Friday, June 05, 2009

Subrubia Is Swell

What's so great about living in the suburbs anyways? It might be a nice place to raise a family; the streets are quieter and assumed, safer. The houses are roomy and allow for personal space. The yards are large, rather private, and nice for kids to play in.
The schools are often better (depending on tax base). Suburbs generally have convenience shopping, can be walkable, and, in the case of Homeowner Associations, there is a certain level of control that exists in how homes, yards and space is maintained.
But America's suburbs, like much of the rest of our country, are homogenized. The ubiquitous fast food emporiums are draws to busy working parents. Play time for kids is often confined to Gymboree establishments that promise play, music and fun - and can be compared to every other Gymboree across the country.
Life in the suburbs is convenient, and if a family finds that it needs to relocate for one reason or another, to hop from suburb to suburb is not so different or alien.

Life in the suburbs is mundane. Culture is non-existant on a real level. Oh, each suburb may have a town center, with an art gallery or two, fabric shop, craft store (more chains), an intimate little dining establishment.

One can be certain that life in the suburbs will throw few 'curve balls'. In other words, there won't be too many surprises. If the suburb is chosen based on socio-economic factors (and most of them are), the potential resident is apt to find a suburb which leans towards their own religious, political, and financial mores. Neighbors will live in a house just the same as the next house; they will attend church in the community; children will all attend the same schools; and most of the residents will vote for the same candidates.
There will be very little in the way of independent thinking.
Perhaps this is desirable to the parents of young children who wish to shelter their kids from the "big bad world" and the people who live in it. It is easier to control your children's direction when you can control who they see, where they go, what is available to them. Safety for kids is great when the children are young. But without independent thought, without outside challenges to their morals, their beliefs and their education, how can we expect those same kids to grow into self sufficient, innovative, creative, adults?

Growing up in a large city presents so many risks for young people. I remember the first times I saw, or was the target of, a "flasher", and the response of my parents when I inquired about the motives of such a person. I also recall living across the street from a city park where community theater, art classes and physical activity were available to me each day. I learned to ice skate at a city park, I learned to play softball, I was in small theater productions, I created mini-masterpieces in art class. I also recall growing up knowing that a number of my neighbors were 'gang members' who hung out at the park at night. These were often the big brothers of our neighbors; and contrary to what one might think, these same gang members were often the people who looked out for us littler kids.
I developed a unique sense of independence as a kid being able to ride city buses.

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