I find more interesting a Wall Street Journal article on the decline in Rest Areas. This is a case of budget woes accelerating a trend already in place. I particularly liked the insight that there are no poets or historians of rest areas like there are for Route 66 or other icons of our automotive past. Google for Route 66, and the site just linked comes up first. Search for Rest areas and you get a list of rest areas. (I am amazed that a Wikipedia entry did not come first in either case.)
Later this summer, we will be taking a trip down to Texas and Oklahoma to visit relatives and old friends, so perhaps it’s natural for rest areas to be on my mind. It’s actually been several years since we took an extended car trip. It’s something we used to enjoy, and I will be curious to see how much we still do.
Perhaps we will also get a sense of the mood around the country, or at least along our route. There’s a lot of pain out there, and governmental stimulus, to the extent that it can help, is, at best, just beginning to arrive. The old rule of thumb that it takes at least 9 months for government spending to impact the economy seems not to have been superseded by the Obama administration’s attempt to move faster. (Or perhaps it has moved faster, and the situation would have been much worse without it. That’s a truly scary thought.)
Bad times are pruning winds. Closures like this one, a skating rink in Rice Lake, might have happened anyway, what with changes in taste and demographics. Still that it happened now is due to the recession, and it’s a community loss, as the comments below the story suggest. Multiply that by hundreds and thousands, and you have these times.
The theory is that, despite the mess, the pruning creates new opportunities. To continue the image, the sun hits the ground through the broken limbs, and new things can grow. But this wind is looking more like a series of hurricanes, breaking the good as well as the bad. There is no rule that the market will lead us to a better life. It has not taste, no morals, no sense of justice. In good times, the wealth that following the market creates makes these flaws acceptable, and people love the Invisible Hand. In bad times that acceptance changes. That’s why people support government intervention in bad times, even though they know that government is far from perfect either.
There is still much good here, in this country. This cover story about two upcoming fireworks displays in Rice Lake is a reminder of the joy that most of us share in this country. Standing out in the night air (hoping that the mosquitoes are not too bad) and watching and sharing is free. And the fireworks are about more than light and noise. They are also, always, about hope.
The hard grind of the present, and the growing sense that hard work won’t be rewarded isn’t going away. There are no guarantees that the belief in work rewarded won’t go away for good; hence the title of this piece. It refers to Rudyard Kipling’s poem that balances his love of country with his understanding that its time could pass. I reject many of the values that Kipling celebrated, but I share his sense that even at our height, some modesty is in order. We are learning about modesty these days.
Still, the 4th is about exuberance. And wherever you are and however you do it, celebrate what is good in this country, whatever you perceive that good to be. Take care, and have fun.