At the Lincoln Memorial, beneath the text of the Gettysburg Address, there is a room with an elevator and a door. In this room, while waiting for an elevator that never came, I noticed a sign for the US National Parks Service:
“That’s interesting,” I thought, “Native Americans and bison.” Two groups that my ancestors hunted to the brink of extinction. Yet, today they symbolize the preservation of our wild frontier.
After I made this connection, the looming text of the Gettysburg Address started to feel like a grand contradiction. This speech was given almost three decades before the Wounded Knee Massacre that finally ended the American Indian Wars. When he gave the speech, Lincoln made the bold claim that the phrase, “all men are created equal,” applied to enslaved people, but he made no mention of the other war out West.
Instead, he said that “our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty…” It was an incredible proposition (and it’s a remarkable nation), but our forefathers needed a clean slate for this new, great nation. So they drove away all signs that this wasn’t a new or completely pure endeavor.
Native Americans were quarantined to the remotest sections of this land-rich nation. Today, many residents of the reservations live in poverty, many desire cultural and traditional significance, and many long for the places of their forefathers.
This world wasn’t new when America was founded. Freedom wasn’t truly extended when the Civil War ended. Today, we are living the dreams of Europeans that took a chance.
The rest is complicated/history.
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.
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The summer after my sophomore year, I interned at Partnership for Smarter Growth, a non-profit in Richmond devoted to containing the sprawl and reinvesting in the core. During this summer, I discovered a vocabulary to help me define what it was about new cities that I didn’t like. “They’re just not cool,” I thought in high schoool, “and there just aren’t any people.” After the summer at PSG, concepts such as connectivity, the human scale, walkability, mixed-use, access, density and others began to shift my mind to what we called “smart growth.” I have always been an advocate of smart growth, I just never knew what to call it
This perspective is why I found the graphic for this weekend particularly moving. I stared at these two pages in disbelief. I had found the origins of what I guess you could call “dumb growth” in Richmond. I don’t want to make it personal if you live on a cul-de-sac … it’s not about that it’s about how the city functions as a whole. During the 40s, Richmond embarked on a planning process to move the city into the twentieth century. As a part of this proces, the planning firm, Harland Bartholomew and Associates, developed this “bad/good” depiction of urban forms. Over sixty years later, many people are still busy working to undo the spirit of this graphic and its affect on the American city: curvy roads, culs de sac, congested arteries, and a general disconnect between most segments of metropolitan society.
On May 31, 1950, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a cartoon titled “They’ll Do It Every Time.” I guess the “bad driver” trope was the 1950s alternative to the “captive wife.” It’s pretty self explanatory:
On Nov. 2, 1951, Citizens for Traffic Relief ran a political ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch titled “Why Are Freeways Built in Cities?” This ad was purchased in anticipation of the second public referendum related to the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike (which failed). It reads,
This as was especially interesting to me as a child of Texas. Looking back 60 years it’s amazing that it seemed like a good idea to pattern Richmond’s regional development after a city like Houston.