US just a “great post World War II McMansion”

I’ve seen McMansions compared to many things but not the whole United States as James Howard Kunstler argues:

That is, first of all, a place of far less influence on everybody else, in a new era of desperate struggle to remain modern. That fading modern world is the house that America built, the great post World War II McMansion stuffed with dubious luxuries in a Las Vegas of the collective mind. History’s bank has foreclosed on it, and all the nations and people of the world have been told to make new arrangements for daily life. The U.S. wants everybody to stay put and act as if nothing has changed.

Therefore, change will be forced on the U.S. It will take the form of things breaking and not getting fixed. Unfortunately, America furnished its part of the house with stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really was. We like to keep the blinds drawn now so as not to see it all coming apart…

Even the idle chatter about American Dreaming has faded out lately, because too much has happened to families and individuals to demonstrate that people need more than dreams and wishes to make things happen. It’s kind of a relief to not have to listen to those inane exhortations anymore, especially the idiotic shrieking that, “We’re No. 1!”

Others have got our number now. They are going their own way whether we like it or not. The Russians and the Chinese. The voters in Europe. The moiling masses of Arabia and its outlands. The generals in Thailand. Too bad the people of Main Street U.S.A. don’t want to do anything but sit on their hands waiting for the rafters to tumble down. My guess is that nothing will bestir us until we wake up one morning surrounded by rubble and dust. By then, America will be a salvage operation.

This is a typical “America is in decline and should wake up piece” with an interesting metaphor: the country is like a badly made, falling-apart McMansion that once glittered but now is exposed as an inadequate dwelling. Such a comparison does not come as a surprise from Kunstler who has criticized suburban sprawl for decades and would likely agree with Thomas Frank’s recent piece on giving away the American farm for a limited number of McMansions.

But, Kunstler doesn’t go further and then give us the more positive comparison. Should America be more like a stately renovated Victorian with its ornamental charms? Should we be like the pragmatic ranch or split-level home with a can-do spirit? Should we prefer modernist homes with sleek lines and the notion of the future? Or, perhaps we should all be living in a grittier or refurbished (depending on your income) mixed-use block in a denser urban area. What kind of house do we want America to be moving forward?

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