My friend Nicole sent me a sharply-written little commentary about how giant chain stores continue to eat up our smaller towns and turn them into ugly little strip-mall wastelands, devoid of variety and character. We both grew up in a little town in Arizona which is slowly becoming this sort of Big Box scene, sucking the local businesses dry, even those which have been around almost 100 years. Yeah, you can argue that it’s all about business and competition and what consumers want, but when the very soul of your town is being swallowed up by this homogenized corporate non-culture, I think it’s worth the effort to stand up and say “no” to these retail thugs. More and more towns are doing just that, but it’s still a huge struggle when they’re faced with choosing between their town’s identity or new job opportunities, even if those jobs don’t pay much or might not last as long as expected.
Do you want to know what depresses the American spirit? Do you want to know why it feels like the center cannot hold and the tyranny of mediocrity has been loosed upon our world? Do you want to know what instills more thoughts of suicide and creates a desperate, low-level rage the source of which we cannot quite identify but which we know is right under our noses and which we now inhale Prozac and Xanax and Paxil by the truckload to attempt to mollify?
I have your answer. Here it is. Look. It is the appalling spread of big-box strip malls, tract homes like a cancer, metadevelopments paving over the American landscape, all creating a bizarre sense of copious loss, empty excess, heartless glut, forcing us to ask, once again, the Great All-American Question: How can we have so damned much but still feel like we have almost nothing at all?