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Friday, November 12, 2004

Exburbs - Utopia

On Nov 9. David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column about the exburbs. Exburbs are communities that have been developed in isolated areas often around a corporate campus. It is a self sustaining community with low rise office complexes, homes, strip shopping centers and chain restaurants. Brooks article is about how Bush clean up in these communities. But he also seeks to explain why people move here.
On the one hand, people move to exurbs because they want some order in their lives. They leave places with arduous commutes, backbreaking mortgages, broken families and stressed social structures and they head for towns with ample living space, intact families, child-friendly public culture and intensely enforced social equality. That's bourgeois.

Today I'm back reading the letters to the editor and there were 5 on this article. Here are some samples.

There is nothing utopian about the exurbs. They are without public space save the shopping mall parking lot, their people do not saunter, the landscape is uninspiring, neighborhoods are often gated, and there is no place to assemble for protest. The exurbs are isolated from diversity, removed from the conversations of the world community and free from the sight of poverty, homelessness and class division. -Michael Oman-Reagan, New York, NY

So Republicans won in part because they courted voters who preferred to move away from society's problems rather than face and fix them? -Jonathan Carey Astoria, Queens

The responses are more interesting than the article. Both letters could be dismissed immediately because I doubt either writer has been to an exburb to see for themselves. Our experience with native New Yorkers is they have no clue what living anywhere else is like. This is interesting because living in New York City is different than living anywhere else in this country.

But lets dig deeper. First my experience. I grew up in Clear Lake City, a suburb of Houston, TX. But it could be argued that it was an exburb because we lived there because my dad worked at NASA and while I was growing up, most residents worked in Clear Lake for the space industry. As Clear Lake grew into a suburb, ie more commuters moving in, more subdivisions were built. All of these master planned communities included parks and public space. The assumption that there are no public spaces is absurd. I won't touch the "protest" arguement.

The assumption of people moving away from the problems of society is a bit of a reach. My wife and I live in the Upper West Side, but we have no kids. When we lived in Dallas, we also live close into the city center. Both locations we loved. But, when we want to have a family we can't afford to stay in the Upper West Side. It is easy to accuse me of moving away from problems of society when we move back out to the suburbs or back to Texas when we have kids, but it is not true. We would love to stay here with a baby, but can't afford it. I see nothing wrong with moving to a location that will provide an easier life to my family.

Just because you live in the city doesn't mean you are not escaping from the ills of society. This is classic city snobbery. It is just as easy to ignore the homeless man as to never see the homeless man. Mixing with different people of different social and economic backgrounds is only a positive if it changes the way you act. As far as diversity of thought, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live, has less diversity of thought than I have ever experienced anywhere I have lived. The exburbs are probably more educated than any other area and I'm sure have very intellectual conversations about world events. I know in Texas we have to put up with liberal rich Yankees telling us how to do things, so why wouldn't this be the case in other exburbs? New Yorkes love to think they know everything about how one should live, but they don't necessarily practice what they preach, nor do they have a clue about what they are talking about.


MOR said...

Actually, I'm more a country boy than Bubba. I grew up in a little mountain town in the country. I was born and raised in a red state. I only just moved to NYC a month ago.

I've lived in rural America in the west and the south, I've lived in urban America on both coasts, I've lived in Denmark, France, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and more. I bring this up to point out the the provincial city perspective doesn't work.

Bubba, perhaps you should post David Brooks article also, the one I was responding to. Also, here is the end of the letter as I originally sent it:

These protectionist enclaves voted for a president who sells himself as a champion against two groups least likely to be found in the exurbs;terrorists and gay people. David Brooks is rightly impressed by Karl Rove's ability to manipulate the fears of the uninformed exurbanites.

Best Regards,
Michael Oman-Reagan

MOR said...

P.S. where you describe groing up, that's not an exurb, it's a suburb.

Bubba said...

bigot - One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or POLITICS and is intolerant of those who differ.

MOR, the article is linked, so I did post it.

Second, you have not claimed to have lived in an exburb, but claim to know exactly how it is and how people that live there think. I missed on assuming you were a New Yorker, could you possibly be wrong?

Who is the bigot in this picture, the exburb residents or the liberal left who don't concede defeat in a Presidential Election because they have no respect for others views. I guess it is easy to justify your own righteousness by calling others names, whatever helps you sleep at night.

MOR said...

You seem to be having a conversation with yourself. I never called you a bigot, nor did I call exurbaintes bigots.

And what does any of this have to do with conceding an election?

Sorry, you've gone so far off topic into hardcore spin that you've lost me. Perhaps you should apply for work at Fox News.



MOR said...

P.S. take a look at Geography Of Nowhere: The Rise And Declineof America'S Man-Made Landscape by James Howard Kunstler. I think you'd find the history of the suburbs and the exurbs very interesting. There are a plethora of text in the field of environmental psychology about suburban and exurban voting behaviour also. You might find it interesting that the working class suburbs are actually starting to vote in line with the cities as they become more diverse and populated with working class people. I could go on, but I'll let your curiousity decide the limit of this investigation.

Bubba said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bubba said...

It is the assumption that the exburbs are full of homo-phobes and if they were only just more informed than they would see the world the way you do. They don't care about poverty or any other social issues because they are safe in their gated communitites. These are the assumptions you are coming to in your letter.

Some people come to different conclusions in life, based on different backgrounds, etc. It does not make their opinion wrong or stupid as you imply in your letter. In my opinion if you are not willing to respect a view other than your's, that is intolerance. This conversation all stems from the election results. If Kerry had won do you think you would be complaining about how exburb residents voted?

Finally, you have not answered my question, have you spent any time in an exburb? You claim to know exactly how they think.

Timmy said...

I live in Murfreesboro (which is considered to be an exurb of Nashville). What is interesting about Murfreesboro is that is growing to the point of becoming its own city. There are five Krogers (with plans of building a 6th Kroger) within Murfreesboro and two Super Wal-Marts (with plans of building a 3rd Super Wal-Mart).

Also Murfreesboro has at least public housing areas comprised of mostly low-income families and induviduals. There is even a service called Inner City Ministry.

I wonder if other exurbs have inner city areas.

Anonymous said...

Kind of strange that you immediately assume I've never been to an exurb. I grew up in Dutchess County in definite exurbs--where big homes displace farmland. That's not suburbs. It's exurbs. The Poughkeepsie area was recently named one of the typical exurban centers by the Brookings Institution, and my hometown is one of the countless exurban areas around Poughkeepsie. I'm not a big Brooks fan, but I prefer to write letters on the facts and on what's written instead of dismissing his writings as mere speculation. You should do the same.

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