We Heart Cars

We Heart Cars

Something I know, but don’t think about until reading/watching something like this, is our ridiculous obsession with cars in this country.

We love our cars.
We name our cars.
We sweet talk our cars.
My mom would pat the dashboard of our ailing Dodge van as it struggled up a hill and say “Come on Bessy. You can do it.” And who could forget our favorite carmance: between Kitt and David Hasselhoff in “Knight Rider.”

(Gosh. I almost got weepy when he said, “You OK buddy?” )

In California, the American car-obsession finds its fullest flower. As an undergrad, I briefly lived and worked in Los Angeles. No one I worked with could believe I was using the bus to get around. It became clear the only people who took the bus were the very poor or the very crazy. I became both.

Back in the Bay Area, I’ve watched a group of teenagers across the street spend hours adding huge wheels and spinning hubcaps to their Acuras. One kid down the block must wash and detail his car at least twice a week. Cars in California have gone far beyond a mere necessity and turned into an identity. An appendage. A badge.

Oakland has “Sideshows“, LA has “Carmageddon” and San Francisco has art cars:

We may be obsessed.

And like all obsessions, it has a dirty underbelly.

Pollution–and the ubiquitous California smog–is a given. (Regardless of how many hybrids cars we buy. Or how smug we feel driving them…)

The smog takes on an even dirtier quality when you start researching allegations that Ford Motor Company bought out railroads and streetcars in order to force people to buy more cars, effectively destroying what used to be a robust public rail system in this country.

And then there is the issue of how many cars driven in the U.S. were built somewhere else. And how many American motor plants are closing down.

And finally, and most disturbingly, how our reliance on the oil to fill these cars has spurred/contributed to/justified/caused how many wars? How many deaths?

We are literally running other people off the road. And it’s not too sexy.


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