Living in McNation

There was a recent squabble on the internet about the changes made to the Christmas display in our downtown park. Since I was a child, the walkways have been covered with large candy canes tilted over the path almost like soldiers raising their arms over royalty. This year those old candy canes were replaced with new ones, bolted into the concrete, standing upright with lights dangling overhead. The uproar was immediate. A petition was made. Emails went out to the local government officials. News stories were pushed out of the way for “candy cane gate.” Some of the candy canes that had gone to auction were removed and put back into the park to hold back the hostile crowds but in the end more people signed the petitions to have the original candy canes put back than had voted in the last local election for mayor. This is where our society has gone, voting with emails, tweets, Facebook post, and YouTube videos instead of the voting booth.
We shouldn’t be surprised about this, finding something like candy canes more offensive than politicians blackmailing foreign allies. If we look at our most recent history nobody could have predicted the most recent cultural phenomenon, from “Cash me outside” girl to “what does the fox say?” Brexit turned out to be a total disaster and the same people who didn’t bother to vote because Hillary had it in the bag were surprised when Donald Trump became our president. The history of our country is no longer measured in decades but instead by news stories and what the public can be the most upset about at a certain time, and the whole process is exhausting.
History is disappearing around us and is being replaced with new cheap fabrications that have no life, class, or artistic merit to justify the cost. The courthouse downtown is scheduled to be turned into condos and there is no way of knowing how much of the original structure will be left standing. I worked in there for a year and even I was impressed by the marble floors, brass elevator doors with intricate designs, and the copper door handles and chandeliers. Towards the end of my short career I found myself in a new 20-million-dollar courthouse with leaking windows and floors that would flood if there was water outside on the lawn.
There is history living in the walls downtown. Our surroundings, the buildings we walk by everyday give us a sense of belonging. When someone drove into town from the west and looked at downtown, the Kalamazoo Building stood out telling everyone where they were. Now that painted sign is covered up by high priced apartments and of course a bank. Just what the world needed, another bank. Even our most recent landmarks are being attacked. Wings Stadium, a venue that once had large acts come through every summer was looking at being torn down. One of the churches that stood across the street from the art museum was demolished because it would have cost too much to preserve. I am waiting to see if the land is turned into something useful, like a parking lot.
I watched a video on YouTube with the writer Will Self walking through Prague seeing the places that Franz Kafka once lived. All the buildings were the same. Hundreds of years old and while walking those streets one could imagine what Kafka was seeing when he too passed by those buildings. This was a time before cars, when people rarely traveled more than five miles from where they lived during their lifetimes. There are places where people feel like they belong, they share a history with the place they live and those that came before them and that feeling, that tradition, is slipping away. I can understand why Europeans hold onto the pride of where they come from. Cathedrals that took several generations of work to complete still stand reminding people of what can be accomplished. You can visit a spot where Napoleon once stood, stay in the hotel that Hemingway drank frequently, or see the pillars of long-ago empires. Here, we lose our minds when we see a stage that Jimi Hendrix once played and even those are disappearing. The Ambassador hotel, the last place that Bobby Kennedy was seen alive, has been torn down and replaced by… oh who cares.
We should rename ourselves McNation. Build it cheap, build it fast, and heaven forbid if it doesn’t make a profit. I try to find things that I can share with my daughter from my own childhood and that list is disappearing. I hope when she is old enough the Coney Island downtown, one of the oldest in the country, is still open and hasn’t been turned into a Subway or Taco Bell.
I have to wonder if this is why the younger generations coming up have so much to complain about. Maybe if they felt like they were a part of the place they lived instead of receiving all of their information from Apps and social media maybe they would realize how good they have it. Crime is down, poverty is almost erased from the planet, healthcare is better than ever and yet I can’t open my phone without seeing an article about somebody being oppressed because their coffee was made wrong at Starbucks or their name was spelled wrong on the cup.
We drive in our boxes to sit in boxes and go home to boxes filled with our stuff and only see the world through the window of a cellphone and wonder why our priorities are screwed up. Nobody voted in the last election and I can not recall a single story that popped up in my news feed about it, but some old candy canes are taken down in the park and the city is on the verge of a riot. Maybe this shows that there is hope. When people notice something they like is missing, we see they really do care about their local history. I could remain optimistic about this but it only goes to show that it is only the petty and small things that people are willing to get pissed about. However, I will add that even I did not like the new candy canes. Why they chose the new standing designs over the archways I could not say. Maybe had they bought new candy canes and simply installed them like before nobody would have noticed or thanked them for updating an old tradition. Now we will never know. We will have to wait until next week when more buildings are gone to see what we throw a fit over that truly doesn’t matter.

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One thought on “Living in McNation

  1. skgf1988 says:

    I hope they don’t tear down the court house. It’s so beautifully built. I can’t believe they would put condo right in the middle of the city. Idiots!

    Like

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