Saturday, May 30, 2009

P.J. O'Rourke on "The End of the Affair"

Thanks again to Ed Garten , who pointed out to me O'Rourke's elegantly written and thoughtful article that appeared in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. Here is the link for those who want to read it.

O'Rourke's essay should be read not only by folks who lived the love affair with the automobile during the 1950s and1960s, but also their children who continue to wonder why Dad loves a car more than Mother! O'Rourke pulls no punches in this essay, and here are a few choice quotes:
"Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn't a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses."
O'Rourke goes on to discuss horses and horsepower and the significance of mechanical power, which elevated our status, enabled us to be cool and "ennobled us." But subsequently, Americans moved to the suburbs, where the mundane tasks we pursued unwittingly turned the object of desire into an appliance. But despite this dilemma, we chose the car, the car didn't choose us, and perhaps there is a very faint hope on the part of O'Rourke that we can still choose to keep it in our hearts:
"But cars didn't shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We're way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy's lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren't forced to surrender, we were able to retreat."
O'Rourke doesn't like what he sees right now happening to the automobile industry and the American automobile. Ultimately, what he fears, is the loss of freedom and liberty, orchestrated by pointed-head government bureaucrats and green environmentalists who are taking away from us something distinctly American. And here he is right on, for as long as Americans are on wheels, no government can monitor and control us adequately. The car remains our freedom machine, and hopefully we will stand up to keep it that way.

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