America’s identity and problem can be expressed with a single piece of ?technology: our cars.
The car was an ?revolutionary invention. It changed where we could go and what we could do.
Imagine how difficult your life would be if cars didn’t ?exist.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, cars aren’t the best transportation choice.
With insurance, ?maintenance and gas, ?owning your own car is a huge investment. Plus, cars quickly depreciate in value.
Most cars lose 15 percent of their value each year. New cars can lose 10 to 20 percent of their value the moment you take them off the lot.
They’re also dangerous. One in 10,000 people die ?every year in car crashes in the United States.
People can be pretty dumb, and giving them full control of a 1,000-pound ?device that can go 60 mph is asking for trouble. Trains and planes are much safer, but we don’t use them for day-to-day travel.
Not to mention the ?damage cars make on the environment. Transportation accounts for 28 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas ?emissions.
I’m guessing that’s going to catch up with us later.
So why do we even use them?
What is so great about cars that makes us ignore their glaring flaws and gets us into those pricey death traps ?every day?
It’s because, for us, cars are more than just a way to get around.
They represent a ?fundamental freedom in American culture.
We use cars more than almost everyone else in the world. The U.S. has 786 cars for every 1000 people, the third highest in the world.
The way we developed cities with suburbs helped solidify the car as opposed to other modes of public ?transportation. But it’s more than that.
Cars are a part of the American psyche.
They’re a symbol of ?personal freedom.
When you own a car, you aren’t held back by time schedules and other people.
You can drive across the country in the middle of the night. You can go to a new city, experience new things. You can start something new anywhere at any time.
We value personal ?freedom so much, it has ?become ingrained in our ?social dynamic.
To take it away would be like taking away a part of who we are.
The open road is an ?endless possibility, a blank canvas for our lives.
And cars are the tools with which we write our own futures.
We like cars for the same reason we like guns and ?tobacco and fast food.
It’s a way to remind ?everyone that no one tells Americans what to do.
Cars might be bad for the environment, our lives and our wallets, but they give us something we value more. They remind us how sweet freedom tastes.
And as long as they do, we’re going to have a tough time giving them up.