blog entry!