The SUV Issue Revisited

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Of course this issue never goes away.

In an interesting change of pace, I have been corresponding with one of the hosts of NPR’s “Marketplace,” after he asked me to appear on his NPR show to discuss the topic of SUVs, and those who hate them, and why.

In his preliminary questions, upon asking me about the Ford Escape, and whether or not that vehicle might change the perceptions of people toward SUVs, I wrote back: “absolutely not.” Why?

My answer was that I think the half-breed (and therefore “environmentally-friendly”) Ford Escape is unlikely to bridge the gap between SUV Haters and people of free choice. The reason is, I have discovered that it this issue goes way beyond the piece of behemoth (or not behemoth) metal itself, and rather, the hatred and/or envy starts with a type of totalitarian mentality, wherein so many individuals have a certain rancor or hatred toward others who feel free to make choices — whether it be smoking, drugs, eating junk food, prostitution, gambling, or buying big trucks. It’s a hatred that eschews individualism and covets collectivism. America has become a haven for attacks on freedom of choice, which in turn has helped to feed the Nanny State (Federal government attempts at intervention into our daily lifestyles).The American mentality, you would think, tends toward freedom of choice, super-size everything, and lots of utility (use). Americans love utility. They like bang for their buck, user-friendly, ease of operation, and, in addition, they like status. And a burgeoning free market makes utility and status rather easy these days. The middle class can now afford to super-size their lives, to make life a little easier, and one way in which they enjoy their new “wealth” (without going into the issue of easy money and debt) is through that one great symbol of freedom of movement, individualism, and status: the automobile.

Why do you think my city, Detroit, the Motor City, is the only major city to not yet move to a mass transit system? We were bred to travel free, here, to travel in a state of grand utility, loving our individuality and status (corvettes and trucks and cadillacs and jeeps and classic cars), and unfortunately, there are those that despise us for it.

5:23 pm on November 13, 2004