Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 12:57 AM EDT
Contributed by: B' Spokes
And in recent days I’ve written about the new greenway along Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek. Not a few people have told me how they hate to see the “waste” of public money on things like the greenway’s stone bridges (actually, that stone is inexpensive molded concrete), public art and the rockwork clock tower (clock donated by the Rotary Club). It’s as if people here are so unused to places that celebrate the public that they think it’s wastefully lavish for a public park to hold anything nicer than cinder-block buildings and utilitarian metal bridges.
You’re probably wondering how these things – voice mail and airline travel and parks – are related. To my eye, they all illustrate something about America today: Americans have stopped believing that value is something everyone deserves.
We’ve stopped valuing workers. The country apparently no longer believes people who work hard deserve wages that pay them enough to afford the rent or a modest mortgage, or deserve a pension to keep them from penury in retirement. We’ve stopped expecting those things from employers – or at least they’ve stopped providing them. We’ve even stopped valuing public schools, stopped expecting them to have mowed lawns and drinking fountains that work.
What we value, instead, is cheapness. Rock-bottom prices. Low taxes. So we get tomatoes that taste like crunchy sponges, but at least we don’t pay a lot for them. Instead of percale bedsheets made in the USA we buy sheets made in countries most people couldn’t find on a map, with seams that dissolve within weeks. We buy food with no taste, clothes that unravel and appliances we have to junk after five years. Our public schools have knee-high crabgrass. People get hacked off if our public parks look better than pesticide factories. But at least they don’t cost us too much.