After one professor suggests strip malls are closely tied to the ills of global capitalism, one conservative’s response is to fire back at urban, educated elites:
Because Deneen cannot wring meaning from big-box stores and six-lane roads, we are meant to assume that no one can. But this elision of any distinction between personal aesthetic preferences and objective universal laws is as empirically false as it is politically problematic. As a happy son of the suburban Midwest, I can personally attest that plenty of good people have little difficulty finding much to worship and be thankful for, no matter what they drive or where their kids’ toys were constructed.
Erudite, comfortable people are always so bemused that middle-income Americans could possibly opt for a suburban life of cars, backyards, and affordable goods. The alternative, of course, is an urban life spent waiting for buses and watching the erudite, comfortable people enjoy boutique brunches that they will never be able to sample. For millions of our brothers and sisters without PhDs, the parking lots and mini-malls that Deneen dismisses are sites of real grace and meaning. They are places where paychecks are earned, conversations are shared, and the sanctification of even mundane work can transpire.
While there are some interesting conversations to have about how spaces shape social life (think of the differences between the strip mall and the urban street with mixed uses), this particular response simply falls into an argument pattern that has been around at least 60 years. When a critic attacks the suburbs, someone is bound to respond that middle Americans seem to like the suburbs and the pretentious of the elites prevents them from seeing the good side of suburbs. And, this often devolves into name-calling and generalizations, elites versus average Americans, city dwellers against suburbanites, about morality and community life. Does this get anybody anywhere?
In other words, this is nothing new.