Beyond Buildings


Going, Going, Gone: America Falls Apart

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This country is going to hell in a handbasket. That is something that people of many different persuasions can agree on. What is a matter of contention is the cause of this decline. I will leave it to others more competent than I to argue about taxes, fiscal policies, welfare and medical coverage, domestic and international security, and the various and sundry issues of great importance on which I do have many opinions. I will only note, once again, that the last vestiges of any dream of reinvesting in the great land that lies literally at the foundation of this country has disappeared off the political table.


Gone are the dreams of high-speed trains, though they might continue to work on them in California. While China builds thousands of miles of track and Europe makes it possible to move from one city to another with great ease, we rely on crumbling interstates and airports that are overcrowded and so ill-equipped that airplanes bump into each other and controllers nod off. We can’t even make a high-speed train between New York and Washington work well.


Gone is the notion that we were going to use the economic crisis to build a better America by investing in the things we all need, from better roads to better sewers and parks. The American Recovery Act is history. The value-engineered city is the future. It is called pure sprawl.


Gone are, I think it would be safe to say, better schools, jails, and other public facilities. The fights are about management and style, ownership and responsibility, not facilities. I realize that the bricks and mortar might be an afterthought, but for anybody stuck in the Sunbelt’s windowless schools or jails, which often look remarkably similar, these dungeons define one’s experience as much as the quality of supervisors.


Gone is the notion that we inherited this land with all that inhabits and grows in it from our forebears, and that we should be thoughtful custodians of this place. With everything from fracking to hunting wolfs, from removing environmental protections to failing to come up with thoughtful regional planning, we are destroying the space we inhabit.


Gone is a vision, most of all, of a better place. Even our Dreamer-in-Chief now only musters a thought of shared burdens and opportunities, not a vision of a better America that our children and grandchildren will inherit with pride and joy.


Gone is my suspension as I drive my gas guzzler though the potholed streets for lack of public transportation, gone are the schools that once stood so proudly in this community as beacons and engines of enlightenment, gone is Cincinnati’s plan for a streetcar, gone is my belief that this will be a better place.


I, for one, do not care what it costs, how much I will have to pay in taxes, or who runs it.



Comments (2 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 7:58 AM Friday, April 29, 2011

    The fault dear Betsky is not in our stars but in ourselves.

    Report this as offensive

  • Posted by: jmorschl | Time: 3:21 PM Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Great vent, I love it.

    Report this as offensive

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About the Blogger

Aaron Betsky

thumbnail image Aaron Betsky is the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in 2008 he was director of the 11th Venice International Architecture Biennale. Trained as an architect at Yale, he has published more than a dozen books on art, architecture, and design and teaches and lectures about design around the world. Aaron worked for Frank O. Gehry and Associates and Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates as a designer, taught for many years at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and between 1995 and 2001 was curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2001 to 2006 he was director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.