Sunday, August 9, 2015

Suburban Isolation is Killing Americans. Literally.

I sort of stumbled into digital marketing and now it's what I do.

I had been in international development, which got me to Lebanon, and in Lebanon the only NGOs worth working with (because they lacked sectarian dimensions) seemed to be the ones involved in the digital sphere. So I learned from those circles and have subsequently been a social media/digital marketer for the last five years or so.

I'm bored to tears. I should be out in the world, seeing and doing things and interacting with people. And writing. Instead, I'm commuting three hours a day to a windowless office and staring at a computer screen until my vision is blurry, typing out 140 character statements and staring at a bunch of numbers that don't have meaning for me. I've been on my current project since March but I've worked for the company for eleven months. It's unlike anything I've done before and I miss a lot about my old field, especially working downtown around people and some semblance of vivacity and life.

One thing I've learned, or at least confirmed, in those eleven months: I hate the suburbs. I hate what they stand for - isolation, distance, individualism, strip malls and chain stores and the cold, White bubble.

But that's what the burbs are about - isolation and fear. Their largest growth happened with "white flight" during the tumultuous years of racial integration in the middle of the twentieth century, and the segregation hasn't changed. This has had a detrimental affect on the idea of community, and though you'll find many suburbanites who wave their flags and Support the Troops(TM) and sing "God Bless America," the truth is, theirs is a false patriotism, built upon the shoulders of their isolation. The state of our political system and the circus it has become is a direct result of suburban isolation. Suburbanites are the ones who support the murder of black men at the hands of the police or private citizens who "fear for their lives." They're the ones who think that people who are on government assistance don't work and are "lazy." They're the ones who think that someone who speaks Spanish is in the country illegally, that we need to build a wall to keep immigrants out, that all Muslims are terrorists, that anything foreign is "bad." They're the ones who think that doing something for the betterment of community and the country is "socialism," who shove all of that religious nonsense into politics, who raise their kids to think they're special and entitled and better than everyone else.

They're the ones who have destroyed the idea of community in America.

Have you ever wondered why the school shootings and theater shootings happen in the suburbs? What makes a person so detached from other human beings that he has no qualms about destroying lives?


The truth is, studies have proven that suburban life causes depression and mental illness. Suburban environments do not provide sufficient opportunity for positive social life. There are no central meeting spaces, no town squares, no market places where people go to interact as well as to buy their wares. Sprawl has created an America where children have fewer friends than ever before, where social interaction is usually prompted by adults who make "play dates" or who compete with each other to have the biggest birthday parties for their kids. Pickup games are a thing of the past; now sports have to be played in organized leagues, where games, not socialization, are the focus.

It hasn't always been like this. You used to see neighborhood parks full of kids who didn't need an adult breathing down their necks for fear of some boogeyman around every corner. Now you drive through the burbs in the middle of summer and see empty playgrounds. Some of this can be attributed to new media, of course. But parents aren't sending their kids outside anymore. Now they are ok with letting their kids spend hours a day staring at screens, "safe" within the walls of their mortgaged castles.

Kids aren't exposed to much of anything outside of the suburban lifestyle. I know people who grew up in the burbs who won't go to a restaurant or stay in a hotel if it isn't a chain. I know a woman whose kids have never been to Washington, DC despite having lived in a suburb of the city for all of their lives. Talk about isolation.

I feel isolated in my job. I don't like this feeling and don't understand why people accept this as normal. It is not. It is not normal to take anti-depressants like you take vitamin supplements. It is not normal to drug your kids for "hyper activity" when it is the very controlled suburban lifestyle that is causing such a "disorder." It's not normal to spend all your time indoors in front of a screen.

America has a gun problem, yes, and we need to address that. But we also need to address the entire suburban lifestyle and quit accepting that it is "normal." It is not. It isn't healthy, and it's killing Americans. Literally.

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