Murika the Beautiful series #5

Today, we have replaced the farmer working in the field with the weekend warrior battling dandelions. Dandelions illustrate our clash with the land. Homeowners will spend small fortunes on flowers to beautify the garden and then spend even more money on poisons to kill the flowers that grow for free; all in the pursuit of an artificial ideal. The physical landscape we create can be a force that affects our memory. What we see can change the very nature of who we are, and the way we see the world around us is as much a product of the world as it is the force that drives our interaction with it. As we change the world around us we change the way we remember the world. It is an endless cycle of cause and effect.
The American Century, the period following World War II, saw massive increases in the wealth and population of the United States and was the turning point when America became the dominant power in the world. Increased government spending for the war effort funneled money into the private sector, revitalized the manufacturing sector of the economy, and funded the GI Bill. Without this funding for veterans to buy new homes, the development of the suburbs might not have occurred. The country wasn’t just wealthier. The wealth was broadly distributed in American society.

Murika the Beautiful series #4

People have always endeavored to meet their needs, wants, and desires, and to create a world that reflects their values. We are surrounded by the artifacts of these efforts. History is filled with the visual artifacts of mankind’s values. The reshaping of the environment might be the most significant of these artifacts. What do the physical changes we have wrought in our constructed environment say about us? By studying
the march of suburbia across our land and the social and economic forces that powered it, we can understand our contemporary culture.
Human interaction with the land has long been an important factor in the social and economic history of the United States. Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were agrarians whose philosophies were influenced by economic theories of the Physiocrats . The Physiocrats were Eighteenth century French philosophers who believed that all true wealth originated from the land and that an economic system could be based on the value of an individual’s labor. Their beliefs of the central importance of land influenced the Founding Fathers’ view of the importance of private property and the sovereignty of the individual.

Murika the Beautiful series #3

Contemporary America is steeped in nostalgia, consumerism, conflict, and contradictions. We live in a time of change, shifting ideologies, changing cultural norms, and the eroding of traditional pillars of power. A time when people fear communication because it may lead to conflicts over differences. This has led to an ever-expanding, divisive society intolerant of conflicting points of view. How did a society constructed on innumerable ideologies, one that once lovingly and enthusiastically referred to itself as a melting pot, a place where differences where embraced and valued, degenerate into the divided society of today? My research has been directed at finding and understanding the forces that has led us to our current state.

Murika the Beautiful series #2

A better metaphor would be one that invokes the suburban landscape, a landscape that proliferated during the era following World War II. The economic importance of the suburbs is reflected by the increasing numbers of Americans that live there. The suburban demographic has become extremely influential in national politics and policies. Because of its social and economic impact on our society, the image of the suburban landscape as a symbol of America has no equal. Nothing represents today’s America better. We have become the society of McMansions surrounded by weed-free and artificially green lawns. A society where personal comfort is more important than the cost of that comfort.

Murika the Beautiful series #1

In 1980 President Ronald Reagan invoked both Christian and American history by referring to the nation as “a shining city on a hill.” The phrase originates from Jesus’s description of the ideal Christian society in the Sermon on the Mount. Puritan leader John Winthrope, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, also used this phrase in a speech to the first colonists. American leaders have a long history of equating American actions with Christian morality. President Reagan carefully chose these words to portray the nation as the epitome of a prosperous society based on Christian values. The romantic image of America as a beacon to the world dominated the 20th century, but this imagery no longer pertains to what America has become.