Thursday, April 21, 2005

Civilization and its Contents-I

"You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."
George W. Bush, to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005
After you get to the airport 3 hours early; after you battle your way onto a sky bus; after you sit in a tiny seat for 10 hours; after you eat strange, plastic tasting food with plastic utensils; after you finally get there and out; you can look back on this country with a different eye. And, what you see at that point is devastating. In the city of Vienna, Austria, there is almost nothing to suggest that America is what George W. Bush thinks it is, the dominating player on the world stage. It is true, there are probably a half a dozen McDonald's, a Burger King and even a TGIF, but the cars on the street are all European, or Japanese. There are few American magazines on the newsstands. When one finds out that you are from this great country, the most common reaction is pity, or anger. So, I decided to look across the ocean and see what we really could offer as American Civilization.

Firstly, we should consider bricks and mortar. After all, when one considers the Mayan civilization, their pyramids are about all that is left. The Egyptians and the civilizations of Southeast Asia also seem to be known for their ruins. But I don't see anything in America to rival these architectural wonders. Skyscrapers just don't do it. The monuments of Washington, D.C., are paltry compared to those of, say, Vienna. We have added little of lasting interest. But, you might say, neither has England. I guess we could argue about it. But certainly the solidity of a civilization only seems to create paradoxically a sense of distant emptiness when viewed from centuries in the future. Again I would refer you to the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Central America. I don't think that it is in the now defunct World Trade Towers that we will find our apex, as iconic as those structures have become.

to be continued....

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