Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Nowhere land

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/20/2005 11:42:00 AM


One thing that has puzzled me over the last few years is the growth of Christian fundamentalism in the US. Not so much among the poor and undereducated, the promise of a happy life after has always been a refuge for those who suffer here on earth, but among the well educated and affluent. Here in the Portland area where suburbs are fed by well educated tech workers we have seen fundamentalist churches grow into huge campuses with the parking lots overflowing every Sunday morning. Engineers with PhD's pack their families into the huge SUV and take them to hellfire and brimstone lectures every week. Something must be missing from their lives to draw them to 16th century mythology. A friend of mine in England sent me a link to this piece in the London Observer, Nowhere land, about the Phoenix Arizona area.
As US towns sprawl into the countryside, creating anonymous zones dominated by soulless malls...
"Anonymous zones dominated by soulless malls"; that sure sounds like most of the suburban sprawl to me. The suburbs have no soul, no sense of community. You have no neighbors, only people who live next door who you rarely see. Man is by nature a social animal and what is missing in the suburbs is a sense of belonging to a community.
What hits one first about exurbia is its ugliness. Laid out by competing developers, disparate 'cookie-cutter' housing developments (often christened with faux Wild West prefixes such as Vale, Ranch or Stable) wander into the distance, devoid of any master-plan. Self-contained behind electronic gates, each house seamlessly resembles the others in a conveyor belt of McMansions. Behind the walls, uniformity is enforced by a strict system of covenants, conditions and restrictions that outlaw individual alterations to homes and gardens.

Each house comes complete with garage-room for SUV and 'compact', while six-lane highways link the 'resorts' and 'communities' to the ubiquitous golf course and nearby freeway. Walking is confined to planned-out parks (to which one drives), while public transport is usually voted down by residents as either wastefully expensive or surreptitiously socialist.
This sterile lack of community is just as if not more painful than the suffering that results from physical poverty. The big house and all the technological comforts cannot give you a sense of belonging. While the poor may look to religion for an afterlife free from physical hunger the affluent suburbanite may be looking for an afterlife where they belong to a community.